Thursday, March 10, 2011

Various in Libraryland

twigs in a pattern, after storms
I have a bunch of short ideas hanging around, so I'm combining them into one post. Here goes:

-I wonder if at some point there will be a period of dust settling when people stroll into the library and wonder where all the books went. I get the feeling that folks who are not regular users expect things to be exactly the way they left them when they went to set up their new personal computers, as though libraries might be immune to budgetary pressures, not to mention the immediate mobile access mentality. As frustrated as I am by faculty who quaintly insist that their students come to the library and find some newspapers to photocopy, I also pity them. They will be the ones who understand what is lost when they eventually realize the library collection is now largely leased instead of purchased.

-I wish librarians had the same type of leverage that instructors do, in terms of requiring students to use the library. Librarians end up competing with all the other support services at the college even though we are distinctly different from, say, the financial aid office. Encouraging people to use the college library is a good thing to do, and most people intuitively understand this, but that message doesn't necessarily extend into the classroom unless it's incorporated into assignments. At a commuter college, a classroom is often the only thing students are coming to campus for. They're not coming to explore the college library, no matter how beneficial that may be. Students might wander through if they have a few spare hours between classes, but they just as easily might not.  And many instructors seem intent on what I've heard called a trade school mentality, meaning that they do not encourage students to explore something that's not strictly part of a narrow curriculum of, say, how to use Microsoft Word.

-Another reason I like being a librarian is that I get to be intellectually curious but no longer have to go through the hassle of wondering where to find a source. I watch students who struggle with evaluating and synthesizing ideas even when a text is provided for them. Asking them to wander out into the vast information landscape and think carefully not only about the sources they do find but about their research process in general is a lot to bite off and chew in a few short weeks or at best the course of a semester. As a librarian, it's a privilege to finally be able to focus on the research aspect of the process.

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