Saturday, April 28, 2007

Those Were The Days...

3745. (September 2003) I remember when the index file was in drawers.
We answered: We remember when the card catalog was in drawers, too. All those cards were great for browsing. While we’ve had to bid farewell to those lovely wooden drawers, the computer version of the Library catalog allows for additional ways to search (for example, you can now find out if we have a book if you only remember the author’s first name and a word or two of the title) and also allows people to search the collections of the other 5 campus libraries, to search from off-campus, and to tell if books are checked in or not! The computerized Library catalog may be able to do more than for more people, but I think it will never feel the same as the old card catalog in drawers. We still have a few cards around from the Alexandria Campus Library’s old shelf list (back when we were called the Eastern campus!).
[old card catalog drawers are very desirable at auctions nowadays. We know a librarian who keeps candles in an old card catalog at home!]

That concludes our tour through the archives of the Library Suggestion Book. We hope you've enjoyed this historical look back at this 30-year conversation between Library users and Library staff. The conversation continues! Visit the Library today to leave a comment in the Suggestion Book, or click on the comment feature in this blog!

Cleaning Up in the Suggestion Book Archives

3733 Do you guys clean this place? It is 6.13 on a Thursday night. I just finished
cleaning a dirty terminal from pink goo and disposing of 3 coke and water bottles
Congrats on doing an overall good job, but please clean the tables, computers,
floors &tc.

We answered: Thank you for helping keep the Library clean – I shudder to think what the pink goo might have been! We like to have the Library looking neat and clean, and do what we can to maintain good order throughout the day. One of our Library specialists has even taken it on herself to deal with some of the trickier messes liked graffiti and gum!
[Please note that the cleaning crew do not routinely clear off desks, wipe down tables, or throw away litter left in the Library. This falls to the Library staff to attend to when there is time, usually at the end of the day. Considering that over 60,000 visits are made to the Library every semester, this is a daunting task. Moral of the story: please clean up after yourself in the Library!]

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hello from VLA Region V

The Region V committee of the Virginia Library Association held a meeting at Centreville Regional Library to present and discuss concepts related to Library 2.0, or using social software applications like blogs, wikis, flickr, YouTube and mashups to create collaborative online library services. Alexandria Campus Librarian Matt Todd gave a presentation titles "Who Let The Blogs Out: What is a blog, why would I want one and where do I get one?"

Matt also moderated a panel discussion on Library 2.0 initiatives.

Visit the other LRS and Alexandria Campus Blogs:

Learning Resource Services:
Learning Labs:
Open COmputer Center:
Watch us grow! (development of Phase III).

[left-to-right: Karim Khan, Region V Chair; Adriana Puckett, Rappahannock Regional Library; Matt Todd, NOVA; Samantha Thomason, RRL; Chris Glover, RRL; Cindy Timmerman, Loudon County Public Library; Charlie Makela, Arlington Public Schools]

Excerpts from the Suggestion Book Archives

Ralph Nader and Not-So-Hot Topics:

3650. I have a serious problem. Every time I go to DC I get lost or end up wasting hours of my life that I could be using for having a meaningful relationship. I guess the point of this: why don’t you carry Ralph Nader’s new book. Is there a vast conspiracy for the ideals of logic to be blocked from the common man’s thought? Yours forever, lost on DC.
We answered: Because of the budget crisis Virginia is currently experiencing, the Library has NO book budget and has been unable to purchase ANY materials.
[2007 - we think this refers to Ralph Nader’s 2002 book Crashing the Party: Taking on the Corporate Government in an Age of Surrender which the Library DID eventually purchase when the budget crisis was resolved. The book is located at E889 N33 2002]
3653. I really don’t think “Child Abuse” is a Hot Topic???
We answered: Some of our Hot Topics selections are light-hearted, such as the one we did on holidays, while others are more serious. Child abuse clearly falls in the later category, and was selected as a Hot Topic because of recent new reports about the abuse of children by priests. It’s not a pleasant topic, but since it was a topic frequently in the news these past few weeks, we pulled out related books for anyone doing research on the topic or who might want more information.
[for an overview of recent and not-so-recent Hot Topics all the way back to 2003, visit our Hot Topics page:]

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More woes from the Suggestion Book Archives

Shoes seemed to be a big concern for Suggestion Book correspondents in the 1990s:

3441. The magazine reading area is for reading and quiet relaxation. I find it rude and unacceptable to see students with their shoes/ boots on, lounging or sleeping on the couches.
We answered: We agree that people should not use this area to sleep. If the person is taking up needed space – or snoring loudly and disturbing others – contact a librarian and he/she will speak to the person.
[at least these folks have their shoes ON! And people still sleep in the magazine area]

3518. ( February 1998) I would like to know why the carpet in the Library is so old that I was about to choke from the smell.
We answered: Believe it or not, the carpeting was cleaned during Christmas break and is not as old as it looks – it was installed 5-6 years ago.
[New carpet was installed in the Library in 1999. We don’t think it smells]

["Midnight plum" -- the new library carpet from 1999]

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

And then there are the rest...

...some excerpts from the Suggestion Book archives are just a little bizarre. Like these concerns about shoes.

3429. I really appreciate the labor that the Library staff does. But there is only one thing I would like you to consider: I don’t think it is appropriate to take the shoes off and put feet on the table while in the Library. It is really unpleasant to smell things that you don’t want to smell in the Library!!!!

3557. You should have a rule against people taking their stinky shoes off. My nose will never be the same!
We Answered: To be truthful, the Library staff has not been aware of the problem you describe. If we observe (or smell) the behavior we’ll speak to the offenders.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Woes from the Suggestion Book Archive

We received 41 complaints about noise in the library:

3443. Something needs to be done about socializing people to proper Library etiquette. People come in as part of a group of friends, talking loudly, laughing etc. & in general treating the Library as the place in which to conduct their social life. The amount of noise in this Library is awful.
We answered: Noise is a problem and it is important that all Library users take responsibility for maintaining quiet in the Library so that people are able to study without being disturbed. A complicating factor is that some students entering the Library are actually going to Counseling where quiet is not a necessity. If a group of students is socializing and creating a disturbance contact one of the librarians.
[in 2007 we still struggle to maintain a balance between traditional “Library etiquette” (shhhhhh!) and the Library as a community space on campus. And we still share space with the Counseling Office, and soon the Financial Aid office will move into this space as well, continuing these complicating factors]

Friday, April 20, 2007

More excerpts from the Suggestion Book Archives

We received 38 complaints about inadequate computing facilities: not enough computers, computers that were out of order, or computers with limited functionality, like this one:
3476. We need to dedicate at least one terminal to just the Library’s catalog.
We answered: We agree and within the next few weeks should have 4 computers that only have the catalog on them.
[was this a good solution the Library’s computer shortage? In 2007 all the Library’s computers are full-service, with the catalog, databases, as well as internet and MS Office]

3629. Just a suggestion to be able to access the floppy drive from the computers here in the Library.. and word processing.
We answered: I do understand and recognize how convenient it would be to have some computers in the Library set aside for accessing floppies and word processing. The resources we currently have, though, only allow us to provide resources that fulfill our Library mission.
[more strides forward by 2007. Library staff work hard to balance the Library’s commitment to research and information with student needs for computing, word processing and holistic academic support services. In 2003, through some creative space use, the Library added “Cyberspace”, a computer area within the Library offering email, word processing and printing as well as internet access and access to Library resources. In 2005 the Library converted all its computers to full-service, with email, the MS Office suite, floppy, CD and flash drives enabled, internet, email, as well as Library resources].

or this one from 1997:

3468. Please consider moving the computers in the Commonwealth Classroom (AA327) into the Library. To date I have spent over $3000 on this school and that is not enough to pay for a fraction of that lab! Right now it is a waste of space, money and my time!
We answered: We understand and to a large degree share your frustration. The Commonwealth Classroom was funded for the purpose of providing specifically for Library and/or internet instruction. There are 12 computer workstations in the classroom (the same number as in the Library). You may not realize that there are no printers in the Classroom and since it is not possible to download to a disk the usefulness of the computers for extensive research is limited… Over Spring Break we plan to make the Classroom a part of the Library, as you suggest, by creating an entrance into it from the Library’s upper level and building a wall between the classroom and the Testing area.
[in 2007 there are now 24 computers in the classroom, as well as a printer, and it is now possible to download to a disk! We’ve come a long way, baby! The classroom is still used for Library instruction as well as some credit instruction and the one-credit Library course LBR110.
There are now 43 computers in the Library and TWO laser printers]

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Alexandria Library Goes Green!

On Tuesday 17 April Library Specialists Marion Mirehouse and Brandee Worsham took the library show on the road, bringing a collection of books concerning the environment and global warming to a campus screening of An Inconvenient Truth. The Environmental Campus Community Council organized the event. Marion and Brandee attended the screening and the subsequent discussion to promote the campus library’s resources on the environment, environmental policy, and the range of scientific views about global warming.

(Left to right: Marion Mirehouse & Brandee Worsham with the "mobile library". Also pictured -- Denny May, English Department).

Happy 30th Birthday to the Library Suggestion Book!

Please Join the Alexandria Campus Library staff in celebrating the 30th Birthday of the Suggestion Book. For 3 decades the Suggestion Book has provided a valuable venue for feedback from Library users and a pre-digital format for conversation and interaction between Library staff and Library users.

Some of the suggestions are timely, some critical, some complaining, some commending, some reflect the spirit of the times, and all open a window into the development of Library services over 30 years.

The Alexandria Library would like to thank all its past, present and future users for 30 years of suggestions.

We're especially thankful when someone takes the time to let us know when we're doing a good job. 16 people wrote with nice things to say like this:

3473. Speaking as an adult student, I have been pleasantly surprised by the staff at the NVCC-AL Library – I’ve only found helpful, competent service each time I’ve asked a question or was in search of materials.
3634. This is the best college Library I have ever seen!
3741. This Library is the best. I want to thank all the Library staff here.
We answered: Thank you for your nice comments about our Library and staff! I’ve shared what you wrote with the rest of the staff! It’s always great news to hear that people had a good experience here and found what they needed. We appreciate your taking the time to let us know.
3779. Thank you for the new computers!
3787. Thanks a lot for increasing the library hours during exam time!!
3805. Alexandria Library is awesome! Go Alexandria!
3809 (December 2006): I’d like to thank everyone in the Alexandria Library for being so wonderful especially during these days having tea & coffee & cookies for students and staying late til 11pm is a great treat for us!

Gee thanks! And Happy National Library Week!

Text, Image & Form Opening

On Monday April 16th the Alexandria Campus Library was pleased to host the opening of the Text, Image & Form show, the Altered Books project of Alexandria Campus student artists.

Photos of the artwork

Visit the Library through 7 May to view these and other Altered Books!

Monday, April 16, 2007

National Library Week!

In celebration of National Library Week, Communication Design and Fine Arts program students at the Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia Community College present TEXT, IMAGE & FORM: The Altered Book Project. Conceived to foster a multi-cultural exchange of creative concepts through teaching, dialogue and hands-on work, the project is founded on NOVA's international relationships and commitment to global learning.

OPENING RECEPTION: Monday, April 16, 5:30–7:00 pm.
Meet the artists and learn how they used books as a catalyst and structure for works of art.

LOCATION: Alexandria Campus Library, Bisdorf Building, 3001 North Beauregard Street.

We hope to see you at the opening!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Suggestion Book Archives get frisky!

Some Suggestion Book correspondents provide too much information, like this exchange from summer '05:

3757. We Need Kama Sutra Book Handy For My Pleasure. Maybe You’ll Consider it. Thank you. Signed, Santa’s Lil Helper.
3758. F--k yeah!
We answered Santa’s Lil Helper: Dear Santa’s Little Helper, thank you for taking an interest in the Library’s resources. Our Collection Development Policy states that the Library seeks to support the mission of the College and instructional needs of the campus. While your pleasure is not quite in direct support of those aims, we do think Sir Richard Burton’s classic translation of the Kama Sutra would be a good addition to our collection, and have ordered a copy.
You might also look forward to our upcoming Hot Topics display focusing on books with naked in the title.

And we answered the writer of #3558: We thank you for your enthusiasm, and recommend that you check the Oxford Dictionary of Slang (REF PE3721 O95 1998) for a further range of colloquialisms to brighten your prose.
But Santa’s Lil Helper had more to tell us:
3761a. We need Kama Sutra & porn. I have a date tomorrow.—Santa’s Lil Helper.
3761b. Must have Kama Sutra now! I’m horny and must learn for my whores. Thank You, Santa’s Lil Helper.
3771. I need Kama Sutra.
We answered: You seem to have a very busy social life! May we suggest that you consult some other titles in the Library’s collection that might be of more use than “porn”?
How about Dating and Sexuality in America: A Reference Handbook HQ801 A3 T87 2003 or Generation S.L.U.T. (sexually liberated urban teens): a brutal feel-up session with today’s sex-crazed adolescent populace PS3602 E316 G46x 2004 or perhaps Why We Love: the nature and chemistry of romantic love BF575 L8 F53 2004.
Happy Dating.
[We never did hear how the date went. But we did buy the Kama Sutra HQ470 S3 V3 2002]

Friday, April 13, 2007

Altered Books come to the Alexandria Campus Library

Text, Image & Form: The Altered Book Project comes to YOUR Alexandria Library April 16 - May 7.

Lisa Hill & Rebecca Kamen & students set up the exhibit (above & below).

Putting the altered books on display in the Library Reference Area:

Some of the art objects:

Excerpts from a Suggestion Book Groupie

Some comments in the suggestion book are just plain bizarre, like this string of comments, all apparently written in the same hand over a period of years in the late 1990s:

3460. Avoid CONFUSION – it causes energy waste. The cost also is in time. So the loss equals energy plus time. Total time loss to confusion shows up as zero accomplishment. Does total energy loss to confusion show up as inability to complete the task?
We answered: I’m too confused to answer!

3474. Which is worse for the student – pandemonium or confusion? Pandemonium expends a lot of energy. Confusion causes paralysis. Which of these calamities is worse?
We answered: According to Webster’s dictionary, pandemonium = a state of turmoil, mild uproar. Confusion = disorder, uncertainty of mind. Which is worse? Different people have different preferences, but most of us would prefer to avoid both if possible.

3481. What can be done about mega-learning? This is when more study leads to less learning – negative learning. The unfortunate student caught in this dilemma may be driven to distraction – to escape. They may never return from the limbo of mega-learning. Have you recent reports from these rootless retention-reversing runaways?
We answered: No, this problem is new to me! However, to assist victims of this affliction we suggest the following books: Up Your Grades and How to Study in the Careers LB section.

3485. Is there a limit to confusion? Total confusion is understood to be 100% In that case, things are so confused you don’t even know it. Is total confusion the same as unconsciousness or must we be conscious of confusion to conclude complete chaos?
We answered: Your comment put me in total confusion!

3501: Why don’t people eat elephants? They easily swallow a whale of a lie.
We answered: Just to hard to digest, I guess.

3516. A person may be lost, which is not as bad as being hopelessly lost. Hopelessly confused is similar. Worse is to be both hopelessly lost and hopelessly confused. Is it knowledge to know you are hopelessly, helplessly lost and confused
We answered. I suppose to know oneself is knowledge but this sounds like a situation where ignorance is bliss.

3358. As the number of outrages increases, man becomes desperate. This is called Modern Language Destabilization (MAD). Outrage and insults abound. The innocent bystander suddenly may be attacked verbally. A flood of course statements can cripple the victim. How can we avoid outrages, insults, coarse statements, crippling invective and total victimization?
We answered: One way to avoid “outrages…total vicitimization” is to stay in your home ALONE. Seriously, victims can be found on our campus and even in our Library, …but one can be alert and aware of these MAD situations and try to defuse them before they become too heated.

3556: Is my existence really essential
We answered: The meaning and value of life is a vital one for human beings and can be discussed on several different levels – psychological, spiritual, physical, to name a few. If you would like to discuss this with someone at the College, you might want to talk to a counselor.

3565. Who’s what? Doing the impossible – is that called impossibilism? Doing it twice – is that double impossibilism? Finally, if it is possible to do the impossible, when is impossible possible? For example, pleasing everyone in the Library is impossible. So are librarians impossibilists?
We answered: “Pleasing everyone in the Library is impossible”, but we librarians always like to give it a shot! Librarians are optimists.

3623. Jests & Fests as Valentines
Joking and Buffoonery make life interesting
An interesting life seems more worth living
Coarse and offensive jokes wreck pomp, pretension
Should a jester then be recognized as loving, giving?
We answered in kind:
In the Library we like too to jest
But we like serious research the best
When pursued in the right spirit
With good intentions, care and wit
Both jokers and learners are loving and giving
And make life much more interesting and worth living

…Especially when there are no cell phones ringing!

3624. Science has the answers sound
Still the people get more round
Epidemic fat to death is leading
How can we stop people from eating?

We answered: I don’t know if we want people to stop eating altogether (I for one enjoy it too much!)… Did you know that the Humanities Division sponsors a literary contest, open to all?
[in 2007, we don’t know if our faithful suggestion-book correspondent, sometime poet and sometime philosopher, ever entered the literary contest, but we sure hope so!]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Social Conditions and Political Events influence Suggestion Book entries

Some questions from the Suggestion Book archives , like this question we received in Dec 2003, are more disturbing, and reflect trends and fears following the events of 9/11/01:
3750. I’m not sure what the limits in the library are respecting the Patriot Act, but I feel I should make a suggestion if at all possible/ necessary: I believe the staff here should make an effort at identifying somehow what students are emailing, downloading, and sending, because when it comes to our safety, I don’t care whose rights are politely infringing upon. This morning I saw what can be identified as a middle eastern young man reading in English with words that the Homeland Security Dept website lists as plausible “yellow lights”: jihad, “only true religion”, etc. I’m an accepting, open-minded person but when I saw this I just got scared. He was certainly looking at something suspicious in nature. What would the school do if a terrorist “sleeper” is found here, browsing the net to talk to his “buddies” and get more info to inflame his zeal and harm us? I’m sorry but after 9/11, this I am saying is not incendiary it is reality.
We answered that although we appreciate the writer’s concern, the Library and the College support freedom of inquiry. Furthermore, Library staff never have and never will monitor or keep track of what our users look at or research.

We cited the NOVA Student Handbook and the Library Bill of Rights in support of this position

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Suggestion Book Archives sometimes seem pretty trivial...

Some of our suggestions are light-hearted, like these two requests:

3447. There needs to be a separate room where students can get “lifed” via the smoking of blunts. For real.
3769. You should hand out weed.
We answered (in 1998) “No chance that your request will be granted since the Alexandria Campus is strictly smoke free.”
[In 2007 our campus is still smoke free, but we wonder if the availability of recreational substances would affect what people wrote in the Suggestion Book!]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More Reminiscences from the Suggestion Book

3609 (April 2000). I am frustrated by the lack of change available. Several times I’ve had just a $10 or $20 bill & would like to make copies. Last time I had to leave the Library and ask 14 people before I could get any change. This is ridiculous.
We answered: unlike a bank, we are unable to keep the amount of money on hand that would be necessary to provide change for those larger bills. We do, however, have a change machine that will give you dimes for one and five dollar bills…
[by 2007 – thanks to the great success of our ongoing and special Library book sales, we are now able to make change at most times. In addition, change is generally available from the Parking Office. It is also now possible to make copies using your NOVACard – so if you keep some $$ on your card you never need change!]

3616. (2000) Please have scantron sheets available at this Library. It would help night students a lot not having to go to the book store to buy them.
We answered: Please remember that the Library’s primary mission is to provide Library and information related services… quite simply we cannot provide Scantrons or other school supplies for purchase in the Library because we do not have the resources to do so.
[by 2007 – we heard you! What a great suggestion. Although the Library’s primary mission (the provision of research and information services) has not changed, we are now able to provide limited supplies for sale in the Library, such as blue books and scantrons. Cost for these $1. Thanks to the Library staff for being flexible and creative to work out a solution to this need]

3734. (April 2003) Is there a plan to expand the Library and/or its collection?
Hate to compare you guys, but Annandale really has a better Library.
We answered: I’m sorry you couldn’t find what you needed at the Alexandria Campus. You are correct that Annandale has a larger Library – in size, amount of shelf space and number of books. We hope to increase both the Library size and bookshelf space as part of the Phase III renovation of the Bisdorf Building. Please do speak to a librarian about your topic – we can often suggest other subject headings or different ways of approaching a topic that will lead to materials you may not have found in your initial search.
[Good news in 2007: the Alexandria Campus Library collection is expanding! Although we are limited to some extent by finite space and funds, we have been committed to seeing our collection grow. In 2005 we installed new shelving to accommodate more books, and we have more resources now than ever before. You might also be interested to know that the Alexandria campus Library checks out more books than any other campus Library (even Annandale, which has a larger collection). Every year the Alexandria Campus Library circulates about 1/3 of the total books checked out from all 6 campus libraries. More good news: Phase III construction began in Jan ’07, so we hope to see some more space for books as the campus expands]

Friday, April 06, 2007

Even more exceprts from the Suggestion Book Archives

3462. 3467. 3472. What happened to the Arabic magazine Al Majallah? I think it is a good idea to reserve it at the Circulation desk so no one can steal it from the Library.
We answered: Additional issues of Al Majallah have been received and will keep the current issue at the Circulation Desk.
[theft issues with Al Majallah seem to have been resolved by 2007, and the current issue is now available in the Periodicals area]

3457 & 3477. The Library should remove floppies and software that come in books to safeguard these essential new media.
[After investigating strategies for handling discs and CDs with books, the Library did remove media for many years and checked these items out separately to borrowers. Currently most media is left with the books and is available on the shelves – this reflects a shift in the perceived value and usefulness of software accompanying print material]

3486: (1997) NVCC Library should allow students to bring in bottled drinks.
3487. NO! No drinks in Library. Inevitably they are spilled on books/ computers that I as a taxpayer have to pay for. Go outside to graze!
We answered: You may bring bottled drinks into the Library, but you may not drink them… the second writer is correct, drinks and food are a threat to the health of Library materials and machines.
[Library books and machines are less fragile in 2007! In response to many requests like 3486, drinks and food are now allowed in the Library – and we’ve not noticed serious damage to state property from spills -- but please clean up after yourself!]

3494. Do Nova Students get free email accounts?
We Answered: At this time NVCC students are not given free email accounts. This should change soon.
[ All current and recent students receive FREE VCCS student email ]

3601. (October 1999) This school needs more photocopiers so all students can make copies at the same time so there won’t be a long line to copy whatever they need to copy.
[ouch! In 1999 Alexandria campus had 3 photocopiers. Subsequent college allocation decisions have resulted in a drop in number of copiers to TWO at Alexandria in 2007]

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More Excerpts from the Suggestion Book Archives

3445: (October 1996) There isn’t anyone who works in the Library that knows how the computers work. I’ve gotten an “I don’t know” answer more than any help. Someone needs some training.
We answered: Keeping up with changing technologies has been and continues to be a challenge for the Library Staff. We agree that ideally all staff members should receive training in the use of equipment before it is in the public area. Unfortunately this is not always possible and we are learning on the job as we assist others…
[it is still true 11 years later that staff still struggle to keep pace with radically changing technology and often need to learn on the job. Luckily, we have a crack team of tech and computer wizards in the Open Computer Center in AA 155. As always, Library staff are here to help you with your research and study needs. If you need computer or technical assistance, please visit the staff in the OCC]

3446. (October 1996) Please subscribe to the music magazine called “Vibe” which is published by Quincy Jones the famous musician. This magazine offers a wide variety of current music news, such as new releases, artist bios, musical event listings, current affairs (music) and much, much more. This mag covers R&B, Hip Hop and Soul. Let’s encourage diversity in music for all music lovers.
We answered: Thanks for your recommendation. We always welcome suggestions for improving our collection and agree that we should “encourage diversity in music for all music lovers.”
[2007 AL Library now subscribes to “VIBE” – check the periodicals area for the latest edition]

3456. How about getting a collection of “farewell songs” to play (alternating them) at closing. The “Sound of Music” one is cute but gets old after several days in a row.
We answered: Good idea! But can you suggest an appropriate song?
[in 2007 the Library plays “Closing Time”, “Goodnight Sweetheart”, “Go Now” & “Baby it’s cold outside,” and sometimes even "So Long, Farewell" from the Sound of Music]

3458. Today Tues 21st 1996 I used the “Science” database for the 1st time and I LOVE IT!! I got 3 articles for my Bio paper on hippos. I’m glad we have it available at NVCC.
We answered: Yes, the SCIENCE database is an excellent source for information on biology and other sciences.
[available from the Library database page:]

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Excerpts from the Suggestion Book Archives

Many suggestions ask about library hours, services, conditions, equipment or collections:

3425. (June 1996) Are we ever going to get proper student ID’s with our picture on it? These Library cards that are supposed to be our student ID’s are ridiculous…
We answered: You are not the first to write a complaint about student IDs in the Suggestion Book! I’ll forward your comments to the Dean of Students…
[We finally got photo IDs in 2002]

3428. I thought you would like to know that someone should realize that the computer “mice” are in need of repair! I noticed at least 3 computers with mice that wouldn’t move! I’m sure if they were opened and cleaned the problem could be taken care of. Your mice are sick! Save them! Save them! Save them! Signed, a proud graduate of NOVA
We answered: Thanks for bringing the plight of the sick mice to our attention. The doctor was called and, with the exception of one terminally ill case, all should be in good health (and working order).

3435. Please turn the A/C down during colder evenings. Please. I have 2 t-shirts & a sweatshirt & it is impossible to study.
We Answered: Unfortunately, we have no control over the temperature in the Library… The temperature in the Library – in fact in all areas of the building – is unpredictable and uneven. We advise everyone to come dressed in layers which can be removed or added as needed.
[and temperature is still unpredictable and uneven in ’07!]

3436. Please note for group study there is no place. In order to avoid distracting other students, at least a small area of group study is necessary.
We answered: One group study area, located in the corner next to the reference section, is small but in our limited space we can’t expand it any further.
[we created a new group study space, behind Cyberspace in ’03]

3438. The computer printers are very loud and piercing. Does NOVA have it in its budget to get “quiet” printers?
We answered: We agree – our printers are noisy and when several are running at the same time they create a real disturbance. Unfortunately, our budget does not cover the cost of new ones so we’ll have to live with the noise.
[this refers to dot-matrix printers. The Library replaced these with laser printers – and also a pay printing system!]

3439. Can we students send and receive email to the teachers and friends form the computers in the Library? How?
In the 1990s we answered: Sorry, but email is not available (to send or receive) on the internet in the Library.
[that was then, this is now: in 2007 email, as well as Microsoft office products, are available on all Library computers]

3444. The Library should open earlier than it does. It should be available for people to use before their class time.
3532. Your hours should be after 10pm. Maybe all night long.
In the 1990s we answered: We know there is a demand for longer hours – there have been many requests in this book for opening earlier, closing later, and extending our weekend hours. Unfortunately we simply do not have the staff to keep the Library open any longer than it is presently.
[ In response to several comments like these, in 2007 the Library opens at 8.30am Monday through Friday and closes at 10pm M – Th, and keeps hours from 9am – 4pm on Sat. In recent years, with the voluntary cooperation of staff who are willing to come early and stay late, the Library has been able to offer extended hours in the last week of classes and during final exam week: opening early at 8am and closing late at 11pm]

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Suggestion Book -- THIS IS YOUR LIFE!

The very first question in April 1977: “Why is it so crowded in here all the time?”
The most recent question on March 29, 2007 is #3814: “I was looking thru the programming books you guys had and I couldn’t find any about DirrectX 10 (the latest graphic library for windows OS). I was hoping you could order some”.
(DirectX 10 is a video-game programming language. We had to look it up, too. And we bought some books on DirectX 10 and directed our patron to our online collection of electronic books, Safari Books).
In the late 1970s and early 1980s:

  • We reassured students that our security system would not erase the value on their Farecards for the then-brand-new Metro subway system.
  • We were praised when new lighting in the stacks let students see the books on the shelves.
  • We apologized for the noise created by office typewriters and a circulation system based on a punch card device that sounded like a machine gun every time a book was checked out.
  • We replied that a request for a smoking area in the Library was “unlikely” (although smoking was permitted in offices in 1977).
  • We agreed that we probably needed more than one of those new and very expensive videotape players.
  • We replied to requests for an outside book drop with a long list of reasons why we didn’t think it would work for us (but soon after, we reversed ourselves, got a book drop and have never regretted it – we’ve even thought about having 2!).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Happy Birthday to the Library Suggestion Book!

How are we doing? What could we do better? What do the users of the Alexandria Campus Library think?

YOUR campus librarians have always been interested in what our Library users think, and what suggestions they may have. There are lots of ways to let us know what you’re thinking (including this blog) but one venerable tradition at this campus has been the Library Suggestion Book.
The Alexandria campus Library has maintained a Suggestion Book since April 1977. During the month of April 2007, and especially in observance of National Library Week (April 15 – 21) we’d like to celebrate the 30th birthday of the Suggestion book! We decided to take a fond look back at the Suggestion Book and revisit some of the most interesting, quirky, amusing, or controversial suggestions.
Some themes emerge immediately. Certain suggestions have real staying power and have been asked over and over again in the course of 30 years. One of the most persistent is “why is it so LOUD in the Library?” We can see some interesting trends emerge – like the sudden rise in complaints around 1999/2000 about the irritation caused by inconsiderate cell-phone users. We can track technological transitions: from the first arrival of a few computer workstations in the Library, with strictly limited capability, to the installation of our first (and very noisy) dot matrix printers, to the arrival of laser printers and PAY printing, to the installation of a dedicated computing area (Cyberspace), and the expansion of our computer facilities to over 40 full-service computers offering internet access, email, printing, MS Office, floppy and flash drives, as well as Library resources.
Some shifts are more subtle and tell us about ourselves. Even as late as 1998 we still viewed the Library in a very traditional way: as a research facility devoted to (and limited to!) traditional information-seeking tasks. In 2007 we understand the need (driven by our users!) to balance our traditional role as the campus’s research center with other academic support and community development services. The staff in 1977 would have been surprised to know that we now sell Scantrons & bluebooks, run day-long book sale events in the cafeteria, buy and display student and faculty artwork, host (with the cooperation of the writing center) grammar clinics and ESL clinics, provide registration facilities and support, not only allow but encourage the use of email and word processing, teach skills in research not only in the Library but in classrooms and labs all over the campus as well as at the Arlington Center, provide headphones, network cords and wireless internet service, allow food and drink in the Library, provide group study space, popular reading and international newspapers and magazines, keep extended hours during the last week of class and finals week, and even serve snacks at the circulation desk! And of course we still provide research assistance, facilitate information-seeking, and assist our users in competing their academic assignments.

How has the Library changed? How have our users changed? Tune in here every day in April to take a look back.