Sunday, September 18, 2011

An open letter to academic librarians

Right around this time of year is when I start getting messages from last year's seniors. Each one is a little bit different, but in many many ways they all say the same thing: "I'm in college, and I'm doing research, and I need help." And the subtext is, always, "And I'm too scared to ask the librarians here, so can you help me?"

I'm not writing you to ask you to help my students; I know you will help my students. And that's what I tell them every time--that the best way I can help them is to direct them to all of you so you can show them all the resources (far beyond what I was able to show them) you have available.

But I have to admit, I am nervous, too. I am worried that you will judge my students for what I failed to teach them.

I did my best, I really did. But so many of my students come to me having been--for lack of a better term--abused by the educational system. They have been made to believe that they are stupid, that a failure is a reflection on them as people, not on the inherently messy process of learning. Many of them did not think college was in their future.

We did everything we could to teach them about who they are as learners, to give them the skills they need to engage with new material, to inquire, to understand both their strengths and their weaknesses, and to engage with the world while understanding that what matters is not the mistakes you make, but how you respond to them.

There is a lot they don't know about the nuts and bolts of research, but that is my fault, not theirs. Please do not hold them responsible for my shortcomings. I wanted them to see libraries as welcoming places, and librarians as welcoming people. I knew that I could never teach them everything they needed to know, so my hope was to foster the attitudes necessary to continue learning long after they left.

I know I am putting them in good hands. I know you will help them. And I thank you for teaching them the things I didn't.

1 comment:

  1. I like this posting. It kinda sound like something i would do.Let me just say you set your student for success. I know you gave me the resources to come up with this great idea. (expect and email for my soon) Random but more mad that you have my on limited profile and this"known person" (which i know who they are)is nothing on limited profile.*cough cough*