Did you get the license plate of the week that just hit me?

1943 NY license plate

I’m having A Week. As it always seems to, everything has happened at once. Classes started. A new colleague arrived in the library. The library staff is tiny, so it has meant extra work for me to make sure that he’s set up properly. All of this is complicated by the fact that our incredible Systems Librarian has gone on sabbatical. He’s working on a cool and brain-clearing project, but I am without the rock that I have leaned on in my process of learning to be a real, professional librarian. Now, I’m that rock for someone else. Three months just isn’t enough time to achieve rock-like status.

In addition, we were unsuccessful in finding someone to fill the rather large shoes left by our Systems Librarian, which means that I am effectively also the Systems Librarian. And all of that has meant that properly setting up the new librarian has taken much more time and effort than would be typical of someone in my job description.

I have spent lots of time talking with students, which I love. I’m so glad to know that I love it. I love my job still, even with students. Even because of students. I love students because every now and then something like this will happen and make all the craziness seem worth it:

Scene: In the library at the student’s computer. We’ve just covered how to ILL a book chapter and now we’ve tracked down everything written by the author, who seems to do lots of research in the student’s topic area. Previously, the student had no idea how to find an author’s body of work.

Student: You just taught me something. You should be a teacher.

Me: I am a teacher. Technically I’m faculty.

Student: Oh. Well, you’re a really good teacher.

I glowed.

And then I thought. The student assumed I wasn’t a teacher. That even though the student had librarians stand up in class and teach, they weren’t “teachers.” Frankly, I found it a little upsetting that the student’s perception of “teacher” was so narrow. I think this all gets back to people’s perceptions of “librarian” and “teacher” as a professions. And I think it gets at what Jessica was saying on her post at Letters to a Young Librarian about not knowing how much teaching to do in a reference transaction. I am still puzzled and frustrated by these definitions. Why does a title matter? I have decided that it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter. To me, “librarian” implies “teacher.” I can teach all day long and never need to be called “teacher.”  In the end, this student was taught, and while I didn’t get a thank you, boy, did I ever get thanked. That’s better than a title any day.

I hope she did learn something she’ll remember, and it’s not how to find an author’s body of work. I hope she remembers that teachers are everywhere, with or without a title.

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