Robert Redford in “The Horse Whisperer.”
And the award for “Librarianship Above and Beyond the Call of Duty” goes to my colleague, Rose, who successfully averted the nuclear meltdown of one of our more “labor-intensive” grad student researchers. It happened like this.
Said grad student–let’s call him “Chip”–was working hard to put the finishing touches on his master’s thesis before the looming graduation deadline. Generally speaking, it’s a real pleasure for library staffers to work with master’s and doctoral degree students. There’s a special thrill you get when researchers that you’ve helped break new ground, bringing to light things that have been saved, but forgotten and revealing them anew to a wider audience. Their projects are usually interesting, they don’t need a lot of hand-holding and they are typically grateful for our help.
And then there are guys like Chip. Chip, named after the chip he carried around on his shoulder, wasn’t a bad guy, but he was one of those fellows who goes around creating his own problems. From the get-go, he needed a lot of hand-holding and we bent over backwards to help him out.
Chip’s problems really weren’t that different from any other grad student, but he made things worse for himself by treating the tedious hoop-jumping that’s part and parcel of the graduate school experience as a personal conspiracy against him. Why were there all these requirements? Why was he being oppressed? The university was an oppressor!
It’s true that University of Arnor has a well developed bureaucracy and that bureaucracy can be quite oppressive, but the red tape lash falls equally on the backs of the faculty and staff as well as the other grad students. Chip was being treated just like everyone else, but he didn’t seem to get that.
On the particular day that Rose earned her Merit Badge, his thesis advisor (and my boss), Bill, had asked Chip to make some minor editorial changes on his thesis. Among other things, Bill wanted Chip to add the accession numbers of the interviews Chip had used to his citation list and to make sure that he had signed permissions for an unreleased interview he wanted to use. Modest and usual requirements and, in the case of the release, something that should have been done a year ago, but instead of buckling down and making the necessary changes, Chip developed China Syndrome. His e-mails to Bill and me went from whinging to downright insulting. We were both ready to clout him ’round the ears with the MLA Style Manual and feed him into the paper shredder.
Luckily for him, Chip picked up the phone, called our colleague Rose, and wailed out his tale of woe. Rose took the time to calm Chip down, shared stories of her own grad school struggles with him, deduced that he had completely misunderstood what Bill was asking, got him the paperwork he needed to fill out, poured oil on troubled waters, and in general set his feet once more on the path of righteousness. Once Rose had talked him in off the metaphoric ledge, Chip was embarrassed by his bad behavior and apologized to both Bill and myself.
Chip successfully defended his master’s thesis–an excellent piece of work, by the way–and was profuse in his gratitude to Rose and the rest of the staff. He’ll be marching with the rest of the students at this year’s graduation and it’s due to Rose.
Rose would tell you that she didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. Was any of that street corner counseling part of Rose’s job description? No, it wasn’t, but she did it anyway because that’s the kind of caring professional she is. She’s an archivist who’s willing to go the extra mile to make sure that Arnorian students succeed. The university ought to give her a medal, but they won’t so I’m giving her one now.
Roz, we who are mere gladiators in great information arena, salute you!