Monday, March 16, 2015

Adventures with Inventory

Hello dear readers!  Last week we completed an inventory of our library collection.  I did not blog about this right away because of the drama, but I am finally at a place where I can laugh about it.

Compared to most public libraries, our collection is very modest.  We have approximately 9,000 items in circulation which is a little bit low for the size of our population, but I would rather weed books that have pages torn out and coffee stains in them than have the recommended amount of items with half of them being disgusting.  But, prison weeding is a topic for a whole other blog...

Anyway, this was our first inventory in 5 years, and nobody was going to help us.  It was up to us to rely on a text-heavy set of instructions and two borrowed wireless scanners.  Like so many things in prison libraries, we were just going to have to figure it out.  (Note, if you like to work with extensive direction and don't prefer to be adventurous and think for yourself, a prison library may not be the place for you.  On the other hand, if you don't like to be micro-managed and are a creative self-starter, then we'd love to have you!)

About an hour into the inventory, Mintern and I and the clerks were finding our rhythm and actually doing really well.  We overcame the stress of having two computers not set up correctly and just made it work with the other two clerk computers and our staff computers.  Mintern and I had a good system going where we would switch off who was scanning and who was verifying with each cart-load of books.  (Note: you can't think too much when you are just reading strings of numbers from a computer screen or you will transpose them or make other mistakes.  It's very "Librarian Zen" haha.)  We were doing so well in fact, that we finished 4 hours ahead of schedule!

We sent the clerks back and made the necessary notifications that we had completed scanning, then sat back to await our missing items report.  We were very proud of ourselves-and then the phone rang...

Me: "Library, how may I help you?"
IT: "You're going to hate me."
Me: "Um....why?"
IT: "I didn't know the computers were logged in as 'Clerk' so it didn't save any of your work."
Me: "WHAT?!?"
IT: "Yeah, you set it up wrong, so it didn't save to the hard drive."
Me: "Well, how was it supposed to be set up?"
IT: "You were supposed to log in as 'Student.'"
Me: "And how was I supposed to know that?  That information was never communicated to me, nor is it in the instructions!!  Can't you just copy and paste the information onto your computer and email it to us?"
IT: "No, I closed it before I realized it wasn't saved."
Me: "Oh you've got to be kidding me..."
IT: "Nope, sorry."

I hung up then because I couldn't believe it.  ALL that work, and for nothing.  I told Mintern the terrible news, to which she replied, "Ha.  Well that's typical for this place." (That's sad that she knows that and she hasn't even worked here for that long.)

So the moral of this story is that when you are doing a prison inventory, know what important questions to ask IT before you start scanning everything to avoid losing all your information.

The clerks were also dismayed and weren't amused by my explanation that it was a GREAT practice run.  They say we owe them pizza for next time, and I laughed and said "We'll see."  I think IT needs to buy them pizza and possibly come and do all the scanning themselves next time.


  1. I love your blog. And yes I too checked out your blog before I became a prison librarian. I am also inventorying our collection. Something I am afraid has never been done. And let me tell you I was jealous when you said you are computerized and you could just scan the books. We are all manual. I have a database in excel which I printed off and we have to pull out each book to look at it. We have been inventorying for about 2 weeks and probably have 2 more weeks to go. But we don't close so that is part of what is slowing us down. Everyday is an adventure. And I love it. Thanks for your inspiration.

  2. Thank you for your kind words and I'm so glad to know that I inspired you too! Best of luck with the rest of your inventory, I'll send good library thoughts your way! :-)