I’m coming up on my one-month anniversary as a Distance Learning Librarian. Much of what happens in the first month of any new job is getting used to the new surroundings, remembering names, and keeping all the departments (and their responsibilities) straight.
Yesterday, I was very excited to have my first reference shift. It was the first day of classes for our undergraduates, so the majority of questions weren’t assignment-related. I’ve already worked with a few graduate students (by phone) and helped with access and research questions, but it was really fun to help the undergrads with more directional questions.
As I mentioned to the freshman during library orientation tours, I’m a freshman, too: I’m new, and I’m learning about Norwich right along with them. During my reference shift, a lot of my responses were, “I don’t know: let’s find out.” That’s why I like being a librarian: I get to learn all day. And any of my friends will tell you that I retain a lot of little bits of information, so I enjoy knowing which departments on campus to send students, the hours of the campus center, and what time a certain University event begins.
Yesterday I learned:
- where to get discarded library hardcovers (for our Rooks, the freshmen cadets, to stiffen their epaulets)
- which of my colleagues discards newspapers (which the Rooks need to dry out their boots)
- where the uniform store is, for a student who was recently recruited and needed a name tag
- who to call at the Registrar’s office to find out the location of rescheduled classes
- which Algebra section’s textbook is sold out at the bookstore
- where the library’s three-hole-punches are kept
- where the mezzanine printer is
So, why am I so excited about working with the undergraduates when the bulk of my responsibilities are to online graduate students? I like knowing what’s going on around me. Because some of the undergrad questions are more Norwich-related than library-related, it helps me learn more about my new environment.
Of course I’m going to need to know where printers and hole-punches are. I really enjoy getting up from the desk and discovering, with the students, where things are. It helps me remember for future reference, but I also get to know my community: the Rooks who are getting used to holding their hats a certain way, the freshmen fumbling to understand their schedules, a staff member who works for a department I hadn’t learned about, and students learning (like me) where things are in the library.
It’s the same way I work with the distance learning students. We may not be standing next to one another, and I may not be leading them to a specific area of the library, but I’m doing similar things to connect with them: asking questions, clarifying, trying and failing, trying and succeeding, and learning from their questions in order to become a better resource for them and their classmates.