PJ

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Why? Why? Why? Why?

In dedication, PJ on August 25, 2010 at 5:48 am

During my undergraduate studies I took a course in Ethics/Philosophy which required us students to complete a series of activities designed to determine our ultimate motivation for doing different things.  “Why did you do it?”  The aim of the assignment was to determine if our interests were altruistic, self-centered, or somewhere in between.  The expectation was that almost every one of these exercises, even ones that explored what appeared to be completely altruistic actions, would end with something along the lines of “because it makes me happy” or “because it avoids unhappiness.”

There are some fuzzy lines at the reference desk where I work.  We are not supposed to have any money at the desk, despite the fact that we do sell pencils and pens and can often make small change.  Inevitably, a student needs to print something and doesn’t have their student ID (which also serves as their print card).  We’re testing a system right now where they can borrow a print card, load their own money on it, and print what they need to with the caveat that we will not give change (if they load a dollar then they’ve donated that dollar) and they have to return it on the honor system.  This benefited a student yesterday who only had 25cents on her but found that the previous user had left 90cents on the card.  Occasionally a student has neither their ID nor any money, and I have seen them leave without the needed pages.  It’s a defeating moment that leaves me feeling both helpless and also indignant.  You wonder – why weren’t you better prepared?! 

I worked with another adjunct yesterday who has actually been in the field for a long time.  She informed me that the IT staff at her former job (which is in charge of printers and print cards anyway) would give the ref desk print cards with credit pre-loaded onto them for students who needed it. 

Now, on one hand – you want the students to be self-reliant and prepared, you don’t want to establish a pattern of “come to the ref desk for free printing/copying!”, and somebody walking away with a card that had a $40 credit on it would be a more impacting loss than a 90cent credit.  However, the adjunct just shrugged and said, “Why should the cost of a printout be a barrier to a student’s education?” 

Simple, powerful, important logic, especially in a diverse environment with economically disadvantaged students. 

Giving students “free” copies would feel good, it would seem altruistic, but it would also relieve that nagging voice in the back my mind on the rare occasion that I see a student leave the library without their materials.  Further, when you get down to it, in providing services to students we strive to meet their educational needs – and that just feels good!  It is a service, have no doubt that we are a service oriented bunch, and sometimes you have to find your own rewards when appreciation from your patrons is not forthcoming, but I love my job. 

Marilyn Johnson, in This Book Is Overdue, relates the saga of a LMS (Library Management System) migration: the movement of records from one housing system to another.  An imperfect analogy would be like trying to move all of your documents from a PC to a Mac, except multiplied by many thousand records and fields for information.  In the case Ms. Johnson discusses, there is a repeated failure of the new system to retain hold records – the list of patrons who have reserved a book and the order in which they will get to check it out.  Long after the migration completed, the issue causing this loss was finally uncovered – some of the librarians themselves were inadvertently deleting the holds by accessing the records to, get this, move themselves or friends to the top of the lists.  Johnson writes:

“The sweethearts of free culture, the helpmates of the mind, this selfless profession turned out to harbor individuals who couldn’t wait their turn to consume” titles “that drove them mad with longing, mad enough to forget their ethical principles and vows to serve the public…”

The gentleman in charge of this migration, head of IT Wayne Hay, is quoted as saying, “[Librarians] should have to work retail for a year! I don’t want to do things through technology for the benefit of the librarian.  I want to benefit the patron…it’s not about what makes the librarian’s life better.”  More simple, powerful, important logic. 

Part of our journey in SLIS is to formulate a personal philosophy.  I think mine has its foundations in the above.  And yes – that does make me happy.

Who is PJ?

In PJ on August 1, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Four years ago this month I was at the apex of a new arc in life and I didn’t have the slimmest idea exactly how different things would be today.  I say this both professionally and personally.  Here is a listing of just some of the landmark events that have marked this time frame:

  • I became pregnant in July 2006 (planned, joyous, this I of course knew would change things)
  • The economy faltered, and the position I held at my job of five years ended up on the layoff list
  • We moved
  • We set up a nursery, and I was repeatedly caught in a state of awe by the attentiveness of friends and family; this was the most beloved baby in the world and it hadn’t even arrived yet
  • I used the word “surreal” a lot
  • A dear, sweet, amazing relative in poor health decided to make the trip down from Oregon for the baby shower to surprise us, was hospitalized en route, and passed away that same day
  • I completed my work at the office one month before my due date and said my good-byes, knowing I would not be returning, as I began my “disability” leave to wait for the baby to arrive
  • On March 29th, 2007, after 25 hours of labor, I had an emergency c-section and baby girl Zoe (Greek: Life) finally entered the world
  • I was a stay-at-home mom listening to NPR streaming on my laptop in order to feel connected and informed
  • We decided there was no time like the present to do what I’d always wanted to do, and I applied to SJSU in order to pursue my MLIS
  • Having outgrown the small home we’d moved into, with the addition of a step-son and a dog, we arranged to move again into a larger home – this was to happen in May 2008, well before my first semester began
  • Our move was delayed, and delayed again, and delayed again. 
  • I began the SJSU SLIS program in August
  • We finally moved in September – my step-son did not move with us, he went the way of his brother instead
  • Thanks to neighbors with scary dogs and Comcast agents who couldn’t access the right power pole, it took EIGHT weeks to set up internet at our new house
  • I had a lot of online meetings with professors and classmates, using a headset, in various coffee houses (thank goodness for noise-cancelling microphones!)
  • We got married
  • My grandmother-in-law passed away at the end of the semester, and I was not to be disappointed by the compassion and generosity of my professors who granted me even just a few extra days to wrap up my final projects
  • I pondered the insanity of my first semester and, after a recovery period, I looked forward to the next

2009 and what we’ve had of 2010 are now a blur of time management, working late into the night, new friends, the inspiring D’oh! moment of discovery when I realized what I really want to do with this degree, an amazing internship, my first venture into teaching, and working on at least three different laptops due to the terminal illness of my own (I can not stress enough the importance of BACKUP files). 

It’s important to note that I don’t consider my life to be one that is dramatic…though perhaps life itself simply is by definition.  I tend towards optimism and blind faith that all will be well, but I have certainly been challenged – and I have arrived at today.  Another landmark.

This semester, starting tomorrow, I will have the pleasure of mentoring new students; something I have aimed to do since I met my own peer mentor two years ago.  I will compose my eportfolio and I will finish the MLIS program, receive my degree, and be thusly dubbed “librarian.”  As further proof of this, I will work as an adjunct faculty librarian at the community college I fell in love with as an intern.  I will turn 35 (in three days from this writing as a matter of fact).  I will celebrate the 10 year anniversary of a kiss that would prove to be just the first of millions.  We will buy a house and move (the power pole will be in our own backyard, so hopefully that part will go more smoothly).  I will consider 2011, I will approach it with my head up and my eyes open, and I will toast the next chapter of my life with giddy anticipation.

Edited to add this link to a blog post, by fellow peer mentor Phoebe, which I read shortly after posting this entry and which seemed quite relevant.   I like to think that I talk about life’s pressures and events not so much as a streak of narcissism (as social media has oft been criticized for) as much as to validate to myself why I feel so crazy sometimes.  It’s a bit of realism in my otherwise idealistic world.