Director, Anytown Public Library
Anytown, IL 60606
January 17, 1998
Dear Ms. Librarian,
In this age of automation, librarians have become accustomed to a certain level of freedom from the details of library work. You may remember the days when cards were typed, labels etched, and union catalogs painstakingly hand-searched. I'm sure you'll agree that the more library staff can get away from these menial tasks, the easier their jobs are, and more professional they seem to others. A librarian sitting at a computer looks more professional than one sitting at a typewriter any day, and will probably be able to negotiate better salaries.
However, there are certain tasks that simply have not been automated. This leaves your library staff in a painful position: while they sit at a computer, they seem the paragon of professionalism and high-tech polish. But when they get up to fulfull other library-related duties, they seem to regress into the pre-automation age. And the city council members always seem to drop by just when staff are sweaty from shelving, or ink-stained from stamping books, making it seem that your staff is solely engaged in clerical tasks. This doesn't bode well for staff raises!
But never fear! We at Library Automation Systems International (LASI), producers of the renowned Gargoyle (tm) and Gargette (tm) public and school integrated library automation systems, have come up with Banswork (tm), an astonishing suite of automated library task systems, designed to do away with the menial details of library work. Your staff need never fear being labeled a 'clerical worker' again! Just take a look at the exciting application modules we offer:
ShelveA (tm) uses patented robotic technology, coupled with a scanning eye developed by optical specialists, to shelve materials with up to a 50% guaranteed accuracy rate. Easy installation takes only two to four weeks and can be done using your existing top shelves to hold equipment. Shelving arm comes with 1,000 replacement fingers, covered in your choice of leather chamois or our exclusive StixEeze (tm) flannel fabric, for minimal damage to book covers. LASI has sold the ShelveA system to hundreds of satisfied libraries--shouldn't you join them? ShelveA (tm) price is $5,560, and includes all machinery, computer interface, joint oil, documentation, and phone support for one year. Optional Bound Periodicals or Videocassette adapters are $350.
StampA (tm) was requested by many of our public and school librarians. We were able to miniaturize ShelveA technology and produce StampA, a small robotic arm that installs conveniently at your existing circulation desk. StampA takes the guesswork and inkstains out of stamping due dates! Simply position the book card or date flag on the Stamping Base between the handy red laser indicator marks. StampA takes it from there, producing a correctly-positioned, clean due date stamp every time. The complete StampA module, including all machinery, special date software, one year supply of ink, and our patented SquirtShield, is $4500. Optional extra ink cartridges include blue, red, and NEW secret ultraviolet (black light not included) for $500 each. NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR INJURIES SUFFERED BY USERS INSERTING FINGERS BETWEEN HANDY RED LASER INDICATOR MARKS.
Meet It! (tm) is an innovative response to the problem of time-wasting staff meetings. Meet It! provides a full-room setup that allows staff members to meet by proxy, without leaving their program areas. Each staff member is assigned a Meet It! 'dummy' in the conference room, which will record other dummies' spoken reports and give the staff member's comments in any one of six pleasant artificial voices (Jay Leno, Kim Basinger, and Al Pacino are just some of the popular choices). Staff members can then join in the conversation using special Meet It! conference interface consoles right on their desks, to review recorded comments and to add their own. Best of all, there is no need to take minutes--our patented MinuteTaker (tm) software produces a written copy of the entire meeting within only three days of the date of meeting! Price for the Meet It! module varies from $6,000 to $1,000,000 with the options you select, including fashion clothing for dummies, voice choices, attractive designer conference interface consoles to match office decor, and installation options (number of dummies, special leather chair for director dummy, etc.). Please call for a personalized estimate.
Hoppin' Java (tm) is a state-of-the-art, completely automated, solid-state coffee management system. Never again are you doomed to spend part of your morning messing with filters, spilling grounds, or staining your clothes with splashes of coffee. What do those tasks have to do with the proud profession of librarianship? Hoppin' Java works with your existing ventilation system to deliver cupfuls of piping hot coffee directly to program areas. Every night, your Hoppin' Java computer interfaces with our central computer system in Haregrass, West Virginia, via modem to update changes and prepare for the day. Brewing is completed by the time you arrive for work, and all you need to do is press the attractive brass (gold option is $900 extra) delivery button to activate the handy bendable CoffeePipe delivery system positioned directly over your desk. Module cost is $15,000 per ten employees, with options for larger site licenses as your library grows. Installation cost of $6,500 includes intensive profiling to determine individualized cream, sugar, temperature, and mug size preferences for your entire staff. Cappucino module is currently in development and expected to go into beta testing in early 1999.
By popular request, we have refined our phone management software module, Hello (tm), into a comprehensive phone service system, HelloPlus (tm) . HelloPlus will answer all your phones in your choice of voices, bringing information to patrons who call with various kinds of questions. You might never have to talk to a patron again! You may simply code in your library's staff directory, hours and vacation days, or you may wish to purchase the optional RefQuest (tm) software, which reads the answers to many popular reference questions to your listening patrons. Currently available is the "Word Games" disk, containing such perennial favorites as "Words that end in -GRY" and "Words with double U's in them". We are cooperating with the American Association of School Librarians for a projected "School Daze" disk, containing bibliographies of horse, dinosaur, cowboy, cat, dog, and Titanic books for children. Basic HelloPlus module is competitively priced at $11,450; reference disks and customized voice patterns start at $3,204 each. Optional CutOff (tm) software handles calls from disreputable reference materials salespeople efficiently and curtly for only $7,500.
We at LASI know the daily frustrations that confront public librarians, and we are committed to high-tech, fully automated solutions that free your library staff from drudgery and allow them to reach their full potential. If you care about the professionalism of your staff, call us now at 1-888-234-LASI to order any of the Banswork (tm) integrated modules.
David Branthwaite, B.A.
Customer Service Representative
Library Automation Systems International
p.s.-Customers who call NOW will get a special gift: 50% off our Year 2000 Adjustment Product Support Visit, mandatory for all Banswork ™ sites, currently projected at $4,500 plus traveling expenses.
Well-to-do libraries are few and very far-between these days, but you've probably noticed that many promotional materials from library automation and computer companies seem to be aimed at them. Remember that sinking feeling when you noticed the price on the newest full-text database, online service, or automation system? The company wasn't talking to YOU when they quoted that price--they were courting the few well-heeled libraries that can afford it. These are the libraries that pay their bills and put their kids through college. If they can convince those rich libraries to buy the latest time-saving, effort-saving, high-tech improvements, that trip to the Caribbean becomes a reality for them.
Lately I've noticed that any service that can possibly be provided automatically is for sale by these companies, for outrageous prices. Services like authority checking, card printing, and integrated online acquisition systems are old hat by now--have you seen the companies offering point-and-click class picture circulation systems for school libraries, so the librarian doesn't even have to know the kids' names? Have you seen the cataloging systems that offer to circumvent OCLC by searching every Z39.50 database in existence simultaneously, thereby getting you free (well, sorta) cataloging copy? Have you seen the CD-ROM that provides documented answers to 3,000 of the most popular reference questions? What the heck is next?
For my personal prediction, see above. ;)
As for the mention of books on the Titanic, I just had to throw that in. When I worked the reference desk at the North Dakota State Library, we'd take all kinds of requests from patrons in towns big and small. By far our most popular request was from parents of elementary-school-age children who desperately needed information on the Titanic disaster for a school report. (This was long before the movie was being promoted.) There were weeks when I'd take a dozen of these requests. In a whole year's time I never even saw any of our books or videos dealing with the Titanic--they were always out on interlibrary loan! To this day I have absolutely no idea why every teacher in North Dakota teaches a unit on the Titanic. Perhaps some education professor at the University of North Dakota is a Titanic afficionado and tells his students that every child should learn about it. It was just one of the paradoxes that greeted me every day in North Dakota.