Suffering in the Stacks?

By , September 12, 2011 8:31 am
By Kristine Lloyd

It’s a fact of life that all of us, discounting those who were raised by wolves, will at some point have to write a research paper. It’s also true that some people get as excited about research as fans at a New Kids on the Block concert (full confession: I did in fact recently attend a “NKOTB” concert). For others, research is about as onerous and painful as a spinning class. And this, my friends, is why we exist.

Maybe it used to be that we were simple stewards of books, but these days, we get to employ our savvy research skills to aid and often impress our patrons. I was the nerd who would spend a Friday night at the library, 20 books splayed open like gutted fish on the library table while my compatriots were boozing it up at a frat party.

It wasn’t surprising to me to read this recent article about students’ perceptions of the library. Yes, it’s depressing, but research is like exercise. You either love it or you hate it, and many people hate it. To some of these students, the library is more like a prison than a haven.

An old library friend of mine who switched from private to academic told me that her colleagues frowned upon her “helping” the students. I console myself with the thought that hopefully this was an isolated attitude but fear that it is not. And the study confirms that students are intimidated by librarians, perhaps by our love and aptitude for something that does not come naturally to them. Granted lawyers tend to be more of the nerdy, research-loving ilk, but there’s still a contingent of Denny Crane wannabes who are lured to the profession by dreams of wooing juries and winning big cases. We have to help them, sometimes a little more than we might be accustomed to. Less pointing and more escorting into the stacks, gaining their trust and holding their hands enough to get them to their goal.

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