The Ghosts of Students Past

by Alyssa Mandel on October 19, 2014

So here’s a thing that has happened on several occasions over the last few months: alumni, now enrolled in college, getting in touch to ask for library services from me.

I’m of two minds on this, and I think you’ll all see where I’m going here . . . one part of me is worried that I didn’t do my job well enough: they should be skilled enough to navigate their current university libraries themselves, or at least know enough to introduce themselves to their librarians and beg for their help, not mine. The other part of me is secretly (OK, not secretly!) pleased that I provided such reliable friendly help that I’m the one to whom they turn in their hour of need.

A favorite student of mine whom I see at least once a year is writing his senior thesis on a rather narrow subject. He did actually do the right thing: he visited his college library and consulted with the librarians there. Favorite Student needs articles from some unusual journals to which the college does not subscribe, and the librarians said they would try to get them via interlibrary loan but made no promises about if, when, how long. I take a certain perverse pleasure in trying to solve the unsolvable, so with the theme song to Mission: Impossible playing in my head, I cracked my knuckles and got to Googling.

His college doesn’t subscribe to those journals, but a major state university nearby does and because it’s a public institution, they allow access to any in-person user visiting the campus. I advised him of this, told him to pack a lunch and pocket change for the photocopier, and off he went to fulfill his destiny.

A former advisee sent a desperate email, on a Friday night no less, begging for help with an art history paper on which her grade depends. Full disclosure: I taught college art history courses before changing careers, so I am especially intrigued by her request. I visited her college’s library website and pointed out that they subscribe to several excellent art research databases, offer appointments with subject specialists, and the painting she is studying is owned by the nearby museum which also has a library. She’ll be fine; she just needed direction and reassurance.

I’m trying to strike the right balance between swooping in to save the day and guiding these young people towards self-sufficiency. “Home,” I suppose, is always a comfort: I am firmly into middle age and make my own chicken soup very well, but when I have a cold it’s to my mother I turn for hers. Without treading on Jack Canfield’s turf, if a familiar librarian can provide chicken soup for a researcher’s soul, I’ll take that as an epitaph.


Ode to a Quiet Morning

October 15, 2014

I’m sitting in a Calculus classroom a building and a floor away from the library as I proctor the PSAT for my advisees. Last week was Homecoming/Spirit week, and this two and a half hours of silence sitting in one space feels so luxurious. With routine library duties and beginning to teach research “boot camp” […]

Read the full article →

Librarians of AISL

October 13, 2014

Our third installment of The Librarians of AISL: the Interviews has arrived.  Let’s head north to hear from Katie. Librarians of AISL, Katie from New York    

Read the full article →

The Librarians of AISL

October 10, 2014

Welcome back to the second installment of our new feature, The Librarians of AISL: the Interviews.  This time we are heading down to Florida. Librarians of AISL, Barbara from Florida If you are interested in sharing your experiences as an Independent School Librarian on The Librarians of AISL: the Interviews, please contact Allison at

Read the full article →

on Jan Brady library services …

October 8, 2014

Sadly, I seem to have reached an age where the pop-culture references of my youth are clearly becoming anachronisms, but way back in the 1970s I used to catch the bus home after school with a house key on a chain that I wore around my neck–GASP! Yes, people, I was a latchkey child!!! If […]

Read the full article →

Makerspaces Going Mainstream in Libraries

October 7, 2014

Many of us have been reading about Makerspaces over the last couple of years as an emerging trend in libraries and school spaces. No longer is it a fringe, underground trend, but it is becoming mainstream with events like the Maker Faire at the Whitehouse, Home Depot selling 3D printers and materials, and general magazines […]

Read the full article →

Studying Baseball in October

October 3, 2014

Since it’s October and the most exciting part of the baseball season is in full swing, I want to share and welcome your advice on, a new unit I have started with my fourth grade students. This summer my husband and I took a trip to Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. Visiting […]

Read the full article →

Upper School Book Club: One Success Story

September 22, 2014

They came bouncing in, groups of two and three, full of questions. “Are we meeting here this year?” “What’s our book?” “Did we get kicked out of the library?” and of course “Where are the snacks?”  A group of maybe twelve upper schoolers came together in Seaver 308 to start another year of Book Club. […]

Read the full article →

Setting the Stage for Literacy Education

September 19, 2014

Literacy Education is taking center stage, and librarians are in the wings ready to be key players. View video 21st Century Learners   This November the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention in Washington, D.C. will focus on the topic of literacy. Promotional literature for the convention includes the tag line “literacy is […]

Read the full article →

Leaving Digital Footprints…and other thoughts from 6th graders

September 17, 2014

I’m officially a librarian for students in grades 7-12 and I realize this is Upper Division week on the blog, but I can’t stop thinking about a lesson that I taught to 6th graders last week. I’m hoping you can offer advice or feedback based on your own experiences with middle and high school students. […]

Read the full article →