Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Asking Questions on the New New Thing

We have been fortunate in our grant project to have Califa, a non-profit library support organization, involved as purchasing agent and overall co-ordinator. Califa created an online FAQ repository to help us organize our questions remotely. Califa staff member Susan Kantor-Horning traveled to Sweden her first week on the job, to see the product in action and establish lines of communication between California libraries and Distec. Though this was helpful, asking questions about a product that no one knows much of anything about was a long and winding road away from an exact science. We also found that who asks the question makes a great deal of difference. A left-brain linear thinking engineer type person talks about things in a way that's foreign to a right-brain wholistic thinking generalist, such as myself, and vice versa. Both sides have added new words to their vocabularies, though I think "thingy" might have had a somewhat convoluted translation process into Swedish. More than one Abbot and Costello type "who's on first" conversation could have been overheard between myself and Susan as we endeavored to determine "neck," "wall," and "side" dimensions. Translating height, depth, width into inches from metrics wasn't so bad but "one-hour" California fire safety building codes to a European vendor have not been part of my everyday experience as a small library director.

We don't have all the questions yet, but we are are on a roll and answers zero and one their way crossing the Atlantic, New York's Westchester County, and all the states in between at a rate that some days feels like sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and others is less traumatic than pulling teeth. Of course, don't forget to confound the whole process by holiday shopping and vacation season. Will we be up and running by February? Hold onto your toques.

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