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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Learning the Director's Station

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 23, 2012

Our new computer system has a completely different software program that manages and develops reports to allow me to monitor and review library uses.


Titled, “The Director’s Station,” the program that generates reports of library uses is so different from previous software programs that day-long seminars were held around the state to train us in proper use of the new tool.


I am sorry to publicly admit that my first workshop was a failure, and I finished the workshop without a clue of what I was supposed to do.


I carefully reviewed the handouts that were provided, and attempted to navigate through the process with no success.


It was embarrassing to admit to any of my colleagues at other area public libraries that I couldn’t generate even one report with any success.  Then I discovered that I wasn’t alone, and that the computer center was willing to repeat the workshop in our area.


Last week, I was one of 10 Directors sitting in the computer training room of the Martins Ferry Public Library awaiting the beginning of the repeat workshop.


I then noticed that the participants were evenly divided in age, half the room were age 45 and above, and the other half younger.


The younger folks had already logged onto their computers and were surfing the Internet, or checking their e-mail.


We older folks were sitting and waiting for instructions, with our handouts neatly sitting by our keyboards, notepads ready, and multiple pens and pencils ready for use.


It was a perfect example of the difference in the way age groups approach computer training events.


The instructor began with an introduction, which seemed to bore the younger crowd, the rest of us were taking notes.


She took the process step-by-step, not moving forward until she was sure that everyone was following the work process and achieving the desired result.


She allowed questions, and took each one seriously making sure that everyone understood.


The younger crowd didn’t seem agitated with our questions, and remained polite at the slow process of the older Directors.


I finally understood that reports that were titled “Swift…..” indicated that the report format was already developed and ready to use.  All I had to do was add our libraries’ computer codes and any format indicators and the report was done.


There are other areas that can be selected including “Historic statistics” and “Current statistics” going back several years.


Reports can be individualized for local library needs, and that is called the “Dashboard.”  (I guess this is where I was lost in the earlier workshop)


The instructor called the wide, gray bar on the left of the screen “the fat gray bar” rather than the correct name for that on a computer screen.


Statistics can be broken apart by over 20 categories, and mixed and matched by an endless number of criteria to help in the decision making process of information management within a library.


A far cry from the first time I was assigned to do the “morning count,” where a library could count the number of books checked out the previous day using the “card sorter.”


Large libraries used the “needle method” where long stainless steel rods were pushed through holes in the edges of cards to separate the card sets into separate areas of information.


Seems like a hundred years ago, but actually our library only ended the process in 1988.


Then there was the day I dropped a card tray on the floor with a crash, bringing a horrible look from Miss McKibben, her white hair tightly rolled with a pencil stuck behind her wire-rimmed glasses.


“Pick it up and start over” was the sound of her shrill voice as her eyes pierced my shrugged head.


I guess there are advantages to the online reports system; you can’t spill the information on the floor.