"It's hard to know when to respond to the seductiveness of the world and when to respond to its challenge. If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I rise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day." E.B. White
I thought this quote from E.B. White would set the stage for this blog entry. A few weeks ago, I was at the local library and expressed an interest in volunteering. Apparently, there are lots of people who want to do that, as I was advised they were "full" and I should check back in the fall. I thanked the librarian and mentioned I was interested in assisting people who might have questions or issues while using the library computers.
You would have thought I had walked into the ER with chest pains. The librarian’s demeanor changed immediately. She handed me an application and asked me to get it back as soon as possible, advising that “computer docent” was the one volunteer position they desperately needed and no one ever wanted to do it.
So, today I was “interviewed” by the assistant librarian and the volunteer coordinator and was “hired.” I think, basically, if you express an interest in doing something like this, the “interview” is a mere formality. They started out with a sheet of standard “form” questions (thankfully, not the one asking what vegetable I might be in a parallel universe!) They quickly set aside the list of form questions when it became apparent that a conversation among the 3 of us would elicit more valuable information.
When asked what prompted my volunteer interest, I was quickly relayed how, as a child, I would “play librarian." I loved the smell of the library and its books, and always wanted to be the librarian. Part of the appeal was the tool the librarian used to "check out" books. She (there were only female librarians in my childhood) had a pencil with a small metal ring around it near the writing end. The metal ring had an embossed date stamp on it that she would first tap onto an inkpad and then stamp on a small printed chart on the inside of the book. Next, she would initial next to the date, proving that she had "checked out" the book to you. The date stamped inside the book was the return date. That motion of stamping and initialing appealed to my innate sense of organization and process, and it was the height of my ambition to be the "library lady" who got to stamp the books. I liken that ambition now to one of my daughters wanting to be a "Fotomat girl" when she was 10 years old and had to consider possible career choices for a class assignment. If you're too young to remember Fotomats, ask your mom or grandma. We have come sooooo far in the world.
So here I am, still aspiring to be a "library lady." Alas, scanning machines, book barcodes, online renewals, self-checkouts and, worst of all, ebooks have now replaced most of what appealed to me. I’ll bet little girls don’t have nearly as much fun playing librarian as I did. Come to think of it, even the smell of the library isn’t the same. Sometimes modern isn’t better.
I was a little concerned that the people interviewing me might be looking for a real technology person - one with a degree and expertise in networking, programming, etc. When I asked, I was told that a degree would result in my being overqualified for the job! Whew! Apparently, if you say you know how to turn on a computer and are willing to answer users' questions, you’ve got the job! It frees the librarians up to do the things librarians need to do .. like shelving books, plugging in the scanning machine, etc. .. borrrring!
So, I’m the new computer docent at the Crooked Lake library. I have to go for orientation on July 21 and will officially start on August 4. I’m not sure exactly what types of issues I'll face, but I'm ready to take them all on. My motivation to volunteer in this capacity was triggered when I was in the library one night and an announcement was made that the library would be closing in 10 minutes and the computers would be shutting down. A gentleman completing an online job application was audibly upset and was looking for help in saving the information. The librarian was doing her best, but was also struggling with her other “closing” duties. As told to me today, that is typical of what I can expect to run into. Just think, both of them would have been helped had they had a "docent" nearby to call on.
So, E.B. White, this might be one day when my desire to improve the world actually marries with my desire to enjoy the world. I think this is going to be right up my alley.