Whose Job Is It?

Yesterday our staff did the following:

  • Helped a guy log in to his mobile device.
  • Guided a woman through the (obstinate) website to order her cap and gown.
  • Showed 38 or more students how to print.
  • Directed another 10 or so to the Testing Center.
  • Looked up the office numbers of instructors so that students could turn in midterm papers.
  • Showed a few more students how to insert headers and page numbers into their essays.
  • Told another how to connect to the online tutoring service.
  • Gave away a fork to a student who had forgotten his.

Oh yeah, we also conducted some orientations, helped students with their research, ordered some books, and investigated Google hangouts as a way of doing off-campus chats in the future.

In fact, the only thing we refused to do yesterday was to type a student’s keyboarding exercise for her.

I doubt that our community college is unique in the number of non-library related requests we get on the average day. And every library director I know makes an effort to ensure that students feel welcome. Obviously, we want students to ask us for help with their research, and if they have been turned away about something else, they are less likely to return.

But also, for some students, the library is one of the faces of the college. I don’t say this because students are dying to come and do research. They are not. But unlike almost every other office, we are open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and students know they are going to find a representative of the college here. And the student who is trying to drop off a paper in his instructor’s mailbox at 7:45 p.m. doesn’t particularly care if it’s “our job” to know where that mailbox is. All he knows is that he came to the college and someone there was helpful or not.

And with ever-tightening budgets that mean fewer employees on some campuses and more faculty teaching off-campus, this ‘face’ of the college is often us, the library folks. I, for one, don’t mind it. 

After all, in what other job am I going to be profusely thanked for trying Chrome instead of IE and making a site work? Or having a plastic fork around so a student can have lunch? I like helping. And I like when faculty tell me that students say we’re helpful; I hope it means that they won’t be hesitant when they have to admit they know little about databases or research in general.

We don’t spend a lot of time in the library wondering whose job it is; we just do it. And, oddly enough, it seems to make us a happier crew.

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