3 years ago today was my first day in this position. A month earlier, 2 significant events had occurred within days of each other. The I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. It was a catastrophic day in history, and will forever remain one of those days when you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.
The second horrific event occurred in what was to become my new work home – in fact, I had already been offered the position of Director. The library automation system, that managed operations for this 14 branch library system, crashed, losing all the data for items in the system and all the data relating to items’ status (checked out, on hold, etc.). What made the crisis unimaginable was that there were no current usable data backups. The most recent usable backup was 6 months old. It was uploaded into new software by the vendor and we carried on. What made the crisis bearable (we kept telling ourselves) was that it was only data, and could be mostly restored, not like the lives lost on the I-35W bridge that would never be again.
As we forged on, we couldn’t check anything in until we determined if there was even a viable record, and if there wasn’t – well, you know what we had to do. So everything returned was stacked and stored, on shelves, tables, in bags and even laundry tubs, until we could get to it — item by item. Here’s what the meeting room looked like for several months.
Well, I could tell you all about the next months as we recovered, and the next year as the lost catalog records were identified and restored. But that conversation is better had now over coffee or wine or beer (good for sob stories). The important thing is that I quickly learned what a wonderfully committed staff I had. We dug in, and did it and capstoned the process with a full system inventory – the first one ever done in this system. What a positive affirmation it was to find out how few items had been lost.
The last 3 years have been a growth period for me. I’ve been told my experience is common, but it proves that you never know what you don’t know until you don’t know. The important thing is, that not knowing something is the beginning of learning.
So, here’s to another year. It’s been a quiet anniversary day of small challenges. Nothing like those days 3 years ago. We’re a better organization, with a more secure system (we hope). Like every other library, never have so many (public) expected so much of so few (staff), who are working with ever-shrinking financial resources.