Monthly Archives: November 2012

When Jolly Librarians Get All Whiny and Stuff

This has been a busy couple of weeks in the library as students are rushing to get their sources for projects due in the next few weeks. As one student said today, “I didn’t realize how close that after-Thanksgiving deadline has become.” For the most part, this is one of our happiest times of years. We get to help students, and we get to help look up all sorts of interesting information. What’s not to love?

Except that librarians are human too. And like everyone else, there are things that turn us into whiners. Here they are a few of them:

  • The expectation to perform library magic. You come in on Friday afternoon and want to work on your paper during the weekend: if the book you want is not in our library, we can’t get it to you from another library in a hour. That’s simply not how it works. It’s not even how Amazon works. We can probably find you other sources if you give us a chance.
  • The lack of response. Today I answered an email from a student who could not access an ebook. I sent her information and asked questions hoping to get at the root of the problem. I never received a response. The best-case scenario is that my information solved the problem. But I am worried that there’s a bigger problem out there and other students are going to encounter it soon. (I can’t always tell from campus what off-campus problems are occurring.)
  • And while I’m on the subject of emails, life would be easier for both of us if you could make sure your email address is correct. It’s pretty disheartening to write a long, informative response only to have the message bounce back because there’s no such address ūüė¶
  • ¬†Lack of attention. One of my colleagues, known to all for her patience and helpful demeanor, finds her blood pressure rising when she’s showing someone a helpful database only to find the person texting away while she’s the one doing the actual research. That is a major no-no.

But then just when I’m getting all whiny and self-pitying, a student brings me a cupcake or another comes up to the desk at the end of the a long day and says, “You guys are awesome.” And the jolliness returns.


Monday Motivator: Do NOT Act Your Age!

No, I’m not suggesting you stick your tongue out at people or pull out that micro-miniskirt that you rocked in high school. But there is research suggesting that there are all sorts of cues in our environment about what aging should be like, and we subconsciously absorb them and act them out.

In a study, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer took a group of elderly men to an isolated hotel where all external cues were set to twenty years earlier.They were also told not to reminisce about the past, but to actually act as if they were living in that previous decade. The results were interesting: physical ailments declined; mental acuity sharpened. Langer’s book on the subject is called Counterclockwise.

After reading a summary of Langer’s study, I became more aware of the messages we’re often given about aging. As I stood in the grocery line, I saw a magazine headline: “Forty and Fabulous” and realized that the subtext was that, in most cases, forty must not be fabulous. When any person over the age of sixty stops a robber or runs a race, it’s a news story as if it is some sort of freakish oddity. In a youth-obsessed culture, age is something to be feared, and we take in the messages that there is something wrong with us if we’re older than Justin Bieber.

As much as we can, let’s embrace life with fullness and stop waiting and fearing that first wrinkle or the first twinge of arthritis or when some young student asks how you felt when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor ūüôā

Up Close and Personal in the Library

Last month, the Mayfield Library experimented with a novel (for us) approach to library instruction. Instead of doing the library orientation with certain classes, students were assigned to come for an individual research appointment with a librarian. (Instructors could always exempt students who already had good research skills.)

The students were great. They called, made appointments, and showed up for them. From our perspective, it was a wonderful experience. We were able to sit down and discuss in-depth what students needed for their papers and work with them at their individual skill levels. (Of course, we are always available for consultations, but we know that we never see many students who are shy or just hesitant to come in.)

So far, we’ve learned the following:

  • Students are no different from anyone else. Only a few people are able to pay attention to a basic orientation that talks about something that will happen in the future.
  • Students do like library information that is geared towards their specific needs.
  • Students are much more likely to admit to not knowing how to do something in an individual setting than in a classroom atmosphere.
  • Students are always shocked about how enthusiastic we are about their topic. We hope that this allows them to see that research can be fun ūüôā

Our first experimental class has turned in the assignment sheets, and the initial results have been positive. According to their instructor, students reported that we were nice and that they were excited about the sources they found. Of course, it’s also important that the final papers are better, but we’re pleased and want to add more sections in the future.


The Self-Improvement Chronicles: An Ounce of Preparation

Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.–Confucius¬†

Last week, Pam suggested that this week we do one thing to get prepared for the holiday season quickly approaching. Since we were all dressed in Halloween costumes at the time, suffering from sugar overload, and not inclined to come up with any other ideas, the rest of us agreed. And it turned out to be quite the useful assignment.

Here are our reports:

Pam:¬†Well, I achieved the following this week:¬†Seek a new lifestyle management for¬†myself. If this week has not had me put a total plan in place,¬†as we¬†careen toward the holidays, at least it’s got me thinking and experimenting with some possible good ideas. For me, it is trying to take a natural route to ending reflux, as well as slim back down to a more comfortable, healthier weight. They say your “natural weight” is about what you weighed when you were 18..hum…looks like I’ve gained 30 lbs..ANYWAY, I digress.¬†Charles checked¬†out¬†several books on curing reflux and¬†GERD from the public library, and I plan to study what they’ve got to say. My “itchy cough” has been diagnosed as reflux by the top voice doctor in Nashville (after 4 other doctors), and it’s time to take control of it (ESPECIALLY working in a quiet (yeah, right) library). Sooo, let’s see what happens, and in the¬†mean¬†time..I’m contemplating giving up sugar. Haven’t yet made the¬†commitment..Let’s see what the book has to say about that…Cough…hack, hack…

Colette:¬†There are so many preparations for the holidays and they are too quickly¬†going to be upon us. Where the doodle did October go?¬† I’m not mentally ready for the shopping, the traffic, the crowds, the fruitcake…so I decided to make one change that would get me physically ready for the holidays.¬† I went to the doctors, plural.¬† I stopped avoiding it and made an appointment with my primary doc for a well-check and my tooth doc for a cleaning and check-up.¬† Turns out I have two cracked fillings, so I have to (get to?) go back in a couple days for some¬†novocain and drilling fun.¬† My teeth will be in good shape, though, to handle copious amounts of holiday sugar, in the form of pies, cakes, cookies, candies.¬† I also got a flu shot, so I’m armed and ready for germ laden nieces and nephews

Emily: I made a Christmas budget and went ahead and ordered most of my gifts.

Jolly Librarian:¬†I ordered a chunk of gifts as well in order to spread my payments out over three months instead of facing one monster credit card bill in January. Although I had hoped to lose a little weight this week (after all, I got a hair cut!), which didn’t happen, I did go back to the Y on a more regular basis; exercise helps me handle stress.¬†

Our grades:

Pam:   A

Colette: A

Emily: A

Jolly Librarian: A

For once we managed to combine planning with action!




Improve Your Memory

When I announced that I had finished the Study Skills Initiative last week, I was reminded that I neglected memory.¬†I have never been known for my memory skills, and like many people in these days of smart phones and instant access to information, it has not gotten better. I no longer know people’s phone numbers or addresses, so if my phone goes down, I’m in trouble.

But while sheer memorization is not the key to college success, memory serves an important purpose in education. No one particularly wants a doctor who has to look up the symptoms of each disease every time he/she saw a patient. Having items in memory allows us time to think critically and evaluate information, instead of simply finding it over and over again.

So memory’s important, but like test-taking skills, you can also improve it by making sure your other study skills are in tip-top shape. If you attend class, read your texts, take notes, and do regular intervals of studying, you are in a much better position to remember important material.¬†

It’s also important to accommodate your learning style when trying to memorize something. Today, Librarian Emily and I were talking about our efforts to name all the states and the countries of the world. We had both been successful in our endeavors, but we’d gone about it different ways. She pictured the map in her head and filled it in. I went alphabetically by region.¬†

In the book,¬†Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer writes about a technique that most people find helpful when having to remember long lists: the memory palace. For a short overview, here’s a video¬†from Howcast. For a longer discussion about memory techniques, here’s Foer conducting a TED Talk.

Let’s face it. College students have to remember things. It pays to work on improving that memory muscle!



Monday Motivator: Celebrate Whenever You Can

This weekend, I suffered through a migraine headache. ¬†For those of you who don’t suffer from them, you’re thinking, “So what? So you had a headache.” Those of you who do are probably shivering a bit ¬†as you remember your own last bout with the pain.

The only thing that gets me through these periods is the knowledge that they usually end in twenty-four hours. So if I can put up with the nausea, knife-like pain seeming to cut through one eye, and the inability to work, sleep, or even sit comfortably for one day, I’ll probably feel much better the next.

And sure enough, late Saturday evening, the pain slipped away. I had places to go and chores to do, but this time, I just sat for a few minutes and allowed myself to experience the first pain-free moments of the weekend. It was a good reminder to celebrate the good and not just curse the bad.

And to call my doctor for a refill on the migraine meds!