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As most of you that work in academia may know, the Fall quarter/semester is often the busiest of the academic year. The incoming freshmen need lots of help getting their way around campus and the library. They are often overwhelmed by everything they see around them. Then there are the requests to do a workshop for their program/course, the training of new students workers and welcoming back the returning student workers. All of a sudden the library is alive again with smiling faces ending the slowness and boredom of the summer.
All the activity spurred by the first few weeks of school makes you feel like your mind is zooming at the speed of light. Usually that means setting aside certain things in order to get other things done. I tend to put things in piles (this is a trait that I have noticed in others who have been trained as historians). For some reason, I just have to put things in a pile. Of course, at some point that pile is going to topple. A while back someone gave me a copy of an article called In Praise of Cluttered Desks which made me feel much better about my unique style. I have it taped to the door of my office.
Evergreen has a unique way of doing things. Instead of separate courses, you have interdisciplinary programs where several topics are merged to create a unit. For example, a program on Mt. Rainier could possibly tackle geography, geology, anthropology, and art. You will have 2 – 3 faculty teaching the program and most programs last 2 quarters. You stay with the same students throughout those quarters. On the administrative level, the consensus form is the one that is encouraged the most. Faculty and staff meet together and everyone is included in the decision-making. Everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinions and, hopefully, come up wth solutions.
Since I am the only permanent staff in GovDocs/Maps, I depend heavily on my five student workers to help me maintain the colletion. We just had a meeting yesterday where I reminded them of some tasks that needed to be done but I also asked them if there were any challenges. Nothing of major consequence was brought up which is good but I did have to alert them to a couple of things that are quirks to our collection and due to the success of the use of a couple of webpages on our website.
The first quirk is our Coloring Books hot topics page. When the idea of this page was created a couple of years ago, I never imagined how popular it was going to be. The page has managed to find itself linked to a number of freebie message boards, homeschooling sites, and, of course, library sites. It is the number one page on our site according to our StatsCounter account. I really never imagined how popular this page would be. Well, as a result, we get phone calls from all over the country asking us to provide them with a 1,000 coloring books or 2,500 coloring books. Of course, I have to explain to them that we are not the publishers of the coloring books but that they can download them since they are already on .pdf and print them out themselves. Of course, that means, they would have to spend a lot of money to do so. Then I refer them to the agency that published the coloring book and hopefully they will receive tangible editions of the coloring books. Who would’ve thought it?
The second quirk has to do with our webpage on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. When the law was passed pertaining to the creation of this new cabinet-level department, I immediately created page that would trace the transfers from other departments. Not long after this page was created, we began receiving calls asking us if we were the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Mostly, they were calls for the department’s phone number since at the time of their creation they didn’t include a phone number on their website only an email form. I also received some calls and letters from people who wanted to report someone to DHS who may have illegal aliens hiding. Well, I managed to find the phone number by using the U.S. Government Manual. I also had to redesign the page in order to add a disclaimer at the top of the page so folks would know that we weren’t DHS. Since then, the number of calls have gone down some but every once in a while we still get calls from people who think we are DHS. I have to warn my student workers of this so they don’t hang up on them thinking they are crank calls. I always tell them to be attentive and find out what they really need to see if we can find the information they need.
Of course, these sort of things bring a smile to your face and makes the work environment a lot more fun. It balances out all the meetings you have to attend and figuring out what needs to get done, where to put what and a ton of other decisions that come our way.
I am really appreciative of my student workers. I don’t know what I would do without them. In the almost nine years I have been working at the library, there have only been a couple that didn’t quite workout well. Most of them manage to stay two or three years…until they finally graduate. So, to them, I would like to say "Thank You" (of course I make sure to tell them as often as possible). I really value their input and their hard work. Without them, I don’t think I could’ve gotten the space arrangement of our collection for the library remodel, or gotten one of them to coordinate the shift of the collection, or have another one help create a gov. docs. display that was on a window at the college’s student union.
We can learn so much from each other. Our varied experiences gives us an opportunity to learn from each other and, hopefully, in the process create better service fo our patrons and an opportunity to grow professionally. I would consider myself a failure if my student workers left my tutelage without learning anything new in the process. My wish for them is they leave me with more than what they came in.