19 December 2014

Intangibles In the Library

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about librarians. You know, that we all wear glasses, shush people, and love reading. Some of those things make sense: libraries are often valued as quiet spaces and many librarians did join the profession because of their love of reading or literature.

But as I was telling someone recently: libraries are also about people! One of the reasons I love my job is because of the students and people I get to work with every day. And a big part of why I loved living and working in Uganda was because I loved the people. Libraries are about books, yes. But they are also about empowering people with information.

The longer I work as a reference librarian, the more I realize the things I provide patrons. Not just books, articles, study space, and other resources but many intangibles. For example, I also:
  • Show compassion. Students struggle with research. With life. With school. Some don't know how to start a research paper or don't understand why they should come to the library. Some of them are just struggling in general. I want to show compassion to these students. To care about their previous experiences and meet them where they're at.
  • Give patience. Along with showing compassion, I give patience. Students sometimes come to the library stressed by life and school. They aren't always in the best mood. But I strive to be patient with them and understand that they have a lot going on in their lives.
  • Give hospitality. One of the definitions of hospitality is: the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way. This is exactly what I try to do: create a space that is friendly and welcoming and encourages students to come back when they need help.
  • Provide a listening ear. In some ways, this is similar to showing compassion. Some students love to talk! I'm always amazed at what personal information students will share with me when they're stressed by school. I listen to their stories and it's always a privilege when someone offers a part of their life to me by sharing those stories.
  • Share excitement. Students I've helped in the past often stop by to share the grade they got on assignment I helped them with. Or they tell me that the book we found was perfect. I love sharing their excitement over finding good information.

These are the intangibles that make my job worth it. I help students with many things but these are my favorite things to provide. I'm not perfect at any of them, but I'm learning. Being a librarian is about a lot more than than being a keeper of the books, at least for me. It's about the bigger picture...about people, caring for them, and providing a space to empower them with information.

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