Librarians… when the Internet is down…

I had a unique experience yesterday – the Internet went down at the library, in the whole building to be more precise.  This presented a variety of issues, not the least of which was circulation.  We rely on a server connection to access the catalog, circulate materials, and perform a wide variety of other tasks in the library (ordering, inventory, etc…).  What’s a library to do?

For circulation, we ended up putting up a calendar and writing barcodes and titles by hand.  Not really a big deal, just time consuming.  While this led to lines deepening at the circulation desk, that was just the beginning.  The military personnel at DINFOS often come in just to check e-mail and browse the Internet during chow (lunch).  Hmm… quite a few u-turns when they heard the Internet was down.  Also quite a few students lined up to let us know that the Internet was not working – making even longer lines.  To be fair, there were a handful of students/soldiers who decided that reading a book and hanging out in the library would work almost as well…

What about the lowly intern who was supposedly publishing lists of materials from the military branches’ professional reading lists (requires the Internet to research books we do not already have in the collection) and performing inventory? Inventory by hand is a slow process – I took one of our “circulation clerks” (read Army private waiting for his class to start) into the stacks where we manually checked barcode numbers against a previously printed list.  That was fine, since it is normal to do this part by hand, but I was struck by the sheer absurdity of the process when I went to mark two books as missing and check on the status of three others – I couldn’t get into the circulation or cataloging records, we didn’t have an Internet connection!

Eventually we did regain Internet, but not until chow was almost over and the rest of us had gotten to the point where we were sitting around hoping that someone would come ask a question…  I think a paper airplane or two may have been made, but not flown too…


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