Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Three Things I'm Grateful for This Year

Freeze, thaw, repeat. (Illustrated by the pavement)

Not to get too sentimental, but now seems like a good time of year to mention my appreciation of certain job-related things. Here's what presently stands out, in no particular order:

(1) Work that seems useful and important. At times, I admit, I fantasize about pursuing a more lucrative profession, but I think my conscience would bother me if I wasn't doing something I felt was directly beneficial to the world at large, and I regularly feel this way at the community college. I say this in spite of some of the insurmountable obstacles that poverty and mis-education create. And yes, I'm aware of the 'greed is good' argument and how self-interest is the engine of capitalism etc. etc. etc. I'm saying it would be hard for me personally to get up every morning just to count my pile of gold.

(2) Community college students. This experience on Monday sums up what I mean: I was helping a student find out whether the library had a copy of her textbook on reserve, and we did not. I explained how we had been getting the textbooks through donations, and she offered to give her copy to the library after the semester was over. I reminded her that she could get some money back for reselling her book, but she said the amount was minimal. That it even occurred to her to do this made my day.

(3) Departmental and professional autonomy. Being trusted to make decisions is important. For example, I sincerely appreciate that our library instruction program -- and using the word 'program' elevates what is basically a grab-bag of inadequate one-shot sessions -- does not spend class time on assessment. How about this for assessment: When the session fails, we never hear from the instructor again. When it succeeds, the instructor returns and tells friends. Thank goodness we don't have to spend 30 minutes out of a mere 50 administering a pre-test and a post-test! I'm not saying all library instruction assessment is bad -- in many cases I'm certain it makes instruction programs stronger -- but in our specific case it would be more trouble than it would be worth. For all of the top-down administrative mandates out there, I'm glad that on some level our librarians and staff can rely upon their own judgments without excessive micromanagement.   

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