Things students have said to / about me this summer…

Student: Why aren’t you a teacher? You should be a teacher!

Me: Well, lovely student, funny thing… I am a teacher.

Student: Why you doing this, then?

Me: Because I love this. Because this is as worthy as teaching. Because I think I can help people doing this. More than I helped them when teaching. Because I also still get to teach in this role. Because… Michael Gove.


Student: Jo, it’s June.

Me: Yup, I know. It’s come around quickly, hasn’t it?

Student: What? Yeah. No, I mean, you haven’t changed the Riddles of the Month. Where are this month’s riddles?!

Turns out things you think aren’t gaining traction have actually taken root.


Student: Can we play [insert name of game] again?

Me: Sure. I’ve got 5 minutes.

Student: Can you let me win this time?

Me: Awwww. (Sympathetic noises). No. It’s not in my DNA.

Student: Right. We’re playing chess, then, because you don’t win that.”


Student: Is it safe to talk?

Me: (Concerned and receptive face and body language). Of course. Are you ok?

Student: Eh? Oh, yes. No, I meant have you seen episode [insert number relating to Game of Thrones season 8] yet? I need to talk about it; there’s so many things I need to get off my chest.


Student: (Walking into library) LA LA LA LA LA LA LA! (Jamming fingers into his ears) LA LA LA LA LA LA!

Me: (Yelling) What are you doing?

Student: I haven’t seen Endgame or Game of Thrones episode [insert number] yet so the library is dangerous. Don’t ruin them for me.

Me: I would never (absolute horror registered on my face and appropriately melodramatic hand gestures).

Student: No, I know you wouldn’t. It’s all the other [naughty word, rhymes with cluckers] I don’t trust. LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!


Me: (Helping out a series of students with chargers, Sharpies, laptops, punched pockets – also called, slippery fish – books, stapler remover, scissors, glue, every ramification of paper and a drink…)

Student: Jo’s the plug (to the room, very loudly).

Me: Eh?

Really wasn’t sure what to make of it. Initially, my mind wandered to the cute Christmas advert by Sainsbury’s… Was I like the little plug-boy, bringing joy and light to all?

That thought didn’t last long. I was suspicious but I did not want to Google it at work in case it breached our appropriate use of IT policy and set off sirens, triggered flashy lights and angered the Computer Services team. So I waited until I got home.

Apparently, it means someone in the know who can connect you to what you need. I quite liked it – seems like a pretty accurate description of librarianship. That was until I checked further sources (I am a nearly-librarian, after all) which stated the plug hooks people up to drug dealers.

No. No. No. Dislike. I also didn’t enjoy that I’ve become that old, I had to verify colloquialisms.

Strange stuff I’ve learned from students this spring

*** GRIM IMAGES at the bottom of the blog: you have been warned. ***

I fully appreciate that most of this won’t be strange or novel to many of you but here are a few of the things students have taught me over the last term.


A term to describe mammals in the horse family and this includes donkeys. Sounds like a Dr Who villain to me.


There are four types of injections: intravenous (into the vein), intramuscular (into the muscle), subcutaneous (into the tissue) and intradermal (into the skin, specifically the dermis).


Parasites that can transfer from animals to humans. They might act differently when living on or in their human host compared to their animal host. This makes me feel very itchy.


You can buy a ruler with scaled measurements already printed on it to help you with engineering, architectural drawings and landscape gardening.


You take a dog’s pulse on the inside of its thigh – or as we call it in this household, its chicken-leg. For an explanation of where the chicken-leg nickname came from, please refer to my model, Maggie: she’s posing to show you what I mean… None of these shots are the aforementioned grim photos; you still have that joy to come.


A shrub is defined as having multiple stems and being under 6 metres in height but mostly a shrub is a shrub because it’s not a tree. But a shrub can also be a tree. This is about as clear as the rules for cricket.


I cannot believe this actually has a real life purpose beyond tricky GCSE maths questions. I helped students to use tan to calculate the gradient of run-offs for garden designs. That’s quite possibly the first time I’ve used it in twenty years.

CARBURETTOR (or carburetor)

An engine gizmo but not used in modern cars because they were replaced with fuel injection systems. A carburettor mixes air with fuel – described to me as the French Shaker of a car engine. I did question the choice of metaphor given that drinking and driving is (rightly) a no-no. The response was that, just like a cocktail, the right mixing leads to magic.


The ruminant digestive system appears in creatures such as cows and deer to help them consume plant matter. They have four, yes FOUR, stomach chambers to help break down their food. Please note, I have three: food stomach, cheese stomach and chocolate stomach.


This is the proper name for those forged iron tools you use to poke and prod a fire. I like it because it sounds a little quaint.

And finally…


Self amputation. No, really. Some creatures can shed or discard an appendage to evade a predator or due to injury.

I was shown the photos of Lexie, a student’s lizard, who had dropped her tail the night before due to a miscommunication with the family dog. Dropping the tail sounds swift and accidental – the process is neither. Lexie spent some time with the tip of her tail clamped in her jaw, tearing it away from the main bulk. After this tale (you may laugh, that was a pun) and the shock of these photos, I chose to skip my lunch. This function is simultaneously genius and gross.


Are you sure?

Brace yourself…

Blagging it or is that the point?

I work for a large college group. Each site is relatively specialised and the campus I’m on features a lot of land-based and industry courses. This makes it absolutely the best place to work; it’s such a beautiful setting.

Some days, when I amble across campus, I’ll see a horse or two, someone carrying a ferret, a tractor, students swinging from trees with chainsaws (it’s alright – it’s part of their arboriculture course), nursery school students in a neat walking crocodile as they collect pinecones and horticulture students building bug hotels. All this against a soundscape of clanging from the forge, revving from the garage and sawing in the carpentry workshop.

Naturally, this range of courses means we receive a myriad of information requests each day from students and staff, with needs spanning learning, research, professional development and teaching. We run courses on a very wide spectrum from level 1 BTECs to level 6 HNDs. My degree is in English and Theatre Studies and I spent the first 14 years of my working life teaching English. My area of expertise includes pathetic fallacy, spliced commas, anthropomorphism and the semantic field. I can spot synecdoche and allegory from ten paces. Do I know anything about swim bladder, the diagnostic processes for feline renal failure, bombproofing horses (nothing to do with body armour), destructive testing methods, animal welfare legislation, butt joints (raise a single eyebrow here), carburettors, upsetting metal (not making it cry) or ascertaining soil PHs? The answer was* an emphatic no.

What does a library professional do when met with a request for information so far out of your remit it may as well be in another planetary system? Well, in many ways, the answer is simple: you do your job.

In a number of library settings, it is not the library professional’s job to draw upon a specific knowledge area. This is the case in an FE setting such as my own. Our sister campus does have subject librarians because the site is bigger with more staff. Our campus is smaller, ergo with a smaller team. Initially, our role is to connect the user to the information they need. To do so, we activate our information literacy skills: questioning, scanning, summarising, finding, seeking, evaluating, analysing. Thereafter, our role is to help the user to develop the skills they need to connect themselves to the information they want. In short, to develop their information literacy skills. These skills allow you to find out what you know, what you don’t know, what you don’t know that you don’t know! It is a skill set that goes beyond any single subject.

I don’t think I’m blagging it when I help a student find out how to diagnose swim bladder before they find their fish floating upside down at the top of the tank. I think I’m doing my job and using information literacy skills to demonstrate that anyone can learn how to blag research anything.

*Now, I know a little but I am by no means an expert.