Thursday, January 24, 2008

s544: Everything I Know, I Learned from a Coffee Grinder

It all started with a bag of coffee. In an effort to cut costs and economize now that I'm a "Returning Student", I thought it wise to start cutting back on my coffee expenditures. These new austerity measures included buying the basic components of coffee and assembling them in the privacy of my own home. I inadvertently bought whole beans instead of pre-chewed and realized I was going to have to grind them up before I could extract the caffeinated goodness. It struck me that for Christmas I'd received some small device that had blades and a motor and had a chopping/grinding shape. I dug it out of a closet and set to assembling it. That was tough because like most red blooded Americans, I'd thrown the manual away at some point, thinking "It's a chopper, how hard?" How hard, indeed.

I 'd filled it with beans and struggled with the locking mechanism for a good twenty minutes before it started to sink in that I might be in over my head. Then through some one-million-typing-monkeys style stoke of fortune I managed to get it locked. "Hot Damn!" I yelled, a bit prematurely in that I'd forgotten to engage the blade apparatus. Flash forward twenty additional minutes to a really vile and disgusting cup of coffee. I sat at my table ignoring the now cold cup of turpentine/rat poison flavored liquid. As I looked at the grinder it dawned on me. It was a food processor, not a coffee grinder. I could grind away forever on the thing and it would still not make the bits small enough to make good coffee. I was using the wrong technology. Like when patrons come in and use Microsoft Paint to make a brochure when we have Microsoft Publisher. They can work on it for hours and it will still look awful. My protestant work ethic tells me that if I work hard enough on something it will be good. But that is not the case when I'm using the wrong tools. The challenge is to get the right technology into the hands that need them as seamlessly as possible.


Helen Leinbach said...

Kay, I love your story about trying to grind coffee in a food processor. (I read the manual as a last resort too). I think we have all tried to do something on an application that wasn't designed to handle what we are trying.
A friend at work yesterday was trying to alphabetize a table in Word that she had copied from Excel. There were no tools to do it with. She eventually figured out what to do but it was time consuming.

We have to learn a different set of rules for each computer, software application, etc. and sometimes it's really hard to remember them all.

Eric said...

I can definitely sympathize with you about having to lower my coffee costs! Before I got married this past summer my roommate and I had three different coffee makers and two grinders, all of which were out on the kitchen counter. Needless to say, my wife had me make some adjustments.
It is so true that we need to use the *right* technology and have that for our patrons, and I think it goes both directions. Sometimes I feel in our profession we jump at new technology and then scratch our heads when no one reads our blogs or rarely use our electronic forms, when we didn’t address a problem in the first place and use the technology to answer that. One the other hand, there’s no reason to be using dated (or just incorrect) technology either.

Mary Alice Ball said...

Ouch! I did the same thing once and had similar results. It's the same when I try to do home repairs with a very limited set of tools. I inevitably end up calling a dear friend who bails me out with his endless supply of tools.

I think that librarians often think of our relationships with patrons in terms of us and them. Oops! We are them and the sooner off we accept that the better off we are.