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Town Professionalism — “It’s Good Enough”

September 4, 2012

There’s a phrase that I’ve heard over and over again, one that I am just getting real tired of, “it’s good enough,” and it’s corollary supportive phrase: “quit being such a nit picker.”

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I mean, like in our town we have so many high end hair salons to keep all the women looking beautiful, we have all the pet groomers and veternarians to keep our canines and felines healthy and gorgeous and we have the exotic car dealerships to keep our streets filled with the most elitist vehicles, but what about intellect? What do we have to keep the town’s collective intellect in prime condition? Our last book store left town over a year ago. As one friend tells me, with such bitter and sardonic irony, “. . . no book stores, but . . . we still have NETFLIX!”

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Some months back I was critical of the Los Gatos Town’s official web site. I decried how miserably disorganized and ill concieved it was. While not even being a minor concern to town residents, it is very bothersome to me that anyone from out of town will probably use this cloud based threshold into our town which is so shoddy, unhelpful and unprofessional. I did not hear one word of support of it or my negative observations regarding it. No one seemed to care. I guess it’s good enough. And we still have NetFlix, after all, a physical as well as “intellectual” portal into our town, on Winchester Avenue.

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A few months ago I was hired by an enthusiastic business owner who had recently purchased a new facility for her company, here in the town where she has long resided and is very pround of. She asked me to develop a display of historical photographs of Los Gatos and its environs, portraying the variety and scope of the town’s history and growth in the entryway of her new building. She wanted to show off her hometown to her many international clients. She had heard of my long career in graphic arts production and management as well as my interest in local history. I took the project on with lots of enthusiasm and high expectations, for obviously, I’m proud of town history as well. This was a great opprotunity for both of us.
A couple of years ago I had begun my “Los Gatos Art Bridge“ in support my friends and acquaintances who had breathed life back into a decaying little agriculture based village and made it into sort of an art colony/cultural center for the evolving Santa Clara Valley, which had also lost its agricultural reason for existing. I spent a lot of time at the Los Gatos library sifting through its exceptionally large collection of local historical materials to support and broaden my own “Art Bridge” efforts.

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Now, however, I was going to be using the Library’s history collection on a professional basis, with a specific goal, a deadline with a full measure of responcibility to someone else, my client. Much to my surprise, when I got online and began my search for photos appropriate to my client’s purpose, I had to view the historical collection via a very contrived and cumbersome software interface. I was at a loss to understand why such a ridiculously limiting method would be used by the library when just a few months earlier it had such a simple and direct method for viewing the photographic collection. I know several of the volunteers who spend a lot of time building and maintaining the history collection. We worked with this new but flawed presentation system and we weren’t able to obtain any sort of satisfactory results. The system was fraught with problems, the most obvious is that the largest image presented to you when you are browsing the collection is just a fraction over an inch square on your computer screen. When you select a specific image for more detailed viewing, it is presented in some weird “sliding window” viewer that never lets you see the entire picture at one time unless you take some good deal of time to circumvent the viewer. Worse, you can view a set of pictures in the collection but when you attempt to go to that same set of pictures at another time, it doesn ‘t always contain the same pictures as before. As a project manager how am I to proceed when photos you viewed previously cannot be reliably viewed once again during a subsequent session. You are never sure you can find the same picture from one session to the next.

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These are only a few of the many problems with this system. I’ve shown this system to a number of friends, graphics professionals as well as folks with no graphics background whatsoever and everyone agrees that this display system is absurdly complex and unreliable. When you compare it to Google’s image display technique, you have to wonder why anyone would invoke such a ridiculous display system, especially the Library in Los Gatos, this high class town where everything is the best. The previous system that the library was using was similar in concept to the Google system but it was scrapped for whatever reason for this current software (see the entrance to this current system at http://www.historylosgatos.org/cdm/ ).

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Projects such as the one I’m trying to complete usually progress in a very simple and standard manner: the project manager will select a number of images that satisfy the client’s overall goals, usually about twice as many images as are to be actually used in the final display. The client will select the final group of images for the display and the manager will proceed to have these final images resized to fit the display area, get them mounted, framed and hung. The source of the images (as in this case, it would be the Libary) will be paid a fee for permission to use the images.

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Initially, I could find no way to print the images in their entirety, just small sections of each image because of the restrictions of the viewer. I had nothing to present to the client. I went to the library for assisstance but I didn’t get any. I was told that the library maintained the history collection at its convience and what I found on the library site is all that there was. Bypassing the viewer on the library site, I used the old “DOS” operating system command “shift/print screen,” I was able to fnally get my copies of the pictures to present to my client.

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The client made their final selection and I informed the Library of the specific pictures we needed to complete our project. I asked how much it would cost to get the image files prepared for us, including permissions charges. Within a few days I was told the cost would be $120 per image. I was dumbfouonded. In preparing my proposal for my client, I had asked library staffers and business people who had used the Library’s images previously, how much the permissions had cost. Everyone generally agreed the cost was around $15 per image. The library had a pricing schedule but it applied to commercial usage, where there were to be many reproductions in print media. Our project consisted simply of a single copy which was to be hung in the lobby of a small, highly specialized office building with almost no traffic. Now, the entire project was at risk. I sent an email to the Library asking for clarification. The Library’s reply was that many users of the Library’s images have been happy to pay this fee, as per the following schedule:

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Commercial Use Fees —
 Anyone using the photographs for commercial purposes must pay one-time commercial fees in addition to the cost of photographic reproduction for each image:

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Brochures and flyers $50.00
Educational Media $25.00
Trade Publications, including electronic magazines & websites $75.00
Commercial Media $125.00
Advertising and product design $125.00

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My clients usage does not fit into any of these categories, by any stretch of the imagination, so I sent a email query to the Town Manager’s office. That office agreed with the Library, this WAS a commercial usage. And of course, they didn’t bother to apply the more minimal charges, just the most expensive.

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My client told me to accept the charges and order the graphic files from the Library, this minor project was taking way too long and was becoming much too bothersom. “Let’s just get it over with.” They cut me a check which I took to the library and recieved a CD with the files on it. I was offered no receipt so I asked for one. I was told by the Libary’s clerk that she didn’t know what a permission was and didn’t know how to produce a reciept for it. After consulting over four or five more libray officials, I was finally handed my reciept.

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I put the CD into my laptop, a Windows machine, and the computer couldn’t read the files on the CD. Knowing that the Library seemed to use only MacIntosh machines, I went over to the Mac store on Santa Cruz Avenue. The Macs there couldn’t read the files either. We just paid way too much money for files that didn’t even work. A few days later, the proper files were supplied to us.

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A project that I estimated to take three to five weeks is now into its fifth month.

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. . . and my critics who say that I am far too critical and way too nit-picky, that, indeed, the new libary’s management is “good enough,” I have to wonder on which level of quality are they basing their judgement?

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While it is in the nature of artists to seek perfection, the professional artist has to come to learn when “to put the brush down.” Perfection is unattainable. There comes a point when you can’t make it any better than it is. Adding anything will only degrade the work. This is the point where you stop, satisfied or not.

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But rest assured, there is a whole lot of territory between “good enough” and “putting down the brush,” getting it as good as we can. I hope I will always have the stubborness to keep striving towards putting down the brush and not accepting “good enough” as that is who I am.

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