The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of meeting new people, finding my way around a new campus and generally figuring out what’s what in this new phase of my life. In real life, those that know me are often surprised that I wear glasses (I’m nearsighted, but mildly so and since I can’t read with glasses on, I rarely wear them… except to drive, or when I’m meeting new colleagues for the first time). Maybe they think I have contacts? Anyway, this is important because I usually rely on the “blur” of the person to tell me who is walking towards me. When people with a distinctive look, for example, really long hair or a comb over, change that look I can be confused and not recognize them from a distance.
When you’re new to a place, it takes time to learn the new names and faces. On one of my first days here I had a lovely conversation with a woman who had a greying, shortish hair. The only problem was that I’d met several others with similar hair coloring and styling, and she was a real blur (even with my glasses on!). A month later, I know who she is and who most of the others are. Every day it gets a little easier to say “hello [name]” with confidence.
And then there are the students: so many girls with straight long hair… boys with the “in” haircut… athletes in the same uniform… that clump of sixth grade girls who always come in at the same time to borrow books… I could go on. And slowly they, too, are becoming less of a blur.
Each year there’s a new crop of students to get to know. This year, being new myself, I can understand how intimidating it is for them to learn new faculty names, and figure out what the difference between gyms or auditoriums is, and what the unspoken rules of the community are, all in addition to learning new curriculum. What role does the library play in helping them “see beyond the blur”?
Is it familiar books, old favorite reads that let them know that here are librarians who understand them? Is it being able to help them troubleshoot printing and other technology problems? Is it learning their name quickly, so there’s another adult around who asks how their day is going? Is it creating programs that build on, but don’t feel like, classwork (like poetry slams or guessing first lines of books)? Is it having a personal librarian program, so that first Big Research Paper isn’t as frightening?
This year is the perfect time to think, ponder and explore all of the above, so that next year, when things are no longer blurry for me, I can help others find clarity more quickly.