Right, so, I meant to talk about being a librarian a bit more throughout the semester, but it turns out that on a day-to-day basis it’s not terribly interesting — I mean, it interests me greatly but not everyone is going to think that the vast disparity between a search for “escapism” and a search for “escape” is riveting. (However, the other librarian I work with and I were very proud of coming up with that second search. Nerds.)
But I need something to show for all this librarian-ing I did, so here are a few stories I think we can all relate to:
Students really don’t like to expend effort: One of the rules we have at the library is that everything you borrow has to be officially checked out to a student ID card. This includes things like whiteboard markers and textbooks that can only be read in the library, and there are a lot of students who don’t seem to realize that these IDs exist until they need to borrow a calculator for their test that starts in 15 minutes. But when I tell them that they need to go over to another office for ten minutes to get an ID, many of these students are like, “Well, nevermind, I’ll just try to do calculus without a graphing calculator.” Similarly, our printers only take payment in the form of money put on that same student ID, and if I had a dime for every time someone asked me to print “just one page” on my “secret free printer” or told me it was ridiculous that they should have to plan ahead to print their term paper that’s due right this very second, I would have enough to put the five-dollar minimum on my own ID.
The school really doesn’t like to be reasonable: So, yeah, it only takes like ten minutes to get an ID, but it took me four tries of going to the student ID office to find someone there to make one for me! In that same office is the place where students can put cash money on their IDs (plastic money is done online), but it’s not open until 11am, a full three hours after the library opens and after I’ve already had six questions about how to put money on a card.
Students have a weird definition of weird: I could also make some money off of the number of times students have come up to me with a “weird” or “strange” or “stupid” question that is completely reasonable. Examples include “Do you lend out calculators?” “Where is the printer?” “Where is [insert office here]?” and “Can I borrow a pencil?” These are just regular questions, people, I promise. Asking if you can use our computer classroom’s projector so that you can trace snakes for your art class is a little weird, but also kinda cool. Asking if you can store breast milk in our staff fridge is really weird (but I said yes anyway). Pencils? Those are okay.
Students like our books: The rule at our campus libraries is that we don’t charge overdue fines; if you return a book we’re happy and if you don’t we ask for a ridiculous amount of money ($50 for any book, even a little paperback). That big fine goes on your student account and you can’t graduate or register for classes if you haven’t paid it or returned/replaced the book. People come in every once in a while returning stacks of overdue books or asking about how to pay for books lost last semester or last year, and less often asking about books they lost two or three years ago. But since about February I’ve been reassuring everyone about their overdue books because of a guy we’ll call Bob. Bob came in to ask how to pay for a lost book, since he was coming back to school after a long break and was sure the book was long gone. How long gone? It was due back in December of 2000. Even better, he managed to find the book hidden in some un-emptied moving box in his basement and returned it, at which point we promptly discarded it because we really didn’t need a 15-year old book of resume examples!
Being a good librarian can earn you cookies: I spent a few hours over the course of two days working with a professor and her English for Speakers of Other Languages students to get the students registered with the college portal system and teach them how to use the catalog on a basic level — here’s how to search for Florida, here’s how to find the book about Florida on the shelf. It was super slow going and it was hard for me not to use words these guys didn’t know, but it was heartening to watch them figure it out (especially compared to watching English speakers totally ignore my help and have no idea how to use the library!). A couple of days ago the professor came back to the library and said, “I was teaching my class about measurements, like cups and tablespoons, using a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Then I found out that some of them had no idea what a chocolate chip cookie is, and that just could not stand, so I made them some. Would you like the extras?” Heck yes! It’s nice to get an tangible reward, especially an edible one, for doing a good job.