The practicum that wasn’t

So I was supposed to do my second practicum at the university library in Ariel. I’d been warned about the library by students who had worked there and even by casual hitchhikers. The reputation the library has is all the nightmare stereotypes about librarians put together, with an added dash of the icebox.

The director had asked me to come at 8 am. I’m not a morning person, but when I’m asked to show up, I do. Not only wasn’t the director in yet, she’d told no one I was expected. I waited around half an hour until I was told that she’d called and I was to work on straightening out bookshelves for four hours.

Now, we’ve been explicitly told that straightening out shelves is not what we are meant to do in our practicum. We’re there to help if we can, of course, but primarily we are there to learn.  But OK, it’s one morning, the woman has for some reason been delayed, yadda yadda.

I’m shown how to straighten the shelves (come on, teach me this? I do know that 610 comes before 610.1, which comes before 610.16. Teach your grandmother to suck eggs, mkay?) and then I learn that all the librarians are off to come conference and I’m to do the straightening myself. Anything I might have hoped to learn as incidental knowledge has just flown out the window. One of the librarians gives me the penny tour (not even the nickel tour, mind you) and decides that since we ended up on the lower level, I should start straightening there.

I’m no great housekeeper, but the dust levels in this library were ridiculous. I was wearing a jet black skirt. Without touching my skirt at any point, jut from what fell off the few books I had to rearrange, this is what my skirt looked like after 10 minutes. That white is not a photographic artifact; that’s all dust.

There were cobwebs that literally covered two shelves, top to bottom, side to side. I ended up borrowing the cleaning lady’s broom to sweep those away, because I wasn’t going to reach through with the spider still sitting there in the middle of her web!

At 10 am the director sent someone to call me up to her office. She spends most of the time telling me how much she hated learning in the program I’m in now and also tells me that HR hasn’t yet authorized my being in the library for a practicum. (Remember — she’s the one who told me to come in today!) But since I’m here already, I shouldn’t waste my [20 minute] drive; I should stay and do 9 hours of shelf organizing (out of 50 which are supposed to be devoted to cataloging, classification, and acquisitions).

I went back downstairs and sent my practicum adviser a frantic email. (Thank heavens for smartphones.) There was no way I was going to survive 9 hours of this! Within a half hour she emails me back that she’ll find me an alternate placement, and as I’m writing her a thank you she calls me to tell me to get out of Dodge.

Never have I been so happy to leave a library in my life!

When I compare it to Beit Berl, the contrast is amazing. There I had the sense that the librarians wanted to know what I knew and what I could do so they could challenge me while giving me tasks which would serve the library’s needs. Here no one asked me anything; I had no sense that communications of input from me was required or requested. I’m usually Bouncy Betty, eager to have work thrown at me, and here I was working slowly, ignoring mistakes I saw that weren’t what I’d been asked to do (like a Cutter being פלי when the rest of the volumes in the series, by the same author, were פיל).

Tomorrow I have a meeting with the director of the Beit Berl library to sum up my practicum there. I had been planning on bringing cookies with me for the librarians. After today I’m so appreciative of them I decided to add homemade pomegranate jam-filled dark chocolates just to show them how much I’ll miss them.

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2 Responses to “The practicum that wasn’t”

  1. bumsonseats Says:

    So glad to read that your practicum adviser was so organised and got you out of there!

  2. Ahava Cohen Says:

    She’s a lovely and practical soul. I’m planning to bring her a little treat tomorrow to thank her — she certainly earned one!

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