Four weeks

October 18, 2006

This is my fourth week in my new position. The job challenges me in ways I expected and in ways I did not expect.

I expected adjustments to the academic cultural climate–it *is* different in this part of the country. Slower, more polite, social interaction is premium (did I mention slower?). Expected cultural change as I grew up in this part of the country.

As the head of the department I have lots of projects and tasks and changes either expected of me or ones that I feel need to be implemented. It is special collections and archives–there are accepted rules that most special collections/archives follow for security and management of resources that are irreplaceable. These have not been the norm at all and there are several areas of processing, cataloging, student scheduling, collection development and, security. The latter seems to be my “issue” but for the other librarians, not so much.

But today, yeah, today was different. The week has been a whole new learning experience coming to terms with a patron base comprised of community users that are not technically savvy. That’s ok, that is why I am a librarian. To help people access information in the best, most expedient way and if not the latter due to whatever limitations, then access the most reliable information that I can provide. But, add the cultural mix and the way things have “always” been done and, well, that’s a challenge.

I can do that. I like challenging jobs and I’m goal oriented and possess the whole anal-retentive characteristics most archivists/librarians seem to have. But, today even I was caught off guard.

I was walking into the library this morning when I noticed several well-dressed older men standing by our parking area. Interesting. Professors? Some sort of informal way of letting us know of an event? No, just a group of very dedicated men handing out bibles to all and sundry. That is something I have never seen on a college campus before. As I had to pass between the special collections building and the main library I ran into at least seven more (well-dressed, anglo-saxon gentlemen all asking me if I would take a New Testament (bound in that hideous ugly green binding, y’all know the type?). I replied to each one, “No thank you”, and noticed that the students were accepting them or saying “No thank you (we’re nothing if not incredibly polite on this campus), or “I have one at home, in my purse, in my backpack, etc.” Staff took them and were talking to them, probably everyone knows them, the town is that small.

But, at my age, to feel the slightest pangs of peer pressure because I refused to take an ugly green pocket New Testament rather was surprising, along with the everyday surprises of our student workers and our student and community users. Hmm, wonder if I’ll now be considered the heathen/atheist/druid special collections librarian? That one who *refused* the ugly green pocket New Testament? Possibly, an unpropitious start for the culmination of my first month as the new librarian, eh?

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