Monday, July 24, 2006
posted by Q6 at 4:00 PM
I go through this every year--the summer vacation isn't one I typically enjoy. I've always been personally gratified by a sense of accomplishment, and the summer months don't really afford me the opportunity for that. At work, during the school year, I get quite a bit done, and I can leave the office at the end of the day having done a great deal. I am also a creature of routine, and summer vacation tends to screw that up in ways I can't even begin to describe. Sure, I could be getting things done around my house (one in a constant state of remodel), or I could be doing some work in anticipation of the new school year, or I could actually go on a vacation. Funds don't usually allow for the first and the third, and I've done all I can with the second.

This year seems a little different, however; it seems even more slow and painful. Not all of the time, of course; when I'm spending time with my girlfriend or my kids (and we're actually doing something), it's not bad in any way. When there's down time, however, which I've had in abundance all afternoon, I feel kind of useless and, in some weird way, helpless. The heat doesn't help, since it tends to make me all the more lethargic; and as much as I'd like to come up with something to do with my daughter, who is visiting, I find myself not having any ideas.

I know I'm luckier than most people: I have a loving girlfriend, two great kids, a stable job, a roof over my head, . . . I guess I'm just bored. Or tired. Or both.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
posted by Q6 at 10:47 PM
Jeff Goldblum has a great line in "Jurassic Park": "You were so concerned about whether or not you could, you never stopped to think about if you should." This is exactly what I've been thinking about the barcoding system for our textbooks.

In the old days (read "up to and including last year"), students would fill out little cards when they got their textbooks. We'd use these cards and the [handwritten] numbers in the books themselves to track the books to their owners. At the end of the year, the kids trade the books for the cards. All the cards we have left represent the kids that owe us for their books, and we'd hold yearbooks, diplomas, transcripts, and even next year's registration materials until everyone paid up. It was simple, relatively low-maintenance, and (if the plan was carried out properly) it worked.

But this is the Information Age, so we're going to do the exact same thing electronically. A teacher and I have just spent a week and a half putting barcodes on every single textbook in play. We've created a database that includes every book, and a database of students is next. We're assigning staff members to oversee the tasks of checking books out to kids using the scanners, and at the end of the year (if the plan is carried out properly) the computer will spit out a list of students that owe us money. The driving force behind this electronic textbook maintenance system is the belief that we will be able to better track the books and recoup more of our losses than in past years.

OK, here's my thing with the cards versus the barcodes: both methods of textbook tracking depend on PEOPLE USING THE SYSTEM AS IT WAS PRESCRIBED. Theoretically, there should be no difference between the card system and the barcode system. We could just as easily lose track of books if we fail to scan the barcodes than if we didn't pay due attention to the cards. It's important to note here that the collection process isn't changing at all; some people will pay and some won't, just as it's always been. I don't honestly know if the barcodes will reap any benefit; what I do know is that successful textbook tracking--hell, successful anything--depends on quality control. I don't know that we've altered that in this process.

All I know is that the textbook storage room has never looked better.