Dispatches from #LibraryLife: Part 4
I’ve been a librarian for over a year. (Kind of mindblowing!) I’ve seen new students come in. I’ve seen students hand in projects, crow about their grades, graduate. I’ve been getting to meet new students and greet students as they return. Still terrible with names, but I’m very good with faces and remembering the projects they were working on. A saving grace for a gap in memory.
Checked in with a student poring over a test prep book, who was looking more than a little frantic. “I’ll never learn this!” she wailed. ” I can’t believe it took me until I’m 24 to get started with this, I’m so far behind.” I sat with her for a few minutes, trying to help talk her around to the idea that it’s sort of like the SAT, she has plenty of time to study, and she’ll see the pattern eventually. Might also have set her straight on the idea of 24 being too old to start a dream career, as an [ahem] late blooming librarian, myself.
I asked a student browsing in the stacks whether she needed help. She told me she was looking to learn medical vocabulary. No problem: there’s a medical terminology class, there’s medical dictionaries, it’s a familiar request. She asked about ways to learn better pronunciation, as an English language learner. We set up a time to meet to dig into some resources after she was done with finals. (I needed the prep time to pull things together.) It was great fun! I showed her some streaming video the nursing students use to learn about procedures, where she found the Closed Caption option all on her own. She led with a great question: “Why is Google showing up in [my native language?]” So I got a chance to teach her about how Google is a business, not an unbiased search engine, and being signed into Google will shape how the algorithm offers up search results based on past history. Then we explored YouTube and some searches I’d prepared for patient education videos, and science/bio tutorial videos, continuing the conversation about authority on the web, reputable sources, and how sometimes what looks like information is really marketing. Given how many students the college has who are new learners of English, I wonder if the “Google in my native language?” surprise can be used as an object lesson in a class setting. She asked about audio resources as well, which I didn’t have prepped, but I remembered iTunes U, and showed her how to use that on her phone. (Note to self: explore iTunes U properly for lectures that will support what my students are learning.) Also MIT courses online. She asked about TED talks, which she’d watched some of, and I pointed her to my favorite, about Google filters and information silos. We had fun. And she’s gotten a head start with her info lit class as well as her other classes. Every time she sees me, we grin at each other.
A student who’d checked out the reserve Applied Psychology textbook came to show me a picture in her book: “There’s this picture of a guy yawning, and it’s making me yawn!” she laughed. I gave her a piece of scrap paper to cover his yawning face so she could concentrate. (Not sure what it says about me that I thought the picture was of a guy yelling, not yawning.)
A favorite student from last semester is an older student from the Ukraine, who had a rough time with a big term paper last semester. He was getting discouraged by being in his 40’s and being in classes with people half his age. He’s studying massage therapy after a career in dance. I gave him a few pep talks about being an older student (the kind of pep talks I needed during grad school, surrounded by earnest tiny recent college grads). He got an A on the big paper from last semester. Hooray! This semester’s big project is to come up with a massage business plan, starting with a brand name. We talked about brand names, and how they’re selling an identity and an ideal customer image. (Who knew my past experience with business books would come in so handy?) And then I set him to doing some Google searches to find local massage spa businesses… And one of the first links he clicked on was (yikes!) a salacious sort of massage business. Shall we say. Complete with graphics. Lots of graphic graphics. So many graphics. (I’d have thought the filters on the school computers would’ve caught that and blocked it. I’ve seen all sort of benign sites get blocked on school computers. But no.) Student and I both looked horrified, I blushed, we laughed, and regrouped. Someday, he’ll have a great business, drawing on his professional dance background and the massage practice he’s learning. We’ll see what it gets named. But apparently, certain kinds of brand research need to be done… carefully. With safe-search on.
Two students came by the library to show me their respective wedding pictures. I made high-pitched noises of glee, hopefully not too disruptive to other students. But…. yaaaay! Two different happy couples launching out into the world. And one of them was Medical Terminology Girl. (See above!)
Student said “I want to read about forensics, and the real stuff. I’m sick of the novels. And I want to read some good true crime.” To which the only possible response is a grin and “Cool! Let’s go look in the catalog.” Off we go, and it evolves that the collection has a bunch of videos on things like bugs and fingerprinting and crime. Cool. And a book I also really want to read but can’t find: The Anatomy of Deception. I showed her vaguely where the crime section was, and then went hunting for the novel, which appears to be quite MIA. On the plus side, she found a book to read about forensic psychology. And I pulled a couple of books for her for later, and let her know by email. To which she replied that she is enjoying the book she found and: “Did you know criminals travel far only if the crime will compensate them good enough?” Score one for ladies reading about crime!
I’ve got “What to read in a journal article” down to a 2 minute explanation: “The Abstract and the Discussion for sure. Skim the Literature review, study the Methods (steal them if possible), and you’re pretty set.” It is generally well-received.
Been trying to dabble in English literature instruction by telling students to think of it as gossip about characters, and to back up their gossip about why the characters do things with notes from the story. Sometimes, I miss English classes. Not enough to read Catcher in the Rye ever again, but I’m having some fun living vicariously and browsing the short stories in the class anthology.
I’ve heard that some of the athletes on campus refer to me as “the cool librarian.” One of the new students who came to see me let this slip. This might be the proudest professional achievement of my career. Might be impossible to live up to, but I’m going to try.