This is my second dispatch from my virutal travel fellowship series. You can read the first one here .
As a research & insruction librarian, I encourage students to make appointments with me to talk about their research. I advertise that I can help them with key word searching, database selection, subject heading deep dives, topic therapy, reading strategies and general 'I am rooting for you' cheerleading. I try to present myself as friendly, knowledgeable, and non-judgemental. However, I often wonder if there is more I can do to simulate such a meeting when I talk about them in my insruction sessions. I've also heard students tell me that they 'don't want to waste my time' or 'that they haven't done enough reading to know about their topic.' I smile and tell them the only preparation I require is an open mind and heart. (Note, I also learned a lot about barriers students experience to meet with librarians from a research project led by my colleague Julie Adamo we are working on article(s) from our data analysis.)
Fast foward to earlier this fall when I, a librarian, make an appointment with two other librarians to talk about my own research. I tried to take my own advice and prepare for the Zoom meeting with an open mind and heart, but reader, I will tell you, I was worried that I was wasting their time with my project. All of a sudden, I had boundless compassion for students who feel intimidated by meeting with a librarian. I related to it in an entirely new way. After over ten years of working with students, faculty, and researchers, I find myself removed from how vulnerable it can feel to meet with someone about your research. I suddenly saw the other side of the threshold I long crossed. It can feel intimidating to talk about your research as it develops, to share a rough draft of your thought process. In my case, I realized my initial research directions led me to new and additional questions.
This all subsided once Jaime, Jason and I started to talk. The act of talking about my research with other people as opposed to thinking to myself or writing down thoughts in a notebook helped me refine some of my ideas and get some help with some sources to evlaute for my project. Jaime and Jason know the rare books collection well and could connect me to sources I would find useful . My session with them wasn't just about locating the stuff, but talking about my ideas and testing my own internalized assumptions. Research is a social process. I felt more connected to my project after talking to them, a feeling I hope I impart on my students.