library woes

First, a warning: this is primarily an opportunity to vent my frustrations.library

I visited Australia’s largest theological library this week, hoping to look up some material and photocopy a few pages. Theological resources down-under are not as extensive as they are in other parts of the world, but this particular library has most of what I need and, indeed, most of what I was after this time.

However, after collecting material to photocopy, my problems began. I had a library photocopier card issued previously by the library which should have contained some credit, but in the period since my previous visit they had “upgraded” the photocopiers so that they link into a computer system which maintains user accounts to which a user can apply credit for photocopying.

This means it is no longer possible to walk in off the street and copy something. Instead, you first register as a visitor on the system (a one-off process since the registration details are retained for future use). This process, however, appears to involve a number of servers passing information back and forth and the applications are, I was told, processed at set times. Exacerbating the problem appears to be the fact that the entire network is dreadfully slow taking minutes to open some web pages. Once the application is made, the user waits for it to wend its way through the network to the computer it needs to get to. Even when there, it isn’t yet ready to have credit for copying applied — that’s an additional wait. Once credit is purchased, there’s another delay while the computers process that.

Before this process finished my schedule demanded that I could wait no longer. My solution was to photograph the pages I needed using my mobile phone (this actually worked quite well and certainly was less troublesome in the long run).

Nonetheless, the experience left me a little annoyed. What happens if one of the servers goes down? Does nobody get to photocopy anything? Seems like the technology is making life more and more difficult. Next time I’ll just take a camera and avoid the copiers altogether. And if I need to access online databases, I’ll walk down the Fisher Library at Sydney Uni…

One thought on “library woes

  1. I sympathize. Administratively it is by far my least favourite academic library. I was one of the first visitors signed up in the new system, having visited on the day they began to use it in earnest. When I asked how to print, the librarian replied that visitors were not permitted to print. This seemed unlikely, but there was no one else around to check with. I had to read papers right there at the terminal, so I got a lot less done than I had expected, especially given the slow download speed. Later a sysadmin confirmed that the librarian was wrong, but by then it was time to go.

    On the upside, though, I discovered later that I could use the databases from home. Not surprisingly they seem since to have closed that gap. It’s hard to imagine their database subscriptions are such as to allow arbitrary access by anyone with a visitor login.

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