Monday Motivator: Beginning of the Semester Tips

The Jolly Librarian is always surprised when people do not take advantage of her vast wisdom and ask me to give long, interesting speeches to welcome students and faculty back each semester. I’m sure that this has more to do with the administration being unaware of my willingness to do so rather than any doubt in my wisdom.

But I don’t want you to miss the opportunity. So here in abbreviated form is the Jolly Librarian’s Five Tips (in no particular order) for a Great Semester. These work equally for faculty, students, staff, and complete strangers wandering down White Bridge who also need wisdom.

  1. Set high standards. If you’re an instructor, make sure that students have to work hard to make a good grade in your class. Yes, students might like the Easy A Professor, but it’s the ones who challenged them and made them work that they remember and admire. If you’re a student, remember this: College is for learning. If you’re taking classes that don’t stretch you, then you’re cheating yourself out of an education. If, for some bizarre reason, you have one of those creatures who I believe is actually mythical–the easy professor–then set high standards for yourself. And for the rest of us, let’s set some high standards for our offices and ourselves. Maybe we’re planning to have fewer than ten customer complaints this semester. Maybe we’ll find new and interesting ways to get information out to students. Just make sure that you stretch yourself. 
  2. But make those standards reachable. Research shows that standards must be both high and reachable. To set goals that can’t be reached results in failure and frustration. This is whether they are set by others (such as instructors) or by ourselves. So if you have a full-time job, take care of a family, visit your aging parents three times a week, and then decide that you must have a 4.0 in the 19 hours of science courses you’ve signed up for, then you might want to re-evaluate how realistic such a goal is. This is something I know about very well from painful personal experience. It is much better to set more modest goals and actually achieve them. Please take my word for this.
  3. Just Say Yes. Besides being the title of a catchy Snow Patrol song, this phrase is a good one to keep in mind. Emily, our incomparable instructional librarian, pointed out this philosophy in a library journal article. Whenever you can, say yes to students. And when you have to say no, see if there is a way to modify things so that next time you can say yes. Sometimes we set policies and rules that made sense at one time, but continue on long after their necessity has faded. Is there really any reason to limit students to two DVDs? Are cell phones really the enemy of the library? I’m sure your office has some of these rules that need to be revisited as  well.
  4. Be kind. The library staff probably has a unique perspective on students this first week of class. There are so many students who are apologetic that they don’t know how to find the bookstore or their classroom. They’re afraid because they haven’t been in school for a decade or more. They didn’t quite understand what an instructor told them in class but were too timid to ask for further explanation. Often, if we can see the fear that lies beneath the bored or even hostile expression, we would be less likely to lash out in annoyance.
  5. Be happy. Maybe I’m going to sound way too much like Oprah here, but happy people are just more fun to be around. They make the days go more smoothly and tasks less onerous. So yes, you can sit in the back of the class (or a meeting) and make smart comments while rolling your eyes, and you may succeed in making others miserable as well. But really, is that the claim to fame you really want? People who know how to make things fun will always be wanted, whether in school, on the job, or in friendships and romance. And smart people know that happiness truly comes from inside.

So there you have it: the Jolly Librarian’s 5 Tips to a Successful Semester. And I truly hope that we all have one.

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