Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Banking Drama....

It's been an evening of customer service experiences. 

I've had issues with my current bank, which have made me yell, use a lot of vulgar language, and at one point I ended up in the branch manager's office after sending her a pointed email about how poorly I'd been treated by her staff. Things have, unfortunately, not gotten much better.

Current bank
1) The website is often out of date.
2) One can only reach the bank by phoning during business hours. There is an email account but then one gets to receive a return phone call while I'm at work. My coworkers are sick of listening to me talk to my bank.

3) Very little can be handled online.
4) They shut off everyone's card due to a data breach but didn't bother to tell any of the card holders for 16 hours--and didn't put any notification on their website or voicemail about this. (Guess who surprised a bunch of story time parents the next morning with the news that their bank cards wouldn't work?) Over 24 hours later some people STILL hadn't been notified.

5) Don't allow for pin changes on location--you have to get an entirely new debit card to change the pin. I found this out 24 hours before I left for New York--while planning to take only the new debit card. 

6) Didn't have a drive through ATM--in Wisconsin--until about six months ago.  You had to park illegally in an all-reserved-spots-parking and get out of the car. In January. In Wisconsin.

7) No walk in ATM at the bank, despite being on Main Street where we have a lot of foot traffic during the summer.

8) No ATM at all at the remote branch, which is closer to Chez Hedgehog.
9) Remember I went to Egypt? (yah I know I owe you pictures) I called them in advance and was assured by the receptionist (I don't know her name but I recognize the voice at this point) that she would mark my account so they wouldn't shut the card off on me while M and I were abroad.  On the trip home and while I was in NY praying the wind would let up long enough that I could fly back to CHI/LSE--they called about odd account activity. There was no record on my account that I was going to be traveling to Egypt despite my advance phone call. While I appreciated the verification and rattled off exactly how many debits had been made, when, and the approximate amount with some wiggle room for exchange rates, the obvious fall down on that one was HUGE. "Who did you talk to?" the caller asked. "Whoever answers the phone." was my not extremely chipper answer.  

10)  Tonight--for no apparent reason--they're holding double my rent payment hostage.  The money is there, it's just "not available."  I only got one receipt from my landlord through their electronic bill payment system and it's automatic, so that shouldn't have gone through twice. I've used that system for two years. So tomorrow morning I get to call to find out what exactly is going on this time.  

I've had plans to go to a different financial institution, one recommended highly by a coworker. It's a credit union, they pay interest on their standard checking accounts, and she's been really pleased with them. Only, they keep banking hours and I hate leaving the house on Saturday. As I kvetched about this online, one friend suggested I start the account opening process online. 

It had never occurred to me that I could do that. Certainly at my current bank this wasn't an option, I couldn't assign a designated inheritor upon my death without an Act of Congress (insert political party joke *here* if you so choose). But at my new choice of financial institution...I could. 

I filled out all the standard questionnaires, forms, verification of who I was, etc--online. I read electronic versions of all of the usual documents. I assigned a designated inheritor in case the cat steps on my windpipe one too many times. It was polite, it was easy, and it took about ten minutes--including setting up an electronic transfer from my current bank to start initial funding.

From their website:

1) I can FIND the number to call and report if my card is lost--24/7.
2) There's a secure way to communicate with them online.
3) They listed on the application forms what countries they don't allow debit/credit card usage at present (Burma, for example).
4) There is a drive up ATM on my way home and a satellite branch where I do most of my grocery shopping.
5) I'll get interest on my not very high balance checking account just for banking with them and using online banking.
6) Automatic savings account set up for me, which I've missed having. I "can" do it all on the spreadsheet I keep--and will continue to do so--but being able to move money to a savings account that isn't my ING account is nice. (The ING is great--but it takes 3 business days to move funds around.)

7) Far more transparent.

I've avoided doing this also because of all of the places I'll need to change routing numbers: work, freelance client, student loans, other online bill paying stuff, retirement savings account. But changing routing numbers has got to be easier than the excess of frustration I feel about every three months when my current bank screws up again.

Everything for my new bank account is in process, as confirmed by an automatic but still very clear and polite email that I got upon clicking "Finish." I expect tomorrow I'll get an email or perhaps a phone call. Initial set up probably should have a live human-to-human contact at some point, I'm okay with that.  

*sigh* I could tie all this back to libraries, online fine payment and card registration, policy transparency etc, but I've done my taxes and signed up for a new bank account--so take away what lessons you will for yourself. 

Also--anybody want to come tell me what's wrong with my printer? The black ink is being screwy despite changing out the ink cartridge.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This is a Song for My Generation

Over the past couple of years, I've commented about the focus on teens and a lack of library service to young adults--which by my definition is people over 18. 

Following the discussions I had with people at ALA last summer, I kept editing and working on a draft about what kind of programs to offer, what focuses I saw missing, and this general issue of a lack of outreach to a big part of our tax base.

This morning I had the chance to express my feelings on a broader level. I entered the LISNews Essay Competition with the following:  Don't Forget About Us. 

I wrote that essay for myself, for the Blonde and the Brunette, for AudioGirl, My Friend the Lawyer, LibraryChic, Sibling-the-Elder and Younger, and the other friends who look at me like I'm crazy when I suggest that they use their local public library. It's sad when my friends will call me--two time zones away--rather than reach out to their local resources. Not that I don't appreciate the validation that they think I'll be able to find the impossible, but they have free resources closer to home. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

How Did I Not Know About This?

I am continually amazed how many resources libraries have that at times elude even the librarians.  For example, today Our Lady of the Business Office came to show me something she'd found spotlighted on our website: 

Ebsco's Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center (link goes to a listing of what all it has--sorry, local access only)

It covers visual art, collecting, games, photography, outdoors, needle craft, textiles, models...all kinds of stuff.

And it's mostly full text patterns. Okay, how many of you just perked up?  Be honest. 

I can't wait to show this to my knitting kids and the Tuesday night library knitting group.  And, you know, everyone else on the planet.

Free Access to Cool Stuff -- Welcome to the Public Library

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Hedgehogs in the News: Heavy Hogs....


Third story like this we've seen in the last year.  In Scotland, they've put 10 hedgepigs on diets

Heavy hedgehogs join 'fat club'


This one has a video of the pudgsters... 


Thanks to TimK for the heads up!

Monday, February 08, 2010

How to Win Friends and Make Sure Everyone Knows You at Work

At three jobs I've made a small but substantial investment in chocolate and hard candy.  At the financial firm it was in a small jar on top of my desk, most recently here it's in a desk drawer--as small children are likely to walk in and I'd rather they not help themselves.

Everyone who works in the building, we proved during a staff scavenger hunt last September, knows where "Abigail's Chocolate Drawer" is and knows they are welcome to come get a piece during a bad day, when in need of a break or reward, etc.

I do this for multiple reasons.

1) I like chocolate. It means I have a steady supply. Having it always available takes the binging out of it and I'm more likely to just have "a" bite sized piece of chocolate rather than snarfing down a king-sized Snickers. 

2) Other people like chocolate. How easy is it to make someone's day better with a little square of chocolate? I also usually have some kind of hard candy in there for the non-chocolate-noshers.

3) It provides a positive reason for people to stop by and see me.  As I said, everyone in my building knows where the chocolate is and it's a good reason to head back to the children's area (we are kind of off in our own little corner).  Madame Director makes ventures, Madame Storyteller always knows where her favorite type of bite-size candy bar is, Our Lady of the Business Office has been seen.

4) It means access to chocolate without the temptation of it being in their desk drawer. I can go several days without breaking into the chocolate stash. Others have said if they kept the chocolate by them it'd be gone. But since it's not officially "their chocolate" they can limit themselves to an occasional piece. 

And this for maybe an occasional $15 investment we get peace, sanity, goodwill, and chocolate. 

I get and certainly accept bags of Dove, Hershey's minibars, etc etc....pretty much anything but Hershey's Kisses, which no one but the teens seem to like.  (Though I'm not above bribing tweens and teens for good behavior.)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Rumor Has It There's a Desk Here....

I keep promising myself that I'll "find my desk."  And then I go and put another 30 books on hold for my Wee Reads group.

So far, for next week, we have all boat load of Fly Guy books and Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Fly plus other Cronin books  I have Berenstain Bear easy readers, other long picture books,

There is also a pile of chapter books for my knitters and a pile of ARCs that Madame Storyteller brought back from Mid-Winter that I'm trying to find time to look through and debate on ordering. 

I'll find my desk....somewhere around spring break when Wee Reads ends.  At least, that's the rumor.  

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Book Review: Leaving the Bellweathers

 **Reviewed from a library copy**

Leaving the Bellweathers
by Kristin Clark Venuti

Meet Benway, the long suffering butler to the Bellweather family. Bound by an ancestral oath of service (200 years no less), he's spent his entire professional career keeping up with an inventing father, a mother who loves to repaint rooms, and their five children--who rescue dangerous animals, stand up for anyone who is opp, and create imaginative "art."

Benway introduces each chapter with a journal entry as he counts down the days until he'll be free to go Far Far Away from the family to enjoy peace and quiet. He's examining cottages, planning a garden, searching for a replacement and getting ready for his tell-all book about the (which will finance said retirement) to debut. Only, life is never quiet at the Bellweather Lighthouse and chaotic adventures that SOMEONE must clean up after riot around his ears. Only when the children begin to realize that perhaps their much overworked but beloved butler might leave do they consider a change--only with the Bellweather children, change is never what one would consider quiet and normal.

Venuti's debut appealed to me from the moment I started seeing reviews and the book lives up to the high praise bestowed upon it.  Benway has a strong, clearly defined and refined voice and one empathizes with the deep sighs he utters only when out of the sight of his clients. She includes perspectives from the children of the family as well, bringing depth and providing motivation and the clear thought process of children and teens with a mission--rather than just singularly focuses holy terrors.

It's a fairly quick read, middle-elementary level but certainly enjoyable by most ages.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Wee Reads: Week One

One of the things I've had parents ask for was something for children who are emerging readers. As I see it, it is not enough to hit the pre-literacy, we really need library programs and services to capture those kids who are just tackling reading on their own. English isn't an easy language to learn or to read. It's a mix of rules and exceptions, phonics and sight words, sounding it out and "why do you pronounce it that way?"

So this spring, with Madame Storyteller's blessing, I put out the idea of an older kid's evening storytime. I planned for 12 kids and hoped to at least half fill it. The response was gratifying--we closed out the "waiting list" at 16 (NO MORE, I announced). The children are between 4-7, with the majority 6-7. Little siblings, though not completely forbidden, are really strongly discouraged.    

For three weeks the youth services aides tackled creating picture boxes for me. I'd picked up 20 8x8x8 boxes a few months ago and I raided the never ending stash of donated National Geographic Magazines. I told the aides I wanted the boxes covered with pictures on all sides.They did a beautiful job. 

There are 20 different brightly covered boxes.

Starting 15 minutes before storytime (now that I've told them about it) and through the first five minutes of "actual storytime"...I invited the kids to grab a box and tell their grown ups a story about the pictures they saw. The kids engaged very quickly with it, as did the parents. I think over time it will go even more smoothly as they come up with wild and crazy stories based on tree frogs, pyramids, buildings, and wild cats.  

We did a hello song.  Always a good way to draw focus.

Then, I got to read them a book I'd never be able to read to my 3 year olds (Wednesday starts my regular Pre-school storytime too):

The Book That Eats People
by John Perry

It's a lot longer than my usual pre-school books, but this crew can handle it.  And while the dark and sinister is giggle worthy, rather than nightmarish. It's a phenomenal read aloud. 

Then I pointed out a whole slew of Mo Willem's Elephant and Piggie books that I'd brought in for the kids to grab. Often parents are looking for "the good easy readers" and I have the chance here to highlight authors and bring in some classics.

For tonight's selection, I read:

I Will Surprise My Friend!
by Mo Willems

I don't think I could ever live up to the reading I've seen the author do of Pigs Make Me Sneeze but the kids, fortunately, are not judging my reading against his. 

And this is a separation storytime, which most of the parents have been pretty excited about ("Ten minutes to go look at adult books all by myself? Really? Sign me up!!").  So after those two books I shooed the parents out of the room. We only had a little anxiety about staying in the room with a book that eats people. I put my chair on top of it so it wouldn't eat anyone.  (We counted 3 times to make sure the book hadn't eaten anyone.)  

During this ten minutes I'm going to do a short activity and then read to the kids from a chapter book. I'm staying away from crafts and snacks, though not entirely ruling either out either. This week's activity was ribbon dancing (ribbons taped to straws) and we started Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka. I only had time to get through one chapter, but that's okay.  What was important was that they listened--clustered around and nearly right on top of me.

We finished by scooping up carpet squares and grabbing Mo Willems books and then our Read to Rover program followed hard on the heels of the storytime. Several of the kids headed out to the children's area to wait their turn to read aloud to a dog, and I saw one boy painstakingly reading aloud an Elephant and Piggie book.

Can't wait to see how next week goes!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Day in the Life of the Hedgehog Librarian: Saturday

This is my third weekend this month, wrangled around from holiday swaps, usual weekend, and trying not to use all of my vacation time in January. It'll mean 8 hours on the desk today--four of which midday I'll have help from one of our part-time desk staff.

9:00 Back on desk. Check the calendar for any programs I've forgotten:  there's an X-Box Tournament today for 13 and older. Our younger gamers (11-12) will be crabby about that but we're partnering with local gaming store and there will be adult, guessing they put the age limits in place.

10:15 Remind myself that patrons may be reacting not to me personally but to something in their environment over which I have no control. I was friendly and polite, that's all I can do. 

10:23 Grandparent looking for shape books.  Point out Green labels on picture book denoting "concept books." (Shapes, ABC, Numbers, etc). Shoot email to Madame Storyteller, are we going to move those to a collected area?

10:30 Plans for this spring (maybe spring break ish?): go through the entire chapter book collection and figure out what series we own. Our Lady of Cataloging told me there's no way to do this via Horizon and I'm still figuring out what all we have, what is a series I need to check on. I did a lot of work with the weeding last year so that cleaned out a bunch of the "we only have book 3" but I want a better sense so I can keep up with new releases. 

11:00 Chat with Dr. Knitter Mom who I know mostly online. Hear details of her sock club involvement. Drool accordingly. Share Unique Sheep Website.  Part time person joins me for desk.  Get to hold Patron Age 7 months. 

12:00 Consult with Circulation re this afternoon's tournament. Apparently people drove in for this from a couple of hours away, are already waiting to queue to get onto team list (limited to 16 teams I think?).  Make call to TS Dude to determine what time he'll be in to wrangle, confirm no early sign up.

12:17 Books to expand reading of a boy who likes graphic novels.  Suggest Something Wickedly Weird, Horrid Henry, Batman/Superman "chapter books", and Dav Pilkey.  Working through the Baker and Taylor catalog with list of "popular series" and building a series list of ones I know we have.  Checking to see if there are any new titles I need to put on order. 

Lunch--Quite a lot of gamers congregating, which makes sense for a tournament with no entry fee.  No early sign up means they are standing in the center of the main floor lingering. When was the last time we had a big cluster of 20-something young men congregating in our library excitedly? Hmmmmm

1:47 Thinking about going to watch the horde descend to the basement at two--as the Garden Club tries to come upstairs.

1:55 Chat with parent about AWE Stations again.  Early literacy games, touch screens, plug and play.... WONDERFUL things. 

2:00  The gamers have descended to the basement.  Peace reigns once more on the main level.  I'm back to the series lists.

2:40 Remembering with coworker how to add a row to a table on new website--need to update reading lists for Newbery and Caldecott. Search staff wiki for log-in instructions for coworker to new site.Can't find it, so email to Web designer. 

3:25 Patrons Age 7 and 5 (with mom) are here to pick up their display. We have a huge circular window with shelves ("the porthole") where we have kids display collections one month at a time.  Littlest Pet Shop is on the way out--snowglobes should be arriving tomorrow. There is a full two year waiting list for this, it's popular.

3:45 Patron Age 6 comes by to tell me he's not coming to storytime Monday but will be in the next week. Homeschooling Mom and I discuss audiobooks for family to listen to at lunchtime.  Current choice is Beverly Cleary's Mouse and the Motorcycle. Patron looking for plays and how to use self-check.

3:52 Winx movie? Putting holds on Psychic Academy graphic novels. 

4:16 Check book drop--we do this 3-4 times a day to verify that it went back down after the Circ Aides clear it. We have an ancient bookdrop that sinks slowly to ground level.  The noise it makes when it's below zero is hard to describe. 

4:45  Wish patrons wouldn't repeatedly rush in 15-5 minutes before we close to frantically grab things. The kids are instantly stressed, can't take the time to browse and it triggers a lot of frustration for them--which means the library visit is rarely a happy one. 

4:54 One more hold on a Fairy Chronicles book.  Patron Age 12 needs to use the phone for a ride home.

Try again on Sunday for 1-5 on Desk....