Tuesday, December 19, 2006

No, I am not too busy

I had a student approach the Information Desk yesterday afternoon while I was on duty. It was a very slow shift since the campus is on interim time before Christmas. The students, most of them, left already for their break when the semester ended last week. So the young lady approaches and meekly asks, "are you too busy?" After reassuring her that I was not and I got paid to be interrupted, she handed me a draft she was working on for me to read over. "Could you please read this over and tell me if it sounds ok?"

Usually I don't turn away such requests. Most librarians would probably send them to the local campus writing center, and I can understand the rational for that. In my case, since I used to teach composition, I don't mind doing it now and then. At any rate, I started reading it, and it was an appeal letter to her department. The young lady is requesting to get "incompletes" (I) for her semester coursework due to health reasons, which she explains in detail in her letter. It was probably a bit more information that I needed to know about the young lady, but that is not the point. The point is that I was there, and she needed someone to help her with the letter. I asked her a few questions about the text, "do you want to say this?" or "do you mean that?" I asked questions to help clarify what she wanted to say, and as she clarified I made small marks and notes on her draft. Once we were done, she sat back on her computer, typed the revisions, then headed out to turn it in after thanking me.

After she left, it struck me how often students trust us as librarians and educators. I often learn about their health, or their families or relationships, or any other number of things. In a way, it is not that much different than my composition teaching days where students would at times write very personal things, but that was written for a teacher who was the only audience. In this setting, I often just help someone clarify their ideas or polish something for their intended audience. If nothing else, maybe this is just a reminder of why I do the work I do.


CW said...

I get this sort of request, too, occasionally. I've even had people come to my office and cry (literally) because of some of their problems. Although it often feels a bit awkward, I just listen and help where I can.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

It's been a discussion we have had here once in a while. I even had faculty ask me at one point if I would read papers for students. While officially, I had to say no, unofficially I do it if it is not a stampede of students. Same thing with checking their citations for MLA or whatever format they are using. Much of it may be they do have the expectation we do know everything. I do always tell them, if it is for a class, to check with their teachers. But for things like that one request, I felt pretty good about it overall.

Anonymous said...

As I help people who visit the library for medical, legal or personal information I am amazed how they will talk about their problems. I find that simply listening and being nonjudgemental is my small gift I can give to them.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Anonymous: Thank you. That is indeed probably the best give we can give those who come to our reference/information desks.