Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Loss

When I left my job at the Big Cancer Hospital (my previous life before librarianing), I felt pretty good that I was leaving the constant threat of death behind me. At BCH, I had gotten used to meeting patients and doing my best to remain detached, but friendly. All too many of the patients I got to know would do well for so long, only to have a sudden recurrence, get very sick and lose their battle with cancer.

So, moving to a library, I was glad that I would be leaving the grief part of my job behind. I had gotten pretty good at compartmentalizing it all, and keeping emotional distance from patients so that I could do my job. But here, there was no need for that, and it was a relief.

Then, last Thursday, a little less than two months into my new job, I got a phone call from a coworker. At our library, with only 4 full-time librarians, one of those women had died suddenly and unexpectedly from an accident. And not even something understandable like a car accident -- instead, a freak accident. A trip and fall, that somehow led to her death just outside of her own home. It was unbelievable, and unfathomable, that the woman who had left the library the day before, rolling her eyes about a student issue and telling me that she had to go, but welcomed me to handle it in whatever way I felt was appropriate, was gone. A laugh and a "what can you do?" look was the last thing I shared with her, before she waved and said she'd see me tomorrow.

But we didn't, and it was strange, walking into the library to see her seat empty, tasks already lined out for that day, post-it notes on her computer screen telling her about things she would need to take care of.

I knew her for only a short time, but this woman - Laurel - was delightful. She loved the students, and they loved her. She never judged their life choices or their personalities. She embraced everything about them, and gathered stories about them like gathering shells on the beach. Everything was unique, and she always needed another.

At BCH, I could always expect the loss. They had cancer, after all, and there was no reason to believe that every single person would beat the odds. I always assumed they wouldn't, and that my heart would be broken, so I wrapped up my heart and didn't allow it to get broken so often. I grieved for them, but in more of a distant way. So now I find myself falling into that same sort of grief, making sure it doesn't hurl me into tears and sadness unexpectedly, but rather just sits with me so that I know it's there, but I don't have to acknowledge it if I don't want to.

The funeral is tomorrow, and while I know it'll be sad, it'll also be nice to have some closure for everyone who knew and loved her so well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two Great Videos for Library Instruction

As I'm working on my new library instruction course, I'm trying to find ready-made media that can help keep the class awake, and possibly, possibly, send them back to our website to find something they want to look at again.

After reading a recent blog on Stephen's Lighthouse, I found some great videos. Most of them are too long for such a short class (and let's face it, no one but us true nerds will appreciate the 16-minute Lord of the Rings epic based in a library), but I found two gems in the group that have been instantly added to my site.

First, New Spice (as opposed to Old Spice), is basically the best thing ever:

And the second, which uses Monty Python references copiously is also a winner (and informative for students, to boot):

Yay for library humor!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Instruction Introduction

So, as part of my new role, (a big part, really, since my title is Reference & INSTRUCTION librarian) it has become my job to teach the students at the school about the library.

Let's preface this with one simple fact: I have never formally taught anyone in my life.

That said, I am basically a teacher in disguise. If I learn something new, I can't help but to share it with others. Which usually means I'm teaching someone something every day. Whether it's teaching my mom how to use Pinterest (and what Pinterest even is), or showing someone at work how to map their computer to a new printer.

Still, those are not what I have to do - which is to stand up in front of a room of 40 18-20-year olds, who probably could not care less about the library, except for the moment they absolutely have to. These one-shot classes (meaning, you teach the students "everything" about the library in one, 60-minute session - HA) have been taught in the same way for the last couple of years. Using a worksheet, the librarian walks the students through several different aspects of the library - circulation, databases, ebooks, etc - and everyone listens (sort of) to the lecture. In my imagination, they also probably walk away with a somewhat positive impression of the presenter, but probably no strong feelings about the library.

However, we have access to all kinds of new-fangled technology these days. We have a computer lab, where I can put the students into pods on computers, and have them "race" in different library-related challenges. I can use an Epson digital whiteboard to point things out on the page, and to make the interaction with the library website more visible. And I can write hilarious notes on it, or draw smiley faces, which - let's face it - is probably closer to what I'll actually do with it.

So, since I'm 9 months pregnant right now, and basically biding my time until I go into labor, after which I will be away from work for around 8 weeks (though a couple of weeks of that I will be working from home). While I am ready to make some changes to the courses, I can't do it at the moment, because I won't be there to enact my own changes. My goal is to design a whole new course to begin teaching in the summer, which will include some assessment strategies to find out if we are actually teaching the students anything at the end of the day. 

I've spent a lot of my time since I started at my job reading about library instruction. Books, peer-reviewed articles, other blogs... pretty much anything I could get my hands on. And it's helping, I think. I feel less like I'm going on blind than I did when I started. But it's still going to be an experiment in courage the first few times I do everything. 

So, wish me luck, and a lot of good teacher karma.