V-A-C-A-TION

Next year we’ll be away at least 11 days, and I’m actually looking forward to it. And dreading the return.

in the golden siummertime.vacation_season_1_eJaquandor asked his readers: “How do you allocate your vacation time?

“What I mean is this: suppose you get, say, three weeks of vacation time a year. Do you take three entire weeks off? Or do you scatter the days off throughout the year by taking a three-day weekend here, a four-day weekend there, and so on?”

Here’s the truth: vacation is difficult for me.

When I worked at FantaCo (1980-1988), I always felt that if I left for too long, I’d come back to chaos. So when my boss insisted I use some of my time, I took off eight consecutive Wednesdays.

Taking off a day in the middle of the week actually had real advantages. I took care of banking, going to the post office, and other weekday stuff difficult to do on the weekdays. I saw a lot of movies. And the weekends were my own.

I have taken some vacations of a week or more in my current librarian job. But the last time I took off two full weeks was in 1998. The first week I visited my friend Sarah in Detroit, saw the Henry Ford and Motown museums, and saw the Tigers in their now razed stadium. I also went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Week two, I was GOING to stay home, do a major cleaning and paper purging. But I ended up going to Washington, DC, trying out for the game show JEOPARDY! and ended up seeing a lot of the sights there.

I had a four-day weekend recently, and it was fine, but returning to work on Tuesday was DIFFICULT.

This past week, I was away with my family from Saturday-Thursday in Vermont. Yet I went to work on Friday (today), instead of attaching it to the following three-day Labor Day weekend, because coming back to the potential of 1,000 work emails was too daunting.

But next year, we’re trekking to northern Ohio, to go to a family reunion. The Daughter wants to go to the Rock Hall, which I wouldn’t mind visiting again. I want to go to see the Football Hall of Fame in Canton. It’ll be at least 11 days away, and I’m actually looking forward to it. And dreading the return.

BTW, per The Wife’s wishes, which make sense to me, I don’t mention when we’re going away on social media, only when we’ve returned.

Vacation – GoGo’s
Vacation-Connie Francis

Technology: it means I don’t miss…

Word processing allows me to write this blog every day, even though I am a no better typist than I was 25 or 40 years ago.

InformationTechnologyJaquandor waxes philosophic:

Lots of folks often wax poetic about things we’ve lost in our more technological age, like record stores and big, high-service department stores that take up entire city blocks, but what’s something that we’ve ditched in our techno-era that makes you think, “Yeah, I’m glad we don’t do THAT anymore”?

It occurred to me that I’ve seldom described what it was that I have been doing for a living for the past 22 years. The methodology has changed tremendously, and it’s all about the technology.

The New York Small Business Development Center, which started in 1984, now has 24 centers across the state. The business counselors offer free and confidential one-on-one advisement to budding entrepreneurs and established small businesses alike. Since many of the counselors have been entrepreneurs or have worked in banks or other lending institutions, they know a lot of stuff about the business process.

For the things they DON’T know, the counselors contact the Research Network library, which has librarians with access to databases, and even – dare I say it? – books.

In the early days, we’d print out the research from the databases on something called paper. We’d Xerox pages from books. Then we’d put the information in the mail to the counselor. If for some reason, the package was lost, we’d have to do it over. The search would be in our computers, but we’d still have to reprint. And the copying had to be done over.

Let’s talk about the databases. They were on something called CD-ROM discs. We had two dedicated CD-ROM machines, but if I wanted to use the ProQuest database, and someone else was already using it, I had to wait until she or he was finished.

One of the first major improvements in the operation was the implementation of a LAN, or local area network, where we could ALL access the CD-ROMs at the same time, from our own computers, without having to go to the dedicated machine AND we could use a database even of someone else was using it!

As counselors started getting e-mail, we started to save the information and send some of it electronically. This was not as smooth a transition as one might think. For one thing, as mentioned by https://blog.servermania.com/what-is-unmetered-bandwidth-and-when-do-you-need-it/, the capacity of some of the e-mail servers in the late 1990s could be quite limited. Sending all the information we found could mean either having it bounce back to us, or clog things up on the recipient’s end.

Now, we package the data in an Adobe format. It sits on our server, and the counselors get an e-mail notification that the data are there, through a system called WebMQS, which usually works well. It DOES require the recipient to have the latest free Adobe software. Now, if someone hasn’t received the information, the re-sending now takes 5 minutes rather than 50 or more.

At home, my favorite pairing of technologies is the answering machine and caller ID. I hear, or see on the TV, that it’s a call from 800 Service, which the answering machine announces as “eight-zero-zero shervice” – our machine voice has a lisp! and we are oddly entertained by this – we can freely ignore it. But a familiar cell phone number or a call identified from someone known to us, we’ll pick up.

But the #1 favorite technological change I appreciate has to be the word processor, which allows one to correct errors things easily, rather than backspace on the IBM Selectric typewriter to use that tape which vaguely blots out the typos. No more Wite-Out, either.

When I was writing my last paper for library school in 1992, I had arranged the topics 1a, 2a, 3a, 1b, 2b, 3b, 1c, 2c, 3c. But as I continued, I realized it should have been 1a, 1b, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3a, 3b, 3c. I did a massive cut and paste, but it was WAY easier than retyping 46 pages.

And, of course, the same technology allows me to write this blog every day, even though I am no better typist than I was 25 or 40 years ago. Because if I had to do write this all longhand, and then type it in a manner that was readable and accurate, this MIGHT be a monthly blog, rather than a daily one.

A quick musing, though on one thing I DO miss as a result of technology: keeping score in bowling. The software won’t let you, and occasionally, it’s just wrong in terms of counting the remaining pins.

20 Years a Librarian

When we were on the LAN, it was great!

I started my current job as a business librarian on October 19, 1992. It’s the only librarian job I’ve ever had, though I was a page at the then Binghamton Public Library for seven months back in high school.

After I quit FantaCo and spent a miserable year at Blue Cross, I started being nagged by not one, but THREE people, two librarians and a lawyer, insisting that I should go to library school. I didn’t want to; I had tried graduate school a decade before, in public administration; didn’t much like it. Having no better idea, though, I capitulated.

I found that I enjoyed it greatly. My work-study project for the dean, the late Richard Halsey, included doing a demographic study of the students enrolled in the program. Of the 104 folks in the program, the average age was 37, which was MY age! This was extremely comforting.

Since I was in the dean’s office, one of my professors badgered me to hold a meeting to see if we could re-institute a student association. Pretty much because I called the gathering, I got elected as the president, which meant that I got to cajole people to go to various student/faculty committees.

After I graduated in May 1992, I didn’t have a job, so I continued working at Midnight Comics until I was hired by the NYS Small Business Development Center Research Network, as the third of four librarians providing reference services for SBDCs all over the country. It had been in Georgia, but they lost the competitive contract.

First, I had to learn how to run a BBS, a bulletin board system, when I hadn’t even HEARD of it before that. My phone was also the fax line, so I never knew when I picked up whether I’d get a person’s voice or an earful of static.

In those days, we mailed our information to the counselors. We had a CD-ROM reader for a half dozen discs, but had to take turns using it. When we were finally on a LAN, so that we ALL could use the CDs at the same time, this was astonishing!

We eventually got Internet connectivity, but we could not e-mail much info. For one thing, even in the latter third of the 1990s, not everyone HAD e-mail. For another, the e-mail capacity for most university-based servers seemed to be easily exceeded.

Meanwhile, we also lost the national contract, based on the monetary proposal, despite accolades from counselors. So we were cut from having seven librarians at the peak to four. I remember that this was right around the time I was on JEOPARDY! in November 1998, because two of my colleagues declined to come to the Monday night TV watching party after they had been told they would be laid off the previous Friday.

Now we serve just New York with five librarians. Since everyone has e-mail, we can make documents into PDFs, and we have a site where our counselors can collect the data.

This is our fourth location in 20 years. We started in SUNY Central, downtown on Broadway in the “castle.” Then to 41 State Street mezzanine, which was the most stupidly constructed workspace I’ve ever been in; 41 State Street, 7th floor – the only time I’ve ever had a solo office with a door that closed – I LOVED that office; and for the last seven years, to Corporate Woods, and cubical land. Rumor has it we’ll move again next year when the lease runs out, but I shan’t worry about that until the time comes.

My previous longest job was 8.5 years at FantaCo. The next longest was 13 months at Blue Cross. So 20 years seems like a long time. There were times (the El Gato period, e.g. – the less said, the better) when I thought that would not be possible.

Happy anniversary to me.

Pride in the Job QUESTION

The Moolala story was going to be on Good Morning America Tuesday morning; instead, the story was on World News Tuesday night.

What have you done at a job, either your current one or an earlier one, that you took real pride in? I had one of those experiences this past month.

I was answering the phones in my office on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day; the office manager was out sick, and since the secretary retired, there is no backup. Understand that answering the phones is NOT specifically part of my job description. But I simply can’t stand an unanswered phone at work. (TOTALLY different at home, BTW; that’s why God invented caller ID and the answering machine.) In fact, over a year ago, I specifically requested and got phones that would pick up the main lines.

There’s this woman on the phone, Lauren from ABC News, who calls about 2 pm. She’s working on a series of stories about people who lost their jobs but subsequently started their own businesses. The trick for me is that it’d have to be someone who had waived confidentiality as one of our clients.

As it turned out, at our annual meeting in May, I happened to be seated near the Rosenbergs, for whom I also did some library reference work. They were receiving an award from us for their startup, Moolala, a “self-serve yogurt café.” I pointed Lauren from ABC News to their story, and a couple of others, on our webpage. Then I requested that Lauren send me an e-mail to explain what she wanted, so I could forward her message to our internal listserv. She did, and I did; the director of one of our Long Island centers facilitated the connection between the network and the entrepreneurs.

Lauren had told me the story was going to be on Good Morning America Tuesday morning; this turned out to be incorrect. Instead, the story was on World News Tuesday night. Here it is.

If I hadn’t insisted the phone be answered, the Rosenbergs, and by extension, the organization would have missed an opportunity.

I’m rather happy about this outcome.

30-Day Challenge: Day 15- Current Grades

I am really good at answering calls.

Well, I’m not in school, so you’d think that that’d be that. But as someone once said, “You misunderestimate me.”

One of the things I am required to do every year in my job, around this time, actually, is to do a self-evaluation. Most years, I hate the exercise, though a few times, I relished the opportunity to vent about something. Most recently, four or five years ago, I ranted about the “new” place and how much of a PITA it was. (And it was: it was a month before we were fully functional with consistent phone and Internet.)

Most of the time, though, I have to make up something that doesn’t sound as though I cut and pasted everything from the previous year’s narrative. (Not that I haven’t done this at all…)

So, let me try out the first draft here:

few get reference questions, I do reference questions. I’m not afraid of taking the sucky ones, the ones we all know there is no real answer, but we try to approximate one anyway. I get a lot of feedback from reference questions because I’m pretty thorough in explaining what I can and cannot provide. I think this begins in the reference interview. I recall at least one advisor at staff training noting that she liked to call me – specifically – to hash out the question in a comprehensible way. I know I do that well.

I like giving help to the interns and even the newbie, who used to be an intern.

The Census data, with the American Community Survey’s 1-year, 3-year, and (soon) 5-year releases, are getting more complicated; glad I’m going to those biannual Data Center meetings.

There have been weeks that have gone by that I was the ONLY person to post on our blog or our Twitter feed. What’s with THAT?

One of the things I do that is not in my job description is to answer the main phones. Since we went from two people up front answering them to just one, I probably respond to it about twice as often as I used to. I specifically requested (and got) a phone with the main lines on it so that I didn’t have to sprint over to get them.

Now, is it “my job” to answer the phone? At some level, no. On the other hand, we in the central office expect the folks in the field to answer their phones regularly; how can we do less?

And who are the people calling? Some of them are our potential customers, needing to be directed to a local center. But others are delivery people and visitors wanting to get buzzed into our offices; people from our field offices; SBDCs in other states; members of the state legislature and Congress, or generally their staffers; people who need to be directed to the Department of State’s Corporation section, among others.

Let me say, without false modesty, that I am really good at answering calls. A couple of times just in the past week, I was complimented by people on the phone who were 1) stunned that it was a real person on the other end and 2) pleased that I was able to give them definitive answers rather than push them off to someone else who may or may not be able to help. I swear, I think I’ve found a calling – no pun intended: after I retire some decade, I’d love to be a 211 operator.

Lessee, what else shall I write?

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