Saturday, April 14, 2007

Multimedia Hell

Sometimes, I just don't get a break.

Classes meet in Library X. The class rooms are set up with projectors that are connected to VCRs, DVD players, Mac desktops, PCs, laser disc players, dish network receivers, and possibly a beta player, or a cable box or something, I don't know how to use. It is all connected to a central switcher box and an amp. A lot of equipment and wires in one small space.

Whenever I get a call for help in a classroom, it is usually because the professor has never used one of our classrooms before and does not know how to turn on the projector. I go in show them. Get the media started, and voila, class is in progress.

Sometimes, there's an actual problem. I've learned a few tricks to help out or work-arounds if something is going wrong, but sometimes, I'm as clueless as the professor as to how to fix the problem.

I was absolutely clueless the other night. I get a call that the professor is having a problem with a VHS tape. The tape is playing, but all they were getting was sound. No picture at all. Sure enough, the sound was working fine, but all they had was blue screen. I pushed a few buttons. Nothing changed. I could tell that there was something seriously wrong with the unit and not the tape. Pushing a button wasn't going to fix it. The professor was getting antsy. He'd already tried for a while to get it to work.

The only hope was the television on a cart we kept in storage. I knew it had a VCR on the cart. I went got the cart, got everything plugged in and turned on, popped the tape in the VCR and voila, nothing happened.

I started channeling Yosemite Sam as I punched buttons to get it working. No luck.

The professor finally gave up. The movie would be stricken from the syllabus and class was dismissed. He was very kind to me. He thanked me for doing my best, but it wasn't meant to be. I still felt awful. I apologized profusely and told him that I would get in contact with the media specialist supervisor and get the classroom fixed. He offered to help me take the unit back to storage. I told him that I wanted to troubleshoot it for a little while longer.

After he left, I stepped back and took a long look at the cart. It had a television, DVD player, and VCR on it. I could get the DVD player to come up on the television fine. Why wouldn't the VCR? I walked to the back of the cart and quickly saw my answer.

Just because the VCR was on the cart and plugged into the power supply, did not mean that it is actually hooked up to the fucking television. I changed from Yosemite Sam to George Carlin in the empty room. Why the hell would you put a VCR on the crash cart and not hook it up? There weren't even any cables there for me to try to hook it up. I couldn't switch the DVD player's lines to the VCR because they hook up differently. No, I don't know how to technically explain it. The VCR needed coaxial cable, and the DVD player used those three colored line plug thingies.

And as I was swearing a blue streak, I vaguely recalled this exact same thing happened to me before, and I recalled swearing a blue streak then (swearing is like a sense memory for me), pounding out urgent emails to get the matter fixed before it happened again, and this just made me swear even more. I'm swearing in the wind, people. Nobody cares about my obscenities.

It was just one of those nights.


Anonymous Woeful said...

That's rough. I hate when I discover the answer to a question of problem after the patron/user leaves... I always feel like I failed them. Luckily it doesn't happen too often.

There are always two things to keep in mind when dealing with electronics/computers. First, reboot. This fixes 90% of all PC problems. Also, check that all the cables are properly connected (including power). There's nothing like the TV repair man coming out and charging you $50 for plugging your television into the wall.

These solutions are so simple we often overlook them... Hope you have a better day tomorrow.

7:50 AM, April 14, 2007  
Blogger Vampire Librarian said...

Thanks, Woeful. You're right. The solution is usually simple. If there is a solution. Too often there's no solution and I'm the one who has to break the news to the incredulous patron.

7:55 PM, April 18, 2007  
Blogger The Topiary Cow said...


I guess I am just a traditionalist.

First, why do degreed librarians have to assume responsibility for getting vcr's to work?

Second, why do libraries have to become multi-media classroom areas--why can't libraries be about books, research, access to resources (okay, internet, cds, etc.)

Third, why can't a professor come prepared with a backup plan (ie lecture) when entering a new classroom, using unfamiliar equipment in an unknown setup?


5:11 PM, April 20, 2007  

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