by Chuck Page
Reference and Instruction Librarian
I wasn’t expecting Joe. I must have been expecting one of those college students with a specific assignment and a need to tick the proper boxes in order to get a 4.0. To be honest, I had worked with students very much like Joe during my time teaching elementary and middle school in the public school district. Now I was meeting a more grown up version in a different setting.
Joe is one of those students that doesn’t mirror many people’s image of the typical college student. He doesn’t dress like the other students. He wears his own version of professional clothing; a shirt and tie topped with a Fedora. He shows signs of having learning challenges of some sort. One might guess that he has encountered his share of roadblocks during his educational career. He is motivated, wants to learn, and has goals, but something is special in him. Now he is standing on the opposite side of the library’s large reference desk and he needs my help.
Librarians are taught that a proper reference interview involves asking open ended questions, listening, and encouraging patrons to lead the interaction. This could not be more true than with Joe. In spite of this, he is ambitious. Joe enjoys sharing each new project with me. His presentation on Martin Luther King, Jr. was all encompassing in the weeks before its due date. Soon after, he wanted my input on his personal website. Even though he didn’t really want traditional reference help, just the simple act of taking a look and making a few comments gave him the validation he needed. The library started to become a second home to Joe. He knew everyone’s name and made it a point to speak to everyone when he visited. There were certainly times when it seemed as though Joe didn’t really need any assistance. He just wanted a place to be; a place that was comfortable and familiar. It seemed like that place was the Library. Joe became part of the Library.
Then he was gone. Of course, the expectation for college students is graduation and moving on to a new chapter of life. I like to think that Joe is finding success and happiness in that next chapter. Not much time to reflect, because there is another “Joe” waiting for help.