I admit I’ve struggled thinking about what to write for this, my April post. I am grateful to Shelagh and Reba for figuring it out ahead of me and articulating well what I maybe felt too vulnerable to say. I don’t really feel like a librarian much these days. What this experience has thrown into high relief for me as a worker and an educator is how much of our work in normal times is around the edges; the casual or serendipitous interactions with students that allow us to build relationships and serve them best, and which don’t require the extra thought or step of deliberately seeking out and clicking on a Zoom link.
We make ourselves available with online office/library hours, we provide access to digital resources and tutorials for using them, and we reach out to teachers to provide research support. However, we’re not there to make light conversation with a student struggling with a printer, writing them a late pass because the infernal machine is jammed. We’re not there to see a student wandering the stacks and, after a few minutes of leaving them to their browsing, offering assistance and reminding them about the online catalog. Maybe we’re available just for a chat, but not at random times, and not without someone taking a step, showing that vulnerability, and logging in to see us.
So I have been trying to find ways to be in the places around the edges; being present in student-led online meetings and events, making announcements as often as possible, “liking” the Class of 2020 Instagram posts from the library account, sending emails promoting databases and ebooks. I’ve been grabbing at those chances to do the work of a librarian; holding reading celebrations, and answering the few reference question emails I receive from students while practically begging them to schedule a research meeting. With so much emphasis on digital resources, 24/7 access, the importance of the online library presence, etc., I never realized how hard it would be to be a librarian without a library. There’s more I could be doing, but I am also a member of the school-age-kids-at-home-while-I’m-trying-to-be-working chorus. Also, it will do no good to add to the information overload everyone is feeling. I don’t really want any more emails about distance learning resources, frankly, and I don’t think I’m alone.
While I am feeling a little at sea, I know some students are too, BUT, they are also still doing amazing things and engaging with the present moment in relevant, social justice-oriented ways. Last week, we saw a student-led presentation on COVID-19 and xenophobia, for example. Our GSA still celebrated the GLSEN Day of Silence and held a virtual dance party that was surprisingly fun. If they can get it together and carry on their personal missions, I can too! They act as an anchor for me, and I majorly owe it to them to do so in return.
I realize that at this moment it is a kind of privilege to be able to quietly ponder my professional identity from my dining room office, but I suppose there are bigger questions there, all tied up with our current state of general uncertainty. One thing I’ve been trying to do these last weeks is attend to the purchased and nearly forgotten unread books on my own home shelves. How excited was I, after reading Shelagh’s post last week, to find this in the bookcase? You’d better believe that it went to the top of the pile pretty quickly. Thank you!