Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Getting a Korean library card: 19-day journey

Korea's day-before-Christmas present to me today: a library card!

It was harder than I anticipated to get a library card here though (but nothing compared to how long it took me to get all of my banking set up!).   But don't let that stop you; your experience could easily be a lot smoother than mine, depending on your library's computers!

My library card quest actually began on Friday, December 6.  Here's the detailed timeline of events if anyone is so inclined to read them:

Friday, 12/6/13 - Go to my elementary school's library (outside, disconnected from main building) to see what children's books they have.  One of my co-teachers was in there with the librarian. They told me the public library has lots more English books.  The librarian mentioned to my co-teacher in Korean (who then translated to me) that I need to request a library card online first, and then three days later I can get the card.

I go to the public library after school.  I ask the librarian about a library card and she leads me to a computer. She does some clicking, until I get to an application page in English.  She goes back to her desk.  I fill everything in and click "submit".  The page does not submit.  I try clicking "submit" again. And again. I refresh and type all my information in again, submit.  The page does not submit.  The librarian has disappeared and I've spent enough time trying, so I leave and figure I'll try another day.  Or maybe it went through and I didn't know.

Monday, 12/10/13 - Go to the library after school and ask the librarian about the library card.  She asks what I assumed to mean, "Did you sign up on the computer?" and I said yes.  So she asked me to write down the username I had chosen.  I write it down on a piece of paper and hand it back to her. She searches on her computer and doesn't find anything, though I'm not surprised.  It was a long shot.  So I need to go back to the computer and try and submit the application again.

This time she doesn't come with me to open the site, so it takes a bit of searching and clicking on random Korean words before I find the English application again. "i-PIN" is what you should look for.  I type in all my information.  The submit button still doesn't work, same thing happens: nothing.  But this time I go back over to the librarian and kind of lead her over to the computer to watch me hit submit.  She tries clicking submit. The page does not submit.  In the end, she tells me that it's not working today, come back another day and try.

Tuesday, 12/17/13 - I hadn't planned to go to the library after school today, but as I walk by I decide to go in to see if the computer would work today.  While going up the stairs I stop a floor early and decide to try on a computer in the hall first, before going all the way up and bothering the librarian again.  I enter my information. I click submit. The page does not submit.  I decide to copy down the url and try later at home - maybe that will work.  As I'm typing the url onto my phone, all of a sudden I feel a presence beside me, and then a touch on my arm.  I assume it's a student and turn to look.

It's "Sarah", the librarian at my school who told me (through my co-teacher) two Fridays ago that I would need to sign up online first to request a library card.  She says hello, then asks if I got a card.  I show her my screen and say no, it doesn't submit. I try to explain (in the simplest English possible) that I had just tried yesterday and the librarian told me to try again today).  I don't know if she 100% understood what I was saying, but I decided I would go upstairs and try to "talk" with the librarian again.  Uh, so I head to the stairs and Sarah comes with me.

I don't know if she's agreed to come with, or if she had to go upstairs herself.  I'm also now realizing that I don't know what to say to the librarian at the front desk, because in case you've forgotten, I don't speak Korean!  Can I communicate to her with gestures and simple words that I just tried on a computer downstairs and it still didn't work?  As we're walking up the stairs, Sarah tells me that she used to be a librarian for the city, so she knows the system.  Aha! Wonderful!

So she does talk with the librarian when we get upstairs.  The librarian calls some number and talks with someone.  The only word I recognize while she's on the phone (of the ~20 I know) is "waygook", which means foreigner (that's me!).  We go over to the computer together, all three of us, and I enter in all of my information again.  Still doesn't work.  We spend 15 minutes trying different things on the computer.  I hope Sarah was in no rush to get somewhere, I feel bad (and grateful) that she has stuck around this long to help me get a measly library card.  The librarian is back on the phone with some help line.  Then it's communicated from the librarian to Sarah to me that I need a public certificate file on a flash drive from the bank.  I need to go to the bank and get this electronic certificate.

My first thought is that'll never happen because the bank opens after my workday starts, and closes before my workday finishes.  Also: are you kidding me? I just want a library card.  Then I wonder if this certificate could be the thing I use to sign into my online banking.  Because that's an electronic file on my flash drive.  I have no idea if this is what they need, but I tell them that yes,  I do have the certificate, and pull out my flash drive.

We spend 15 more minutes trying to get it to work with the flash drive.  The computer isn't cooperating.  Finally Sarah tells me to come to the school's library tomorrow and she would help me try on the school computer.  I hope I had the right file on my flash drive...

Wednesday, 12/18/13 - Go to my school's library in the afternoon and sit down with kind Sarah, the librarian.  I bring my flash drive and ID card.  She calls a help number.  I plug my flash drive into her computer.  After talking on the phone for a while the computer freezes, Sarah restarts it, and then the help people on the phone access Sarah's computer remotely in 2 seconds (it was amazing!).  From what I saw, they downloaded the newest version of Java.  The help person went back to the library's site, but clicked on a different link before we started the application.  This used the certificate on my flashdrive and had me type in the certificate's password.  (It worked! Thank goodness.)  Then, we went to the application that I'd probably filled out over 10 times by now.  I filled it out once more, we hit submit.  It went through!  Then I had to do one more step, make a user name and enter some more information.  I probably spent 20 minutes at the computer with Sarah that afternoon.  And now it was time to wait 3 days.

Monday, 12/23/13 - Go to the library after school to get card.  Library is closed.

Tuesday, 12/24/13 - Assume the library will be closed today, but as I walk past and glanced at the door, it was open!  The librarian totally recognizes me when I walk in, so I hand her my username that I wrote down so she can copy it.  I know she knows that I need.  She asks for my ID card, which I hand her as well.

She does a little typing, then lets out a smile and a nod - my name was in the system!  Yay!  Woo hoo!  Some printing magic happens, and then she hands me my library card!  I'm in the middle of a book on my kindle, with two more from the digital library waiting to be read, so I took the card from the librarian and went straight to the door and left.  I grinned and laughed in my head, thinking about what the librarian must think of me.  Why had this foreigner spent three weeks trying to get a library card if she didn't need to check out anything? Hah.

I'll probably need a book by mid-late January, and I'll figure out how to check out a book then.  But for now, my wallet gets another card!
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