2009/02/05

Grrrr... College Students!

With about 54,000 students from two universities and over 10,000 students at the community college in town, the number who choose to do their work here at the public library must amount to a tiny percentage. But it can seem like a lot to us. Maybe it's the free printing.

Whatever the reason, the first weeks of a new term bring many college students to the reference desk, course syllabus in hand, hoping to save precious dollars by finding their textbooks and other materials in our collection. Far and away, most of them aspire to the "helping professions", e.g. education and nursing. Sometimes they have not even tried their school libraries before coming to us.

We explain that our library cannot adequately serve the needs of college students, that our collection does not include professional literature, that we cannot attempt to supply college textbooks.

Our education section has primarily books for parents and home-schoolers, not books on the latest pedagogical theories and teaching module design. Our health and medicine section has books on diet and exercise, and on how to preserve your sanity when your mother has Alzheimer's, not clinical case studies and academic monographs on various medical conditions.

It was five minutes to closing, and I was in full shutting-things-down mode when she flagged me down with a cry of "excuse me!". Her Royal Highness had printed out an article on Alzheimer's from our Gale Health Reference Center database, and she wanted the anthology that contained it, which she thought we must have, and also "all your books on DNA methylation".

Lord have mercy. Give her credit, she had found some articles in Gale, which is vastly more than many can manage on their own. But it was the last thing I wanted to hear at closing, especially in the tone she used. I'd helped the man navigate applying for a job online at McDonalds. I'd helped the mechanic find what he needed in our Chilton auto repair database on BMW engine control sensors. I'd helped and helped and helped. Bite your tongue and help one more time, I told myself.

No, we don't have that Alzheimer's book, but here is where you'll find our books on Alzheimer's. We don't have any books on DNA methylation. She must have sensed my irritation, for she took what I gave her and left. I was mightily pissed off, and so glad that I kept a lid on it. Stupid woman! I fumed all the way home on my Vespa in the cold night, dodging throngs making their way to their cars from the Civic Center.

4 comments:

frog said...

Did you feel better after blogging about it? (And maybe a smoke and a shot?) Congrats on your self-control.

Brett said...

Or two... Yes, blogging about it helped. At the time it happened, I didn't make the connection with a more free-floating sense of frustration with college students in general.

Steerforth said...

I remember a woman coming into my bookshop and asking 'Where's your Tundra section?'

I explained that we didn't even have a book, let alone a section specifically about tundras and that she was the first person to ask me that question in 20 years. She was nonplussed and seemed to think that I was being deliberately uncooperative.

When I started working with books I naively believed that I would be dealing with the most intelligent people in society. How wrong I was!

Brett said...

What, no "Tundra for Dummies"?

A couple of years ago I had schoolchildren asking me for books on "biomes", for their science fair projects. I'd never heard of a biome, but I found that it was defined as a "major ecological community", something like an ecosystem, ("community", oh dear, don't get me started).

It was too new a term for there to be any popular works using it in our collection.