I was over at the local university yesterday, picking up some interlibrary loan books. And while I was there, I walked past a group of incoming students who were on a tour of campus as part of their orientation.
I smiled as I noticed a little bit of trepidation on some of their faces, noting I had the same expression when I started college. As I headed toward the elevator, I overheard this conversation from the student orientation leader:
“So this is the library. We probably don’t have to go over the library, right? You guys know what you’re doing. It’s got books. And the good thing is you can go in the catalog and borrow from other campus. Because this one doesn’t have all the stuff you need”
I sat horrified for a moment processing what I had overheard. Did that guy just blow off the library? The library is where, in both my undergraduate and graduate years, I probably spent the majority of my time (outside of the journalism computer labs). And here he was dismissing it as nothing. I thought, oh no, those poor kids with the trepidation on their face will never come back here. If they had any ounce of hesitation about something with the library, they were never going to seek out assistance because this guy just told him “you know this already”.
And the guy effectively told them this library was worthless anyway, because it didn’t have anything in it. As a graduate of that university’s library school and now as a community borrower from it, I can tell you it is an impressive institution. It has a law, medical and dental school affiliated with it that all have items available for students to borrow. While interlibrary loan might be necessary for some things, to suggest that it was necessary for most things was incredibly incorrect.
As I went to get my books from the upper levels, I sat wondering if I should have interjected and corrected the tour guide. When I went to the circulation desk to check out, I recognized a former classmate of mine and asked if these tours were annoying to them. And he said “oh yeah, there’s so much misinformation going on”. I was disappointed that it wasn’t just this one guy who was doing a poor job. It was overall a noticeable issue.
If an institution wants to encourage people to use the library and to do well in school, you cannot allow representatives of your university to discredit it with misinformation. While those guides represented the orientation department, they are also representatives of your institution as a whole and yesterday they were representing it poorly.
I didn’t say anything yesterday, but rethinking it today for this post, I think I will. I think it’s my duty as a librarian AND an alumnus of the university to call them out on their error.