highlighted librarian

There was a time when I dyed my hair, but anymore I enjoy my natural chestnut shade as it fills in with a bit of grey. My 50-something year old mother crows that I have more grey hairs than she. It’s just not fair. I’ve been blonde, red-haired, and had very dark hair that was a lapse in judgement on my part. Never smurf blue hair, which is what I’ve yearned for and may attempt once I’m an old lady. I won’t wear purple. Nor will I own cats.

But this isn’t about the color of my hair or cat ownership. This serves as another random segue. For years I thought segue was spelled segway. I had no clue. I’d heard it, but never seen it. Or if I had, I wouldn’t have put two and tow together. I think I just looked it up one day. Kept seeing segue and thought its pronunciation was akin to siege. It’s one of my favorite words, along with ennui and suicide (just like how that one sounds) and schadenfreude.

One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve answered this summer is:

Do you have a highlighter?

Um. No. I don’t. I don’t know what students want with them. Surely they wouldn’t use it in a book? Perhaps it is for some project. That leads me to wonder why they don’t just buy a highlighter and keep it on their person, or in their book bag? Why not be prepared? Why not plan for every contingency and cram your messenger bag full of office supplies?

Surely this practice, or change indicates that students go to the reference desk for more than just information. Or maybe that they expect adults to take complete care of them and supply all of their needs. They’re used to their helicopter parents.

They want office supplies. That fact used to really irritate me.

For example, years ago, when I didn’t have white out available at the reference desk, this one student huffed at me:

No offense, but this library is good for nothing.

I didn’t have a quick quip ready about how we’re in the business of information, not office supplies. I shrugged my shoulders and apologized. What can you do?

Another thing we get asked daily is to use the stapler or a hole punch. Sometimes it’s tape. And even more rarely a paper clip.

Clearly, more students use our library for the end stages of research and the beginning stages of cramming for exams than we think. Those are both off-the-wall theories that I have no data to back up, but I’ve read articles that hem-haw around and come to those conclusions.

They’re editing, finishing, and printing out their papers in the library. They staple them together in the library. The hole punch is something else. Probably how they update their portfolios. Tape, I have no theories about.

But that brings me back to the highlighter. If it’s true, and students are doing more writing and editing of papers in the library because we have two labs in the library, then what does the highlighter indicate? That, maybe, just maybe, they DO study here, too?

Can we be all things to all students and offer them every office supply they might one day desire? Are we in the business of supplying these items to students? Why, or why not?

I know, it’s a trivial question, but it’s implications are broader. To what lengths shall we go in the name of service? In the name of librarianship?

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