Last week, my mother called her cable company. She had just had a DVR installed and when the guy showed her how to work it, she thought, “This is easy. I can do this.” But when it came to actually watching a program a few days later, she had forgotten the directions. She called the service department, and Steve, the service rep, finally said in frustration, “You just scroll, like on a computer or your phone!”
The only problem is that my mother doesn’t own a computer or a smart phone. So scrolling is as foreign to her as if he’d told her to tear open the machine and fix some circuits on the mother board.
In the library, we know that, if students are going to feel comfortable asking for help, we have to meet them where they are and not judge them. In fact, at the beginning of the semester, I remind my colleagues, “Okay, by 3 p.m., it will be the hundredth time that you have helped someone print. But it’s that student’s first time. So treat the student accordingly.”
It probably doesn’t hurt that we are constantly reminded how much we don’t know. Computers and printers stop working, and we don’t know what to do. There are changes to the course management system, and we have to learn a new procedure, which doesn’t seem intuitive. So we are kept eternally humble.
Humility is a good watch word when people are asking us for help. We should remember the times that we couldn’t do something and the kind people along the way who helped us. Or if they weren’t kind, the awful feeling of being thought stupid.
And then act accordingly.