Wasted Resource

A single encounter in elementary school led me to miss out on a valuable resource for many years.

When I was in elementary school, I had a bad experience with a librarian. I know that must sound strange coming from a self-professed teacher’s pet. It was neither of our finest moments, but she was the grown up and I was 10.

Our school library was only available to students a few hours a week. I didn’t want to waste any time randomly looking at books, so I went up to the librarian and asked for a recommendation. I asked her what she would suggest that wasn’t a Newbury Award winner. I had tried Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, and its fantastical elements were a big turn off – some things haven’t changed.

Bridge to Terabithia

There had been the gold “Newbury Award Winner” sticker on it, so I associated that award with bad books.

“But Newbury Award books are the best!”

I walked away, and she let me.

Looking back at it as an adult, there were two different ways she could have approached my query: 1) Given me recommendations that hadn’t won the Newbury, or 2) Asked what Newbury book I’d tried and didn’t like.

As I look at the list of Newbury winners, my stereotyping the label as bad meant that I’d missed out on a lot of good stuff (some of which I have since read – The Westing Game, Julie of the Wolves).

My belief that librarians weren’t very useful lasted until I was in grad school the second time. We had a reference librarian associated with our program, and the Dean of the graduate school recommended we use her services. In come my teacher’s pet instincts. Early on in my first semester I made an appointment to meet with her so she could show me how she would approach a search I needed to do.

Not only did she take the time to demonstrate the online catalogue’s eccentricities, she continued the search after I was gone and notified me that she’d found several more documents for me to look at. What an awesome resource! I started going in once a week with me newest queries. She dug up some things that were vital to the tact I wanted to take on many papers. I was all over that.

Towards the end of the semester I asked her how many of my classmates were working with her. She said only three business grad students had approached her at all, and besides me, there was only an MBA student who regularly came in to the reference desk. What a waste.

I’m so glad I overcame my childhood prejudice and can definitely appreciate all that librarians have to offer.

Am I the only one to have had a negative librarian experience? Or Who else has picked the brain of reference librarian?

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