Here to Help

Jane Littlefield, Librarian at Clackamas Community College

These budget cut-backs negatively impact librarians’ abilities to do what we do best — teach and support students. Here’s an example from a student I had last term.

I received a frantic email from a nursing student, “Camila,” needing help tackling a research paper for her Nursing Research course. My schedule was so full for the week already that the soonest I could meet with her was the following week. When that evening came, Camila had to wait over an hour before I was able to assist her because I was helping other students (there were no other librarians available to help). She was asleep on a library couch when I was finally free to help her.

“What if my position had been cut, and I hadn’t been able to help Camila that day?”

Camila and I went to work and she admitted that she was exhausted and feeling futile about her schooling. It was a barrier enough to have never written a research paper before, to not understand APA formatting, and to not know where to start her research (Google hadn’t had the types of information she needed). But the real responsibilities weighing on her mind were her two children, her overnight shifts as a CNA, her sleep deprivation, and her waning optimism regarding her ability to continue as a nursing student. She shared her goal was to become a nurse, primarily to be able to afford child care for her children. But she was seriously ready to throw in the towel.

Camila needed 1) to be heard and acknowledged, 2) research guidance, 3) relevant information, and 4) reassurance that she would be empowered to complete research and APA writing tasks independently and efficiently in the future. I was there (albeit late) to support and guide her. No one else at college could provide her with that kind of integrated research help and support. Camila left my office armed with a healthy selection of peer-reviewed articles, a research paper outline, APA-formatted citations, and hope. We checked in briefly the next week to make sure she was on track, and she was. Camila commented that when she hits this wall again she won’t give up, but she will ask me for help.

What if my position had been cut, and I hadn’t been able to help Camila that day? Would she have finally decided to drop out? Schools and colleges need funding for librarians — we teach and support students every day, especially in their times of need.

Jane Littlefield is a Librarian at Clackamas Community College. #OREducatorVoices

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