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No Longer Piry

So. The library that employs me is changing software systems, which is on the whole a Good Thing, as the old one stunk on ice, and the new one is, well, better capable of improvement. Anyway, the point is that Your Humble Blogger is the fellow that writes the manual for the student workers at the front desk. And new software means a new manual.

Yes, the software comes with a manual. It’s lousy. The last one was lousier. But the important thing is that the software people don’t know what all our policies are, so even if they had a terrific manual, we’d still need our own version to tell our people what information we must have despite not being Required Fields, and what they are authorized to do on their own and what they need to get supervisory OK to do, and so on and so forth. So it’s good to have somebody at the library who writes the manual for the front desk anyway.

In our library, we have students work the front desk, and although some of them could not be improved by sticking a long hook in through the nasal cavity, thrashing it around for a bit, and then scooping out the detritus and discarding it before packing the skull with natron, that’s scarcely something that the manual writer can count on. Also, there is a substantial chance that the student, prior to entering college, will have read some books with multi-syllabic words in them, but again, the manual has to be for every student, not just the exceptional ones.

Digression: I jest. Our student workers tend, on the whole, to be bright enough. But many of them are shockingly ignorant of anything outside the YouTube/Facebook world. Theater, art, literature, jazz, rock before hip-hop, movies before Memorial Day 2007, science, history, philosophy, philology, philately, gastronomy, astronomy, hegemony, gardening, model trains, erector sets or historical re-enactment—these are not just closed books to them, they are books, dead things, totally deuterochiliastic. Not all our students, you understand. And some of the bright ones are the most ignorant, and some of the dimmest are aware that there is a world out there, and that some of it might be interesting. End Digression.

Here’s my issue: the software (being originally from New Zealand, not that there’s anything wrong with that) uses the term Expiration date in some places and Expiry date in others. I probably should have spotted that earlier, but, you know, they are the same word, really, and of all the things they are trying to get done before we go live with it on Mmemmsday, regularization of terms has got to be below, oh, getting the fines module to work. No, it’s cool. We can work with it.

But there I am in the manual, and I’m writing Expiration in some places, and I’m writing Expiry in others, depending on which screen I’m talking about, and I hand off the draft to one of the students to look at, and he asks if that’s a typo. Well, no, it’s not a typo as such, but… look, very few of the students will ever have used or seen the word Expiry. In the old system, it was always called Expiration. Other than demanding that they fix the inconsistency (which they would probably do, but, you know, don’t distract the guys this week, OK?), how do I handle it in the manual?

For now, I’ve just noted, the first time it comes up, that it is sometimes called one and sometimes the other, and then thereafter used the one that shows up on the screen in the context of the moment. And I will be training these people myself, for the most part, so I can point at the screen and say they mean the same thing. So I’m not, you know, worried about it or anything. But (a) I would like the manual to be as good as it can be, because that’s my job, and (2) when (with the inevitability of time and tide) some student turns to a supervisor and says This requires an Expeeyery Date? Is that today? I want it to be clear to everyone that it is the student who deserves a beating, not the manual guy.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,