Some days, in the library, the tiniest event will make you burst with happiness. In fact, the highs and lows (and highs and lows and highs and lows) remind me a great deal of the emotional rollercoaster of teaching because with the highs you know you’ve really helped someone else.
On Tuesday 22nd January 2019, at approximately 11 a.m., I experienced a level 10 happiness buzz. A chatty, bright, regular student was working in the library with the rest of her class and their lecturer. They were preparing for a looming assignment on animal disease… I can’t remember what, specifically. Our conversations went something like this.
Student: I don’t know how a library works.
Me: (Blank face) Eh?
Student: Honestly, how does it work?
Me: (Still looking confused) But… but… you’re always in here. Using it. That’s how it works. You come in and do what you need to do.
Student: Yeah… but how does a library work?
(I assume she means that she doesn’t know how the catalogue works or how to locate books on the shelves, both are common issues for our students).
Me: Right. Well, what are you researching today?
Student: We have to write about [specific topic I cannot recall].
Me: Ok. Come around here so you can see my computer. (I open the catalogue, show her how to use search terms and we write down some Dewey numbers for potentially useful books). Now we use these numbers like clues in a treasure hunt. Follow me.
(We walk around the library. I show her how the shelves are zoned and how to look for books first by locating the whole number, then the numbers after the decimal point and then the letters. We pick maybe four or five books. I’m feeling pleased that I’ve helped another student to become a more independent book seeker).
Me: Shall we add them to your account? You can do the scanning bit, if you like.
Student: Why would we add them to my account?
Me: Well, that’s a lot of reading. You might not finish it this lesson so you could carry on reading them at home. Maybe mark the useful pages with post-its.
Student: (Completely stunned, blank face).
Me: Okaaaaay. (Assuming she thought the pile looked unmanageable to lug home). Well I guess it’s a big stack; we could always leave it on the reservations shelf for you so they’re here next lesson.
Student: (A few seconds silence). You mean I can take the books home?
Student: To my house?
Me: Errr. Yeah…
Student: (Huge gasp).
Me: (Baffled). Are you okay?
Student: (Shouting and running around the library, and the adjoining computer room, addressing everyone in her lesson. Actually, even people who were not in her group). Oh my God, guys. Guys! Guys! Did you know we can TAKE THE BOOKS HOME?! This is the BEST THING EVER.
Me: (Internally). Ah. So when she said she didn’t know how the library worked, she literally meant she didn’t know how the library worked.
The student returned at lunch time and the end of the day and repeated the same public service announcement to anyone she hadn’t caught earlier in the day… all with the same enthusiasm and unbridled joy. At least half of the people she spoke to also hadn’t realised they could take the books home.
It was such a pleasure to watch someone realise one of the basic tenets of a library. Kept me smiling for several days. It also served as a reminder that I shouldn’t assume anything, ever.