Library (Student) Day in the Life: Wednesday

1am – Fell asleep a mere 15 minutes ago but am awoken abruptly by a text message weather alert notifying me of a tornado watch. Moments later, the eerie sirens start. I check the doppler on my smartphone. It doesn’t look too bad (nothing like the sickly green sky portending an actual tornado less than half a mile away–been there). I’m exhausted. I go back to bed, thinking if I happen to die it is surely natural selection.

7am – Wake up (reluctantly). Every day I leave the LSB still sleeping. Lucky boy.

7:39am – Catch the bus. I’m actually running on schedule, and equipped with coffee that I neither ran out of time to make nor forgot on the kitchen table.

8:05am – I arrive at the Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, my only non-Wells Library job. Here, I spend my days in the Digitization Lab working on projects or giving trainings. My first task is to help digitize several articles by June Reinisch, former Director of the Kinsey. Sadly, her personal archives were mostly destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. While her research has mainly focused on prenatal factors impacting gender identity and expression, next week she is giving a talk about prenatal factors and their impact on the development of Autism. We race to get the information scanned and sent to her in New York.

10am – I begin work on the Harry Benjamin collection. Benjamin was a leading sexologist studying transsexualism during the mid- to late 20th century, and the Kinsey has an extensive array of his publications, personal papers, correspondence, and other miscellany (I obviously need to edit and reflect this on the Wikipedia page I just linked to so the Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology doesn’t get all the credit…). Anyhow, the Kinsey Institute Library and Archives has signed a contract with the Alexander Street Press, so Benjamin’s is one of the collections that we will be working to digitize over the coming months alongside the collections of Alfred Kinsey, John Money, Magnus Hirschfield… and possibly one more that I can’t think of now. It’s very exciting to know that the treasure trove of information the Kinsey provides will be getting so much exposure.

I start with the vertical files.  I create an overview of the box that we can pass along to the Alexander Street Press, since the finding aid is bare bones. I find that apparently, correspondence and financial documents related to Benjamin’s nonprofit foundation are threaded through the folders alongside blaring headlines from hundreds of newspaper clippings about men transforming into ladies. I scan, scan, scan. 400 DPI jpeg is the standard for this project. The naming convention finalized, I digitize.

11:50am – I leave the lab for lunch. The Kinsey is somewhat old-fashioned in that it closes each day from noon-1. It’s my only lunch break of the week, one that I probably wouldn’t take if I could opt out of it–the work hours are too valuable.

Nevertheless, I love my hour on Wednesdays. It feels luxurious to be able to walk to the union and not see anybody I know (usually), to be surrounded by undergraduates everywhere (or so they look to me). I can read and eat an apple and it’s just so reinvigorating, so different from the norm of eating at my desk or en route to a class or job. I feel… young. Which is silly because I am young. I come back feeling even more determined to work harder, longer days and nights, because to me that equates into the type of freedom that means carefree lunch breaks.  I won’t lie–on my way back to the Kinsey, I daydream a bit about lunch breaks in my future college town.

1pm – Lots more digitizing, NPR streaming in my earphones.

4:30pm – Leave work a half hour early to head back to the Information Commons in Wells Library; I’m scheduled to teach a class at 5.

4:45pm – I arrive to my fishbowl (aka Instruction Cluster, connected to the rest of the information commons through half glass “walls” leading to the ultimate distraction enviroment you can imagine). My sad-sack suede boots are soaked through from all the rain. I set up, log in, write stuff on the whiteboard. I request that anyone not in the cluster for C104, Business Presentations, leave. I discover that nobody has yet arrived for C104. I double check that my date, time and cluster are all correct–check, check, check. It’s bizarre that nobody is around yet. Usually folks start showing up, the instructor at least, around 15 minutes prior.

5pm – Nobody from the class is in the classroom. I reason that the scheduling must be wrong. I can’t believe that I left work early and the scheduling was wrong. I think of my timesheet, of the minutes/dollars wasted. I decide to give it 15 minutes.

5:17pm – I’m still in the classroom, writing an email to my Teaching & Learning supervisor. Some purposeful-looking undergrads enter the fishbowl. Are you here for C104? I ask. Yes, they are. Apparently their class actually starts at 5:30. Sigh.

5:30pm – I start teaching. On the agenda: an introduction to the Business/SPEA Information Commons, both the physical space and the resources offered; database walkthroughs (LexisNexis, ABI/Inform, Mintel Reports); citation resources. Usually instruction assistants create our own lesson plans, but there are so many sections of C104 that the instructors want to make sure they get the same information. Thus, we have a script.

I tell the students, “I want you to come away with two things: feeling comfortable starting to use library resources, particularly the databases, and feeling comfortable asking for help.” I tell them that databases (and the IU Libraries webpage in general) are labyrinthine and intimidating–but it gets better with practice. I tell them to dive into the muck and mess, seek out help when they come up against roadblocks, and figure it out well before the deadline for their project. I tell them that learning the gist of how to make databases work for them will make the rest of their tenure at IU (and after) easier–they’ll get better results in less time.

Tonight, I teach really well. I can feel it. (I taught a walk-in 200-level business workshop last week and it was awkward and hard and the students didn’t care… this week felt utterly different. I haven’t quite figured out why, though.) The class goes smoothly. I feel helpful. I feel “on.” I’m not an expert AT ALL on business matters or resources, so when we discuss public companies and subsidiaries and tickers and consumer demographics and I hold my own, um, it’s exciting. I leave really thrilled with how the class went.

6:45pm – Leave class. Catch up work, email management. A scholarship is due on Friday. A column I’m writing for the Midwest Archives Conference newsletter is due tomorrow, so I pull together links and information about digital collections pertaining to Hoosier history. I’m hungry and thinking longingly of Downton Abbey, yes, but it’s actually quite fun. For instance: Did you know that Amelia Earhart was a faculty member at Purdue University in West LaFayette, IN? Purdue even bought her the plane that she disappeared in during her trip across the Atlantic. I might’ve gone all my life without knowing this tidbit had I not agreed to write the column!

10:15pm – Catch the bus going home. The LSB just finished with a rehearsal, so we take the bus together. A shoulder for my aching head is modern romance for me.

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