Life Lessons from the Library: Don’t Die by Yourself

Yesterday, there were storms and tornadoes roaring through our area. Our student worker Ramla was heading to the college when she stopped at a drive-through. Later, she said that was her mistake. As she pulled back on the road, the storm hit. She could barely to see to drive, and she could feel her car shivering in the wind.

She made it to our parking lot where she sat in the car and felt the car actually rock from side to side as if it might fly away at any moment. Just then she received a text from a friend: “Where are you?”

Ramla explained that she was in her car in the parking lot.

A reply immediately came back. “Don’t die by yourself. Come inside.”

Now, since everyone involved in this story is a second-language student, I’m not sure if the friend meant to come inside where it’s safe or come inside and we’ll die together. Still, it seems an apt metaphor for the library.

Students, especially first-time college students, often feel that they are being tossed around by an academic tornado and that they are all alone. And they don’t feel as if they can talk to their instructors, or at least that’s what we find in the library. I mention this to instructors who stare at me in disbelief: “My students know they can talk to me! Someone’s always in my office.” But what faculty don’t realize is that some students won’t come for various reasons:

  • cultural issues. I’ve had students from other countries say it’s considered an insult to tell a teacher that you don’t understand what’s been going on in class.
  • historical issues. Students who are trying to turn their academic careers around may not have had the best relationships with teachers in the past and don’t see them as allies.
  • time issues. Student and faculty free time and office hours simply may never coincide.
  • esteem issues. Some students are just embarrassed when it looks like everyone else knows how to do something and they don’t.

But this is an area where the library and learning center can be a great help to students. We are outsiders. We don’t know the other people in the class, and unless the students tell us, we don’t know their instructors. On any given day, we deal with questions from how to log in to a course shell to finding sources on French Symbolists. Our job is simply to help, not to grade or assess.

So if you feel that you’re all alone in the academic storm, come to the library. We can’t guarantee complete success; that, of course, depends on you. But we can guarantee a safe port providing assistance.

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