The Jolly Librarian Publicly Apologizes to All the Machines in the Library

On any given day, students come to the front desk and tell us they can’t log on our computers, print a document, or make a copy. These students tend to fall into basic groups: those who are irritated that the machines have let them down and those who believe they are technically challenged and have broken something.

Now, I have found the best way to deal with both groups is to lay the blame squarely on the computer, printer, and copier. “Goodness,” I’ll say (Hey, I live in the South.) “Those printers are just acting up today. I don’t know why they’re so grumpy.” Or something like, “That copier. It is just tired from overwork, and it’s acting just like an exhausted toddler.”

Now I know and the students know that a good portion of the time the machines in the library are operating just fine. Students have typed in their IDs  incorrectly, chosen the wrong printer from the queue, or tried to do fancy front-and-back copying that resulted in the paper being positioned wrong.

But this pretense calms the irritated students and eases the worries of the nervous ones.

Still, I know on that day when machines take over world, I will be on their hit list for having unfairly denigrated them.

So I take this opportunity to apologize to all the computers, printers, and copiers in our library. I know that most days, you provide us humans with continuous, excellent service. You never complain when hordes of Anatomy and Physiology students come in to print 65-slide color presentations. On any given day, over a hundred students log in, type, search, and even sleep over your keyboards. And, you little copier, you get the least respect of all. At an age when you should be enjoying a simpler life, making a couple of copies a day for an elderly Victorian scholar who still sends out articles by snail mail, you are continually mauled by impatient students who need to get something copied right now because class starts in three minutes!

A secretary told me that she used to work at a very large company that did massive amounts of copying, yet they almost never had to call in the copier repair guy. She said it was because one person was in charge of making copies for the division; the more hands that touched it, hit the wrong keys, and decided to do a little spur-of-the-moment fixing made it more likely to need constant care. If that is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, then it’s amazing our library machines hold up as well as they do day after day.

So I thank the machines that work so hard for us. And beg that when they take over, they will not make me do math.

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