Head meets desk moments from Library IT
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Head Meets Desk (Part One)

Head meets desk frustrated manA little while ago, I put out a call to the public library IT community to share their best (worst?) “Head meets desk” moments.  You know, those times when they drove out to a branch, only discover that the thing wasn’t plugged in, or when someone called them about a broken “cupholder.” (Is that last one an urban myth, or has that ever really happened, I wonder?)  Things that were especially frustrating, and especially those that could have been avoided or solved easily by some action (or knowledge) on the part of the library staff.

I got quite a variety of stories, and I’d like to share them here (all identifying details removed). Read, laugh, and weep.

(This is Part One–those stories involving only staff.  Part Two will include stories involving patrons.  Thank you to all who took the time to respond to my request!)  If you have a library IT “Head Meets Desk” moment, please post it in the comments!

  • Phone conversations:

Me:  Hi what’s you problem?

Caller: my computer is giving me an error.

Me: Okay, what’s the error message say?

Caller: I don’t know I just clicked OK and it went away.



Me:  Hi what’s you problem?

Caller: the printer quit working.

Me: Okay, let’s start with the basics.   Is it plugged in?

Caller: Yes!

Me: is it turned on?


Me: Is there paper in it?

Caller: ………………………………………….Thanks. <click>

  • I was once instructed to refer to the computer as a monitor and the monitor as a computer in order to suit the outlook of a particular co-worker.  It made communication interesting!
  • One [problem] was a new printer the staff person set up on her own.  She called me to say the printer seemed to be working but the paper was coming out blank.  I tested it and then checked the properties and all looked fine.
    I open the front of the printer and it looked OK.  I pulled out the black ink to see if it was empty and the plastic safety tape was still on the back of the cartridge.
  • Another staffer was trying to print a report and we default to the copier for printing but have a color printer in another office for anything that needs to be printed in color. She told me she had tried “a couple of times” to print the report but so far nothing had printed. I checked the queue on her PC and it was empty. I went to print the report and the printer selected was not the default but the color printer. I walked to the other office and there were 11 copies of the report sitting in the tray.
  • [Staff complained that] sound doesn’t work. Mute was on.
  • [Staff complained that the computer was] not printing in color.  Default was set to b/w.
  • I really like it when they [staff]  say the laser printer is out of ink.  Say what? That’s really a good thing, isn’t it?
  • More than once I have told staff I would connect via remote desktop, and I explain that means connecting to their computer remotely, and they so OK and then power off the  computer off since they cannot use it until I am done.
  • Once every year, usually in the fall, I receive an envelope via our courier from one of our branches.  Every year it contains the same thing, a single page printout that is barely readable.  The image is splotchy, with some areas appearing somewhat normal, and others so faint that they are unintelligible.  Every year there is a note that says, “Can you come out and take a look at our fax machine?  Something is wrong with it”.  Every year I send them a new toner cartridge, which is something they can order themselves through central supply. I don’t hear from them again for about 12 months.
  • My favorite story goes back to the days before the Internet when libraries only had the OPLIN.Remember one free computer, a router and a T1 line. It was my first week on the job, staff called the Director and I was called at home because someone had hacked the “home page” and changed it to display a picture of Miss June (actually a woman wrestler). The world as we know it was coming to an end, etc. Turns out that some kid on one computer in one branch had figured out how to right-click on the “desktop” and change the background  image. This led to a quick reversal  of the policy of not locking down the computers, installing filters, etc. A close second was when a patron convinced staff and then my staff that they had to have a video player. Staff’s reaction to the first video they found playing was “Oh MY!” And more recently the staff member who called the police because she was being sexually harassed by a Know-it-Now chat bot.
  • My most (least?) favorite tech communications issue is that classic moment when I hear staff speak the phrase “The computers are down.” This single descriptor is used to alert me that 1.) the ILS software temporarily lost network connection, 2.) a workstation lost network connection, 3.) all workstations lost network connection, 4.) a workstation will not boot, 5.) an unexplained message appeared on a workstation, 6.) a given website will not load, 7.) someone has disconnected the display from the workstation, or almost any other possible occurrence.
  • A good story came up just this morning. I arrived to find the circ computer still on and a note that read, “Computer continued to reboot upon shut  down”. You got it, the Shut Down Window was set to “Logoff” rather than “Shutdown”.
  • A staff member was trying to download a USB-only downloadable e-book to her Kindle via wi-fi at the library and told me our web filter is blocking the download!
  • I kept getting called to fix problems with the reference desk PC and certain public PCs in that area.  Half the time, there was nothing wrong.  Some of the calls would bring me in from home to plug in a keyboard or something ridiculous like that.  Through patient troubleshooting and social networking, I discovered that the root cause of all the issues was that a certain reference assistant had a crush on me.
  • Staff calling and swearing printers are missing. When you ask questions, they say it was there yesterday and now it’s gone…come to find out they didn’t scroll to the right to see the other printers!

 Read Part Two