Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Contemplating a Pyramid Scheme for a good cause

I really want to get a free Wii, or an X-box 360 for the library. Why, you may ask, do I need this? Simple: for programming that gets teens excited. I know the library won't buy one, because we barely have enough money to pay for the simple things: I had to clean up vomit the other night because we don't have custodial staff available during work hours.

So when I hear the ads for these pyramid schemes on the radio, I think: gosh, if I could just get ten friends to buy some crap and then cancel after a month, I could get a console that would really spice up the Teen Advisory board meetings I'm planning this spring.

I can't shake the feeling that this is akin to selling my soul to the devil... but its nice to dream.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Soldiers and Librarians: Closing the information gap for military families

In my few months on the job, I have come across several incidents in which I was pulled from my comfortable reference desk into the cold reality of living with a relative at war. A woman asked me for books with maps of Iraq, because she was positive the American government was blocking her ability to find these maps on the web. I quickly located some decent topographical and political maps for her, but she specified that she wanted maps with cities and roads.

"I want to keep track of where my son is." She said. She told me that he had just landed in a troubled region in Iraq. I put two and two together and asked if he had been involved in the emergency helicopter landing that had happened earlier that day. She said yes, and laughed a little. "He was just getting there and already he's under fire. Blew out an eardrum."

"Will he get sent home?" I asked hopefully.

"No," she replied. She then gave me the story he had given her about how the Iraqis he had met were nice people and they were down there doing an important job. I nodded. If I knew someone I loved was over there, I would probably be saying the same thing, because otherwise I would go mad.

A second notable encounter was during the big ice storm that killed power in so many areas. A woman came in to use her email, because her cable was down. She wanted to say happy birthday to her son in Iraq. Unfortunately she didn't know her password to access her account remotely. I tried to set her up with a free account, but these free accounts now require a previous address from a non-free provider (which leads to all manner of trouble for poor families, but that's another story for another day).

Finally, I just let her use my email address. She was happy and I was happy to help, but now I have this momento sitting in my mail of just how hard it is for families to connect with each other, when a soldier is thousands of miles away dodging bullets, and his parents can barely figure out how to use an AOL account to send him a birthday card, much less keep in regular contact.

What I did in these instances was not rocket science, but to the patrons, I provided a priceless service. Sometimes its the simple things that are most gratifying.