realistic librarian

Finding great content to spur my blogging is a cinch these days.

How do you find a balance between fatalism and the “great expectations” your students have?

Librarians don’t want to be downers and set those chirpy students straight about what the real world is like, right? It’s always been my stance that in loco parentis went out the door in the 1960s and maybe the 1970s in more isolated college and university towns.

One part of my service to the university is being on the Parking Committee. We discuss the problems with students parking on campus, and especially with first time students, or even parents and students touring the university for the first time. Mostly they get a pass to park easily somewhere. I don’t think they should. Full immersion in how horrid parking is on campus is the best way to teach them that lesson. Easing them in a bit at a time is unfair.

Their expectations are high that they’ll easily get a parking space that is close to their dorm or building where their main classes are held.

The reality is dramatically different. Students are urged to arrive at campus thirty minutes before their classes to find adequate parking. They never do. They make spaces. They park in the grass (they think they’re beyond university property and won’t get a ticket, but they’re mistaken). They trawl lots over and over looking for a spot.

The solution is simple: Go to the farthest lot on campus. Park. Ride the shuttle in. It takes less time to do that than to grow weary and frustrated at not finding a spot at the core of campus.

So in light of this, how do you offer encouragement? Commiseration is always an option. I tell students that parking was always a problem, even 15-ish years ago when I was a student here (Yeah, I work at the same university where I earned my undergrad). It’s simply a fact of campus life and something to get used to.

Pamela Johnston writes:

It might be even be harmful, creating expectations that won’t be fulfilled.

Giving students access to databases like Wilson, Ovid, JSTOR, LexisNexis, netLibrary, etc. creates an expectation in their minds of always having access to that information. They don’t realize it. They think it’s free. And that it will always be free.

The only alternative I’ve found is mentioning that these are databases that the library pays for and they can use them as long as they are enrolled. Also, I arm them with access to other databases that they’ll have at their fingertips as long as they’re a resident of the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee has TEL. The Tennessee Electronic Library. It’s a collection of 33 databases that gives residents access to “400,000 magazines, newspapers, essays, podcasts, videos, e-books, primary source materials, and more.”

It’s not much. But it’s a start. And it doesn’t leave the recent graduate completely locked out of the information-rich environment from where they came.

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