Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rubber Bandwidth

Something wondrous happened yesterday, an event so fleeting and fantastic that I'm still not sure if I imagined it in an early morning sleep-deprivation-fueled fog or hypnogogic half-dream state. All of the computers in the library went down for two-and-a-half spectacular hours.

At first it was a lot like one of those boring PBS shows where they stick people in a house outfitted as if it was 1900 and force them to pretend there's no such thing as television or electric garage door openers. All of the sudden it was like "1970s Library" where everyone just sort of milled around, readjusting our bearings to a world where, among other things, books were checked out the old-fashioned way: by hand.

This sort of adjustment forced a necessary and oddly enjoyable slow-down. I meditatively copied the appropriate card and book numbers on the emergency "Computers Are Down!!!" clipboard and sent people on their way with a primitive handwritten note regarding the due date. The hyper-efficiency of the computerized checkout station screeched to a halt, and everyone was forced to wait just a few extra, somehow slightly more civilized seconds.

Things quieted down dramatically as well. There were no printers spitting out printouts with an electronic buzz and a burst of violent razor-blade "ZZZHHHHH" to tear off receipts. There was no computerized beeping or chirping or the disembodied female robot voice that instructs me on innumerable details throughout the day and later haunts my nightmares: "RESERVE READY," "FINE HAS BEEN DELETED," "SOUL-SUCKING COMPLETE." There were no rampaging hordes of jittery children crowding over the shoulders of a zombified compatriot playing a video game on the internet. There was no yelling by any staff members at these same kids whose idea of the library has sadly become focused far more on the video arcade aspect than as a repository of books.

I'm telling you, it was a really sweet morning.

I finished every task I could possibly complete without the aid of a computer in about 45 minutes, and then I had time to just look around and admire all the quiet reading going on. I had never really realized how much my work depends on my being chained near the computer. Once set free, I even had a chance to leisurely read a couple of really cool children's biographies of Marian Anderson and Gandhi. I really felt like one of those far calmer and gentler library employees I remember from my childhood who would subtly put down the book they were quietly reading in order to help out someone else.

Most welcome of all, though, was the opportunity to work on my world-record-challenging rubber band ball whose massive circumference is beginning to create its own gravitational pull and whose necessary assembly materials are forcing me to twist and bend my otherwise ironclad ethics regarding employee theft. (We keep and use hundreds of thousands of rubber bands each day for book-wrapping purposes. So far I've built my massive sphere only from rubber bands that happen to fall to the floor or are unfortunately the wrong size for our specific purposes. This is how I've avoided any hint of impropriety for when the inevitable internal library investigation comes down. The Great Computer Crash of Ought-Six also gave me a couple of hours to prepare my legal brief on this matter.)

Inevitably, the dreamlike state was interrupted by a far too efficient repairman who adjusted the correct vacuum tubes and reconnected us to the 21st century. By the early afternoon when the usual chirping and buzzing and robot-voicing and computer-gaming had resumed, it may as well have all been a lovely hallucination. On the other hand, the looming threat of my pulsating rubber band ball crashing off my desk and crushing everything in its bouncing path is becoming all too real. Even the damned computers won't be able to save us then . . . .

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Blogger Adjective Queen said...

Major flashbacks to libraries of my past: the librarian scowling at me from the desk as I bypassed the children's section and went for adult fiction, the gentle "mmmph" of the rubber stamp on the date due card, the utter quiet of the place, interrupted only briefly by an occasional "shhhhhhh."

6:36 AM  
Blogger GypsyFolklorist said...

ha - I miss the days when libraries were solemn refuges for readers and nerds, rather than the as you put it arcade. Damn technology. Though, I am rarely capable of keeping myself quiet enough for the way libraries should be.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Zena said...

That's funny! I'm glad to find I'm not the only one who ever made the 'rubberband ball'! I thought I was losing it for awhile...

4:16 PM  
Blogger Zena said...

Oh, BTW; in case u haven't figured it out yet, I'm Judy. But don't tell anyone on yahoo, it's a state secret. `snicker` Zena

4:17 PM  

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