JollyLibrarian

The Mayfield Library is always looking for ways to let you know what’s going on with us, so we can serve you better. To better achieve that aim, we’re starting this library blog.

As we communicate with you, please keep in touch with us. We welcome all feedback.

After all, the Mayfield Library is here for you!

Today is the day to celebrate those folks who work in libraries. Give your local library worker a friendly smile or a quick thank you this week.

For me, libraries have been home as long as I can remember. In rural Alabama, I made a weekly visit to the Bookmobile each summer. In elementary school, I set a goal to read every book in our school’s library. I soon learned that I was not going to be able to achieve that goal but decided to keep trying anyway. In junior high, I worked my study hall period in the library and became friends with our librarian. And now, after many years, I have gone full circle and work in a library again. 

At our library, on any given day, we do many, many things. And some of those things include ordering, processing, cataloging, shelving, and then checking out books. And I will never downplay the importance of books to libraries, but they are only part of our mission. We also have databases that provide students with articles on subjects for their research papers. We run workshops on topics, such as word processing and presentation software, MLA format, apps and mobile devices, and social media savvy. We answer research questions in person, on the phone, and online. We provide computers and tablets as well as a quiet place to study. For some students, the library as a specific place is an integral part of their education.

And then we do the other things that don’t pop up in our  job descriptions:

  • We console students who have just failed a test and think they should drop out of school.
  • We help students figure out the eccentricities of their course management system.
  • We show them how to register for courses.
  • Because we tend to be open whenever students are here, we answer lots of basic questions about the college.
  • We serve as cultural translators for ESL students who may not understand an assignment or the connotation in a poem or short story.
  • We encourage.
  • We even provide pens when a student finds himself on campus without one.

We want to be a welcoming place for all, whether you are a prospective student at the front desk wondering where the admissions office is located or a student fifty miles away trying to access a database. And I bet your local library is the same.

So today, thank a library worker.

 

Yesterday, I went to Cheekwood Botanical Garden to see the tulips. If you know anything about these flowers, you know that you can’t procrastinate when they’re blooming. They will not hang around waiting for you. For a few years, I planted tulip bulbs in the fall. They were beautiful in the spring. But more than once, I left a gorgeous array of color in the morning only to find only scattered petals when I returned home, victims of a windy day.

As I walked around the various beds, I could see, even in the midst of their peak blooming time, some of  their number were already wilting and losing their petals. It didn’t make the experience less beautiful, but it was bittersweet to realize that even if I returned the next week, the colors would already be fading.

Still, I’m grateful I get to enjoy such beauty. And tulips are a good reminder that all things, when it comes right down to it, are impermanent, and I should never overlook a chance to appreciate them.

 

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One month from today will be the last day of the semester. So from here on out, students will be feeling the pressure to try to get everything done. Here are the Jolly Librarian’s suggestions for keeping calm during the coming weeks:

  • List your deadlines. I like a big wall calendar because then the deadlines are staring at me all the time, and I’m not likely to forget one. But use whatever is comfortable for you: a datebook, your phone.
  • Break those deadlines down into smaller ones. A research paper with a deadline for May 1 may seem far, far away. But in reality, a research paper consists of many discrete parts, so put those on your calendar as well: finding sources, writing a draft, editing the paper, writing the works cited, etc.
  • If you are having trouble in your class, procrastinate no longer. See your professor. Go to the Learning Center.
  • Do something every day on your courses. Now some would say that this is impossible. If you have a test in calculus in the morning, your time is better spent on calculus and not a review of a history chapter. I don’t disagree, but I think students are much more likely to err on the other extreme: “No tests this week. No studying!” So do something every day on every course.
  • But also take time to relax. Go for a run. Read a book for pleasure. Watch “The Big Bang Theory.”
  • Talk out your fears. Almost every student feels the stress of this period. You’re not alone. Talk to people in your classes. It helps to know you’re not alone.
  • Maintain your sense of humor. Sure, it’s a stressful time, but if you can find humor in the situation, you’ll feel a lot better.

And, remember, one month from today, for better or worse, the semester will be over. And we’ll all get to have a new beginning.

 

This has not been the best of mornings. I had bad dreams and then overslept. And let’s just say some basic personal grooming had to be omitted to get to the dentist on time. There, I tried on my new mouth guard which resembles something that might have been used in the Middle Ages as an instrument of torture. Of course, the second it was in my mouth, both my dentist and his assistant decided to ask me numerous questions about my weekend. My mood was definitely bad by the time I walked into the library this morning.

Then a student returned some headphones because they weren’t working. Now, there are many reasons a student might not hear sound on a computer, so we routinely check headphones when there are complaints. So I went to my computer and put on Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.” This song has the ability to instantly cheer me up. By the time the song ended, I was back on track and ready to enjoy the day.

Everyone should have such a song. If you don’t, your assignment for this week, if you choose to accept it, is find one. 

Last week was not a great week for Gwyneth Paltrow. She announced her “conscious uncoupling” from Coldplay singer, Chris Martin. Many obnoxious comments followed. (I may or may not have made one of them.) Then there was the interview in which she seemed to say that it was much harder being an actress mom than for those women who worked 9-5 jobs. This, of course, also led to outrage, including this one from one of those working moms.

Now I know next to nothing about Gwyneth Paltrow besides the fact that she probably would refuse to go to Krystal’s with me if we ever met. But it seems to me that Gwynnie had a case of a very common ailment: She’s gotten so caught up in her own life that she can’t see outside of her own experience.

I’ve been there. Years ago, I was overwhelmed by a breakup that I couldn’t think of anything else. It went on so long that I probably lost friends over it. I was starring in my own melodrama, and I was devastated when others refused to continue being my supporting cast.

Last year was a tumultuous one for our college. At one point, a faculty member said that she was being treated like a factory worker. Now, I have no doubt that she believed it, and she saw herself as standing up for all the little people being oppressed, like an academic Norma Jean. As someone who worked in a factory for three summers to help pay for college, I knew that there is really no comparison, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind.

It’s human nature. We see our struggles as overpowering, even mythic, because we’re living them. Intellectually, we might know that others have it worse, but emotionally, we’re being punched in the gut and that’s all we can focus on. And that’s true whether we’re a professor or a student. Or Gwyneth Paltrow.

The only difference is that Gwyneth probably has a publicist who really should have known better.

This weekend, I noticed that my bedroom curtain was weighed down with dust, so I took it outside for a good shake before throwing it in the washing machine. For some reason this action reminded me of a quotation from Thoreau. And being both literature major and procrastinator, I stopped cleaning to look it up:

I had three pieces of limestone on my desk,
but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily,
when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still,
and threw them out the window in disgust.– Walden

Unlike Thoreau, I like my stuff, so I kept cleaning. But I did have to agree that the furniture of my mind had become quite dusty. Now this realization did not bring me to any great changes over the weekend. Still, I know that I have some work to do. As with my curtain, I have managed to overlook the dust that has been gathering and weighing me down. I have gotten into an intellectual and emotional rut, and there is some deadwood that needs to get thrown out the mental window.

Wish me luck. And I challenge you, when starting your spring cleaning, do not overlook your mind’s furniture! Hopefully, you’ll not have the accumulation of mental dust that I’ve found, but still a good shake probably won’t hurt one bit.

 

 

Occasionally, we’ll get a question on Ask-the-Librarian that is not really a question at all, but a basic plea for us to do the assignment for the emailer. Sometimes it’s clear the person doesn’t understand the assignment, and a few questions on our part will put him/her on the right track. But other times, it’s just as clear that we’re seen as a substitute for the hard work involved in research.

Basically, here’s what we can’t do:

  • Give you a research topic, provide you with all the sources, and the correct citations.
  • Answer your homework questions for you.
  • Tell instructors that their assignments are ridiculously hard or that there are no sources for your topic.

Why can’t we do these things?

  • Instructors would come to the library and beat us up.
  • We’re not the ones being graded. We’ve done our research papers and earned our grades. It’s your turn.
  • In the long run, you’ll not thank us when you don’t learn how to do research. (You may not think so now, but if you plan to continue your college career, this shortcut will definitely catch up with you.)

So what can we do?

  • Help you come up with strong search terms that will yield results.
  • Direct you to the best databases for your search.
  • Find sample articles so you can follow our example and successfully find more.
  • Help you with citations. (Notice the ‘help’ word.)
  • Direct you to good sources, whether they be books, articles, or websites.
  • Question you so that you can come up with a plan for your research.

How can you get the most out of an encounter with a librarian?

  • Know what the assignment is. 
  • Do some preparation. Have an idea of a topic. Look at a couple of databases. See if the library has any books on the subject.
  • Know what your weaknesses are. Maybe you can find materials on Machiavelli, for instance, but are having a hard time finding present-day examples of his leadership style. Then we can focus on where you really need the help.
  • Realize your instructor is the person who makes the final call on all aspects of your paper. Don’t try to make the librarians take sides. We weren’t in the classroom. We haven’t heard all the discussions. Always go with your instructor.
  • Take responsibility for your paper. The library staff wants to help, but we won’t take over the writing of your paper. We just can’t. Don’t ask.

In the library, we love to help students learn. But we can’t cross the line between helping students on their papers and doing the work for them. So please realize, when we say no, it’s because we have your best interests at heart. I know it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. But we do.

For those of you who need some help on your first argument paper, here’s a guide just for you.

 

 

 

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