The Clueless Professor

A woman with long dark hair approaches the reference desk, she is wearing nice clothing, and looks fairly well put together… I am totally slammed with work, and this is my new fresh hell:

Me: How may I help you?

Her: I’m a teacher at a local community college and I’d like to have my students do a project on their family histories but I really don’t know where to begin or what’s available so that’s why I’m here I need to know if there are databases or books available on family histories and how to do research like this on family history I need to know for my lesson plan so I know what to tell them for this project that I’m thinking about having my students do I need to know…

Me (interrupting her mad rambling): So, you want to do genealogical research?

Her: No not really, not genealogical research I need, “Family” research but not for me for my students I’m a teacher and I’m putting together this lesson plan and I thought it would be a good to have them research their family histories for one of the assignments and I was wondering if you have anything that might help me with this project that I have for them to do or will have for them to do?

At this point, I’m already thinking that I will surely be blogging about this lunatic. It’s the only thing that keeps me from stabbing myself with the mechanical pencil on my desk to make it stop. Someone who intends to teach something, should at least have a rudimentary understanding of the subject matter.

Me: Most of the information that we have pertains to local history and genealogy regarding the founding families of the City. We also have a subscription to a genealogy database that includes census data and other useful research material.

Her: Ohhhh, that’s amazing can you get this from home too can my students access this database from home or school as well as here?

Me: They can access the database online from wherever, IF they have a library card from their hometown. The library card barcode number allows access to the database.

Her: Is there any way to get in to the database without a library card. A universal research key or something my students are from all over and many don’t have library cards so can they get in with a research key how can they get access from the library but not from home. How does this work?

Me: As I explained, if they want access they need a library card from their own hometown. If they are inside a library or school, the database will most likely authenticate via IP address and no password will be required. From home, however, the database requires a barcode number for access. That’s how the system works.

Her: What’s that thing what did you say a what address?

Me: An IP address. It’s a unique identifier that let’s the server know who is accessing it.

Her: Let me write this down… IP address and it works how, how does it know?

Me: I can’t, in the time we have, explain how computer networks work. Suffice it to say that it’s looking for something specific that needs to be provided for access.

Her: I need to tell the people I’m working for… What is looking for what something?

Me: The server is looking for a kind of path, or key that the client provides in order to allow access… An IP address or a barcode number…

Anyway, this went on and on until the mechanical pencil scenario seemed like a totally reasonable solution… I truly feel for her students. After what seemed like an eternity, she seemed satisfied with my explanation of the technology and also with the few books that were available regarding, “Family” research. She thanked me… I appreciated this.


~ by Woeful on January 22, 2007.

One Response to “The Clueless Professor”

  1. You have the patience of a saint, or maybe you really don’t want to stab yourself with a #2 pencil.

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