It’s one o’clock in the morning on a Friday night in the dead of winter and I’m fixed in my unofficial “assigned” seat on the fourth floor of our campus’s undergraduate library. Head in hands, I resort to weeping in quiet frustration. I’ve been sitting in this seat reading and re-reading for eight hours already, I lament to myself: "How does Toni Morrison’s embedded message continue to evade me?" For several minutes I allow myself to cry it all out before I begin to read again.
DING! The sound startles me amidst the silence that characterizes the undergraduate library in the wee hours of a weekend night. Alas, it’s just a new message in my campus inbox. Probably another crime alert, I think to myself as I open the message:
Morgan, I know you don’t know me but I’m a librarian here at our undergraduate library. I saw you here working late tonight, as I do many nights. Keep your head up and stay strong! The answers will come eventually. We’re here to help if you need anything.
How can I say what this message meant to me? This librarian, this community fixture I probably saw every day without noticing, went out of her way to find my name, my email and reach out to me, to let me know I wasn’t alone? I suppose I can’t really say—but the least I can do is share the story.
And to mark the American Library Association’s National Library Week, that’s exactly what we’re doing—recognizing and celebrating the communities of kindness librarians create every day—in ways much bigger and smaller than the story I’ve shared with you.
Amidst a fast moving, technologically driven world, the Library has transcended its original purpose of a place where information is organized and stored. It’s become a critical campus staple; a safe space for collaboration, contemplation, and learning. It’s here that librarians often perform quiet, unacknowledged acts of kindness every day.
Inspired by Rachel’s Challenge, a non-profit organization that champions compassion in academic communities, we’ve recently asked librarians and faculty based in the US and Canada to nominate a specific librarian colleague who has demonstrated the unlimited possibilities of kindness on campus. This Friday, we will announce one outstanding librarian nominee to be the recipient of one paid registration to this year’s Charleston Library Conference, along with a donation to Rachel’s Challenge made in the nominator and nominee’s names.
As we continue to read through all of the inspiring nominations, it’s clear that our suspicion was right all along: librarians continue to consistently go above and beyond what their job descriptions require.
Here are just a few examples:
“…Patrick Tomlin’s contributions exemplify kindness. He always stops what he is doing to address whatever minor crisis I may be experiencing, whether it be accessing an e-book for a 100-person lecture class, ordering a text I desperately need, or simply finding something in the stacks when I throw up my hands. For the last six years, he has graciously volunteered his time to give a focused talk to my Environmental Design Research students, who are starting their graduate programs and have often entered Blacksburg, and the United States, only days before. He works individually with them to navigate the complex database systems that will enable them to begin their proposals […] In addition, Patrick is simply a nice person to talk to. We have shared stories about dealing with sick kids on days full of commitments, our apprehension at teaching large lecture classes for the first time, and our struggles to balance our family, teaching, and research obligations. His consistently and genuinely positive attitude at our every interaction make my job a little easier.”
-On Patrick Tomlin, Head, Art & Architecture Library, Virginia Tech
Nominated by Elizabeth Grant, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech
“ [Adeane Bregman] tirelessly updates and solicits the faculty about potential purchases as well as about key aspects of operations at Bapst. She makes sure, as much as is humanly possible, that the faculty have all the resources they require for teaching and research. Ms. Bregman also helps the faculty master the new tools for doing research electronically by offering orientation sessions, as well as visiting faculty in their own offices and working with them on an individual basis. To say that my research has been enhanced by her assistance would be an understatement of immense proportions. It would not be an exaggeration to go so far as to say that her assistance has been equivalent to that of a valued research assistant, not just a librarian. In fact, I have acknowledged Ms. Bregman in all of my publications, so much is my scholarship in her debt. […] In addition, Ms. Bregman has visited my classes to relay this new information to my students, who are always intimidated by, and often lack even the most rudimentary critical skills for, doing scholarly research. Many have thanked me for inviting her to my classes because, were it not for what she brought to their attention, they confessed to knowing not even the existence, let alone the use, of numerous key research tools. […] On the basis of her help, many of my students have conducted highly innovative and original research, quite a feat for undergraduates, and an invaluable service for their continued success in the field. […] But for all she does, Ms. Bregman never makes you feel as though you are imposing or asking too much. In fact, it is she, more often than not, who initiates the generation of help or assistance. She is a truly kind and generous soul and I enthusiastically nominate her for this award.”
-On Adeane Bregman, Bapst Librarian, Boston College
“Julia Tryon has displayed an uncommon level of kindness through her profession. […] For several years, I have been shipping books to school and community libraries in Ghana. Julia (and so many of her fellow librarians) here and throughout the state have played key roles in organizing the collection of used books from texts and reference works to books for children and adult readers. Nearly 200,000 books have helped develop over 100 school libraries and a number of village libraries in Ghana. Julia has been especially kind to me personally. When I need a particular reference that requires interlibrary loan intervention, she always volunteers to facilitate that intervention. It used to take weeks with lots of paperwork to acquire these research/reference materials; now it takes hours to days for an always cheerful Julia to get her hands on the piece and put it in my hands. […] Julia Tryon's kindness overwhelms...”
-On Julia Tryon, Commons Librarian for Research and Education, Providence College
Nominated by Stephen Mecca, Professor, Providence College
Choosing just one librarian to honor will be no easy feat. Don’t forget to check back here on Friday when we’ll announce our winner.