Friday, November 13, 2009

Joy and disappointment

We'll go for joy first. I met Rosie for a drink after she finished work (mid-afternoon - it felt very decadent to be slightly tanked at 6pm...) Managed to hand over her long-delayed birthday present and catch up, and it was really nice. Rosie changed my life when we bumped into each other at the Mill Pond in Cambridge in April 2004, and I found there were Other People Like Me who knitted in the local area; since then I've met so many lovely people via the KTog, started this blog and met more lovely people, started teaching knitting occasionally... and generally built up some courage I didn't have before...

I thought I had photos of Rosie's main birthday present (rather belated); but actually I only have a pic of it in somewhat embryonic form in a café in Vienna - but that's appropriate as it's the Farbenfroh sock in the Hundertwasser Silver Spiral yarn...

And now on to the disappointment. I went into the newly re-opened Central Library in Cambridge this afternoon for the second time, but to actually use their services for the first time. I didn't have a huge amount of time to spare; I suspect most people don't...

Step 1: Queue for staff attention for a couple of minutes - one of the sets of CDs I borrowed (via Waterbeach LAP) has a production problem - it's in two sets of 5 disks and although disk 6 (the first of the second set) is labelled correctly, it has the same content as disk 1 (the first of the first set). The staff member is interested in this and says he'll note the error and see what they can do. Ask if I can return my other stuff there as I've queued - but am asked to use the self-return machines instead. OK; this a new thing and I've watched the online videos saying how efficient they are.

Step 2: Attempt to use self-return machines. The first item just sits on the conveyor belt, as does the next one I try. I decide this machine is not working, and move round the corner to use another one. This is also not working; but the woman next to me is returning things, so I decide to wait for her machine to become free. She leaves, and I put my items on the conveyor belt one by one as requested. Neither moves. I keep trying, digging down to the bottom of the bag for actual books rather than the CDs and cassettes I'm trying to return. The hardbacks work fine, as do the cassettes (and it's very cool, actually - you get the title up on the screen and so on), but the CDs and paperback fail repeatedly.

Step 3: Queue again for staff attention. Someone comes to find me after a couple of minutes, and is (somewhat patronisingly) surprised I seem to be incomprehensibly unable to use self-return. She takes me over to the self-return station and (unsurprisingly to me) it doesn't work for her either. So she takes me to another terminal and finds that the items I can't return don't have the appropriate electronic tag. Apparently the problem is that they come from another library - one of the things I've always loved about Cambridgeshire libraries is that this has never ever mattered. While I have a member of staff, I ask where the audiobooks are; except I ask for "talking books" and am briskly corrected; but am pointed in the right direction.

Step 4: Pick my audiobooks. Nice selection, although I'd rather have an A-Z by author for the whole sequence than the division into CDs and Cassettes. I know a lot of people don't have cassette players any more, but most of the people I know who use audiobooks actually do - so having to look in two places is slightly annoying. But they've got a lot of new ones since I last looked and I very quickly find 3 I want.

Step 5: Head cheerily for the self-checkout stations. I've used these for books in the past but I heard in the paper that I can now also pay for other media checkout (I will owe £6.60 for the three audiobooks). When I get to the terminals, I find there's some sort of collection slot, church-style, next to them; I follow the terminals round the pillar to see if there's one which takes cards, and find there's a change machine. There's no sign saying "out of order" so I try inserting a note into the machine. Nope.

Step 6: Queue for attention again. Apparently the pay-at-checkout facility isn't working yet (some sort of indication of this would have been useful). I ask how I can pay for my loans. I'm told that I should go back to self-checkout and then queue for attention again. I decline to, and there's a lot of exasperated sighing; apparently my books can be checked out there and I can pay for them, but they'll then have to hand-write when the books are due, which seems to be a problem.

Step 7: Pay, and leave, gratefully.

As a qualified librarian, I found this whole experience incredibly disappointing. I was attempting to return 7 items and borrow 3, and it took me 27 minutes, only 6 of which were spent actually looking at the stock.

And yes, of course I'm composing an e-mail to the head of user services, or whatever title is currently fashionable.

5 comments:

Lyndsey-Jane said...

makes Anglia Ruskin Uni library look organised and efficient. I would have had left with steam coming out of my ears after that. Sounds like a nightmare.

Mary deB said...

Sorry, I really stopped reading at Hundertwasser...coz I want that!! and gathered the rest... I used to be the undergrad dweeb who sat at turnstiles and signed out books... But that was in the very olden days of punch cards!!

I loved the Cambridge public library, but, boy, I hate self-anything... (okay, except breast exams...) We should pay people to check out our groceries, our library books, our parking fines...

Wibbo said...

I must raise three cheers for Brighton & Hove library staff! During months of teething troubles with their new computer system and when the self-service system still refuses to recognise something, the staff are unfailingly helpful and friendly. I did laugh about 'talking books/audio books'!

SusieH said...

Love love love the Hunderwasser yarn. Maybe the lucky recipient can take a photo for you!

Rosie said...

Thank you for a lovely afternoon (decidedly decadent) and for those fabulous socks. the fit like a dream. (And Susie, yes, I'll take a photo but after I've washed them, I couldn't resist wearing them to work the very next day).