Monthly Archives: April 2012

Monday Motivator: Have Compassion for the Stressed

Finals week is here, and I’m not sure who is the more stressed: the students or the faculty. I’ve been reading Facebook posts by faculty who are drowning in papers. And I’ve been helping students find some sources for papers that are now obviously late.

Here in the library, we’ve also been listening to speeches, answering quick grammar questions, and even doing a quick calculation to tell if a student is probably going to pass a class.

It’s a hard week. We keep candy in the library to help students who need the comfort that only a nice piece of chocolate can bring. (A momentary pause here while the Jolly Librarian runs to the front desk for a Three Musketeers.)

Of course, people react to stress in different ways, and the library staff has learned to adapt to them all (or most of them):

  • We smile and nod sympathetically at those needing reassurance.
  • For those who get a bit abrupt, we stay businesslike, but don’t  react to their brusqueness. We are of the firm belief that most people’s rudeness is their issue, not ours.
  • We gently usher the loud to the lobby.

For stressed faculty, especially those grading multiple sets of research papers, we go into survival mode: avoid eye contact and get out of the way as quickly as possible. (The same method works with zombies, I believe).

 

 

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The Jolly Librarian’s Final Exams Survival Guide (with a little help from her friends)

When it’s come to final exams, we know what we’re talking about. Among our library staff, we have twenty college degrees. (Library types like to keep learning.) Obviously, we’ve taken our share of final exams. So here, in no particular order, are our tips on surviving finals week:

  • Don’t drink more than your usual amount of caffeine. You may stay awake more, but your productivity will be compromised by the jitters!
  • Don’t stay up all night studying. Most people can’t do their best on an exam without being rested.
  • Research shows that individuals have only so much willpower at any one time. So during finals week, use what willpower you have for studying. This is probably not the time to decide to give up smoking  or sweets. Pam, who is taking a final exam this week, disagrees with the statement about sweets. Her advice: Don’t eat sugar! It only makes you depressed and tired.
  • Work out. No, you don’t need to run a marathon or do a marathon session at the gym. But take a break every hour or so; take a short walk. Do some yoga or sit-ups. Anything that gets the body moving can refresh the mind.
  • Take a well-defined break. It’s easy to say that you need a break and then realize four hours later, you’re still on that break. So keep them short: Get a little exercise. Watch television, but only one episode of a favorite sitcom. (Laughter relieves tension.) Listen to some music. Talk to a buddy. Play with your cats (Pam’s suggestion.)
  • There is no substitute for keeping up with the readings, notes, and assignments for the semester. However, if you are behind, then do some academic triage. Where do you need to do the most work? What classes can be saved?
  • Get help if you need it. See if folks in your class want to study together. Go to the Learning Center. See your professor.
  • Do what works for you.

Good luck on your final exams!

 

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Eating-We-Will-Go

Our assignment this week was to eat small, regular meals. Almost every source will tell you that eating at regular times keeps you energized and causes you to eat less (because you never get ravenous). This seems an incredibly logical way to eat.

The Jolly Librarian was a little disappointed to discover that eating regular meals does not mean continuous grazing throughout the day, and it certainly doesn’t mean eating one piece of chocolate after another until the 5-pound Costco bag is empty. 

Emily, on the other hand, has so internalized the regular eating process that she seemed mystified by the assignment. This is just normal eating for her. (And I don’t need any emails pointing out that this may be the reason that she wears a certain size and the Jolly Librarian wears another, exponentially larger, size.)

Pam has been working hard on improving her eating habits and feels pretty successful. She pointed out that some pants were fitting much more comfortably than just a few months ago. So she’s not about to change a system that’s working, even if it’s a healthy one. Plus, Pam is one of those musician types, and I’m not sure that she’s ever done anything on a regular basis.

So, in general, it wasn’t a bad week for us:

Pam– A

Emily– A

Jolly Librarian– D

 

 

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Eating-We-Will-Go

Our assignment this week was to eat small, regular meals. Almost every source will tell you that eating at regular times keeps you energized and causes you to eat less (because you never get ravenous). This seems an incredibly logical way to eat.

The Jolly Librarian was a little disappointed to discover that eating regular meals does not mean continuous grazing throughout the day, and it certainly doesn’t mean eating one piece of chocolate after another until the 5-pound Costco bag is empty. 

Emily, on the other hand, has so internalized the regular eating process that she seemed mystified by the assignment. This is just normal eating for her. (And I don’t need any emails pointing out that this may be the reason that she wears a certain size and the Jolly Librarian wears another, exponentially larger, size.)

Pam has been working hard on improving her eating habits and feels pretty successful. She pointed out that some pants were fitting much more comfortably than just a few months ago. So she’s not about to change a system that’s working, even if it’s a healthy one. Plus, Pam is one of those musician types, and I’m not sure that she’s ever done anything on a regular basis.

So, in general, it wasn’t a bad week for us:

Pam– A

Emily– A

Jolly Librarian– D

 

 

Monday Motivator: Take Time to Solve the Problem

Over the weekend, my television went crazy. When I turned it on, there was just a thin bright line instead of  a picture. On Friday, the line turned into a picture when I changed channels, so I assumed the problem was with the station. Saturday, the same thing happened, and I thought that perhaps those calls from Comcast about this device I needed were more than simply sales calls. Still, I checked with the DVD player, and the line remained. I left the room to start a load of laundry, and when I returned, there were some hockey teams. So I forgot all about it. But yesterday, a hour after I’d turned on the TV and there was still just a line and no picture, I headed out to Costco to buy a new one.

Having just participated in the interviews of prospective nursing students, I realize that I made several tactical critical thinking errors here:

  • I did not take the time to delve into my obvious psychological problem:  I can’t withstand a night without television. (But it WAS The Good Wife night!)
  • It never occurred to me to look at my existing television set to see if I could find the problem.
  • I did no comparison shopping.

So I came home with my new television and started to take the old one out of the cabinet. This television is more than fifteen years old and was built when televisions were chunky and heavy. As I was tugging on it, the picture came back on. And stayed on.

For the moment, I have two televisions. Because I made the too-common mistake of deciding that my first thought was the solution.

So although I’ll be paying for a new television or lugging it back to Costco sometime this week, the experience was a valuable reminder to think through problems and not act on the first thought that crosses my mind. Even if it does mean potentially missing out on The Good Wife.

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Laughter in the Workplace

Our task for this week was to laugh more. For once, we had an assignment that we didn’t  even have to think about. All three of us are good at finding the humor in most situations.

In fact, Pam is so willing to find the humor in things that when we tell her a joke, she’ll laugh and laugh, and then say, “I don’t get it.”

Emily’s humor can be a little more subversive. Yesterday, in a moment of intense hunger, Pam went to the refrigerator and ate a piece of cheese. She then sent an email to the rest of the library staff saying she’d eaten the cheese and hoped that was okay. I wondered what she’d do if she received an email that said it was most definitely not okay. Regurgitate the cheese? But Emily responded with the hint that the cheese had been poisoned to catch the thief.

The Jolly Librarian likes to share her humor with students. When one comes to the desk to say the printer’s not working, I respond with, “Did you call it names? Did you hurt its feelings? Printers need love, you know!”  When a student checks out Living with Art, I always say, “That crazy title. It makes art sound like a disease.”  Because the students don’t like to make noise in the library, they hold in the laughter that I know my witty remarks elicit.

Umm. Or maybe library humor should just stay in the library?

Anyway, our grades for this week:

Pam        A

Emily    A

Jolly Librarian   A

Monday Motivator: Refuse Other People’s Anger

One of the best things about my job is the chance to do research and the resulting serendipitous finds that happen when I’m looking up something. A search on anger management lead me to an article on a Buddhist approach to anger. The author pointed out that we should show compassion for the angry person, but we should also show compassion for ourselves and not take on that anger.

Of course, that is easier said than done. Many of us, when facing an angry person, feel the need to retaliate, to “give as good as we’re getting.” But usually, an angry encounter makes everyone feel worse, does little for our health, and seems to hang about for hours afterwards.

So, often, the best response is simply not to respond to anger. That doesn’t mean you have to cower in fear in front of the angry person. If the person has a legitimate problem, deal with the problem, not the anger. And, unless your job requires you to, there is no rule that says you have to stay around and listen to someone’s rants. You can simply walk away.

So this week’s motivator is simply this:  You don’t have to be angry just because someone else is. They may have the right to express their anger. You definitely have the right to refuse to let it affect your day.

 

In Honor of National Library Week: The Jolly Librarian Remembers Her Favorite Libraries

Here, in no particular order, are the five libraries that have meant the most to me:

  1. The Mayfield Library at Nashville State Community College.  This is where I work. I respect the staff who always put students first. I like our students who are smart, funny, and questioning. I love that students feel comfortable asking us questions or just stopping by to chat. I firmly believe we do good work here.
  2. The Bellevue Branch of the Metro Nashville Public Library. This building is smaller than most people’s houses, but it’s my neighborhood library. I’ve spent many a Saturday browsing the shelves, finding new interests to develop. It’s a small but homely, and if its collection isn’t huge, books can be delivered from other branches in a couple of days.
  3. The Indiana University of Pennsylvania Library. Although I probably shouldn’t admit this, this is the library where I did true research for the first time. At least in my case, it’s true that the best way to learn something is to teach it. After teaching research skills to freshmen, I learned that my past researching techniques left something to be desired. At IUP, I learned to be a better researcher. Also, I was hundreds of miles away from home, and the library served as a lifeline for me. It gave me a place to go where I could be around people, and it was the odd time that I didn’t see another English graduate student in the periodicals basement.
  4. Owens Cross Roads Junior High School Library. I once decided to read every book in this little library. My failure brought home a cold truth: I was never going to be able to know all the things in the world worth knowing. Still, I decided it was a decent, if doomed, goal to have.
  5. The Madison County Bookmobile: Most of the small towns in our county did not have public libraries. Therefore, each week the bookmobile came to town. I was one of its most loyal patrons. I don’t remember much about it except the smell, which was probably a combination of gasoline, books, and stale air from the days it wasn’t in use. My most vivid memory, ironically, was from the week I didn’t get to go. I had the mumps, so my mother sent my father to pick up some books. Somehow, he missed the children’s section altogether and picked out a massive biography of Helen Keller. I remember heroically struggling through the pages as I lay on the sofa. It never occurred to me not to read it.

Libraries are such a central part of my personal history that I’m always surprised to meet people for whom they have little meaning. I don’t judge them; it’s just as if they came from another planet and are speaking a language that I can’t recognize.

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Whole Grain or No Grain

The Jolly Librarian’s discussion with Pam today:

JL: Are you ready to report on your progress?

Pam: I didn’t do anything.

JL: I thought we were going to work on this together.

Pam: We are doing this together. I’m just failing miserably at it.

Of course, with Pam’s creative, right-brained nature, it should not be surprising that her interest in following weekly guidelines from a book would wax and wane unpredictably. But I did think she’d occasionally read the assignment. So far, I’ve been wrong.

Even Emily, who usually can be counted on to say something sassy, could only come up with, “Sometimes I eat whole grains; sometimes I don’t.  I’m never going to eat a whole-grain grilled cheese.” And I have to admit I feel the same way about hot dogs, although I guess one could say if I’m eating hot dogs, I’m not that concerned about my health in the first place.

As you can guess, our task for this week was to choose whole grains, a worthy goal. If you want to add more whole grains to your diet, click here for a helpful article from one of our databases.

Our grades for this week:

Pam:  F (still not reading the chapters)

Emily: A (For eating mostly whole-grains, but not going crazy over it. The research supports her.)

Jolly Librarian: F. (The JL is not having a good week. Enough said.)

What Library Folks Wished Students Knew: We Don’t Speak for the Entire College

Sometimes students don’t distinguish among authority figures on campus. This can cause problems when librarians and other staff members try to be nice and helpful.

For example:

Student: What do you think of my paper?

Librarian: I like it. I can tell you worked hard on it. I hope you do well in class.

Later:

Professor: You made a D on your paper.

Student: But the librarian liked it. She said I deserved a good grade.

We have been asked to write notes when students can’t get a paper to print, to reassure them that they’ll be able to take a test late if the computers go down, or tell them what grade they’ll get on a paper.

In fact, I’ve had to tell my staff that they are to be cautious in such matters, always saying that their instructors are the first and final decision makers on anything that has to do with their classrooms.

We only hear one side of stories. We haven’t seen the syllabus. We haven’t heard the actual instructions for an assignment.  A beautifully written personal essay won’t mean much if the assignment was to write an analysis of a research article.

So we have to draw a firm line in the sand on this: We will help in any way we can. But we won’t predict what will happen in the classroom.

Nor should we.