Human Interaction

I do my best to consume content from a wide range of sources and on varying topics. I often find myself reading a book about a topic like meditation for personal development, and find ways to connect that to my work as a librarian. Similarly, I’ll read articles on librarianship that give me ideas for working on my personal goals and creative tasks. One topic I follow is higher education in general. I think as librarians we need to be engaged with our greater institutions and the challenges they face.

I read an article on a psychology blog I follow titled “Attending a Better University Doesn’t Make You Happier, Here’s What Does…”. This title is clearly clickbait, but it’s important to what I do so I checked it out.  The article reported on a Gallup survey of almost 30,000 college graduates. Here’s the passage that struck me:

“For example, college graduates were more likely to be engaged at work if they’d…

  • had a mentor to encourage them.
  • had a professor who genuinely cared about them as a person.
  • had at least one professor who made them excited about learning.
  • been to a college which was passionate about the long-term success of its students.

The same factors above also predicted when graduates were more likely to thrive in life in general.”

There are many things I find fascinating in this quote. First, graduates who were more engaged at work were more likely to thrive in their lives. This strikes me because it affects my own life in that I do enjoy my life more now as a librarian than I did before. I also try to engage any student I interact with in a conversation on their passions and future goals. I do my best to help them navigate the difficult choices they face if they are willing.

In my last role I had a student tell me about her passion for art therapy and was able to connect her with a good friend who is an art therapist to get more information. It didn’t take much of my time, and it could have had a big impact on that student.

The second thing that resonated in that quote was how important it was for students to have someone from their institution who is passionate about helping them learn and succeed. The article specifically mentions professors, but this is a role that I can see librarians filling. Many of us who work in higher education can identify a few students who make heavy use of the library and reference librarians while they are attending the institution. These students are easy to reach and we should strive to treat them with respect and full attention, even when they might annoy us!

We can also facilitate these relationships with students in shorter interactions by communicating our passion to help them succeed. When I teach classes and workshops I do my best to let students know that I like learning about the work they are doing. I hope they will come to me with their assignment so I can look up the information and increase my own knowledge. When we’re doing reference work or are out on the floor, we can take steps to make the environment more conducive to learning. Last week I was helping a student format a paper, and her son was fidgeting anxiously next to her. She apologized for bringing him as she said she had no other option for childcare. I chose to offer to help her find some books from our children’s literature collection to keep him engaged. She accepted, and we were able to keep him engaged while she finished her task. This only took an extra minute of my time, and made it easier for her to complete her task.

The more work I do in libraries, the more I realize that communication and customer service are the key aspects of the work we do. It doesn’t matter if we work with the public, with businesses, with administrators or with colleagues – we can always be cognizant of how we interact with other human beings and do our best to make it a fulfilling experience for everyone involved.

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