Wednesday, November 17, 2010

End of the semester tips for using the libraries

It's that time of year again, the time when you may be realizing that you have four papers due (and three exams to study for) and only a few more days in which to write them and get in your studying time.

As I sit at the reference desk in the Holland and Terrell Library, I can feel the tension mounting as the days go by. I remember my own experiences with end-of-the-semester stress (it was ugly - there was blatant abuse of caffeine, hysterical laughter, crying, and at one point a really unfortunate experiment with cigarettes that I don't want to get into), and I sympathize. But my sympathizing and witnessing your pain won't help you much, so here are six tips to make your library work, be it researching, writing, or studying, less stressful.

  1. Recognize that stress makes research harder. When people are under stress, they are more likely to forget things, and also more likely to have a hard time following directions, reading signs, or doing normally easy things like typing passwords. If you find yourself panicking, remember to breathe and (I'll be saying this again) ask for help.
  2. Back up your work. Please, please, please for the love of all that is good in the universe save any paper you're writing on a library computer and save it frequently. Then back it up by emailing it to yourself of putting a copy on Google Docs. The library computers don't automatically save your work, and the TempStore drives on our computers are wiped clean every night. If you lose your work, we will want to get it back for you, but we won't be able to.
  3. Please remember to make sure you have everything you need when you leave the libraries. The last thing you want to do after sweating out a search for peer-reviewed journal articles is to have to hunt down the flash drive you've saved them to. Or to hunt for your cell phone. Or iPod. Or wallet. And while we do have a lost and found at the Circulation Desk, it's a sad truth that sometimes things are stolen in the libraries.
  4. Ask for help. I know I've said this before, but it's really important. We have people at the Circulation Desk and Reference Desk whose job is to help you, who are glad to help you. If you get confused, stuck, or frustrated, let us know and we'll do our best to help you find what you need. Plus, most of us are friendly types, even if we look a little scary at first.
  5. When you're under stress it's easy to take it out on those around you. Try not to. Your fellow students (who are all working with their own loads of stress) will appreciate this and it will get you better help. I try to do my best for every person who comes for help at the reference desk, but I'm much more likely to go the extra mile for those who are respectful and polite.
  6. Okay, admittedly this one is partly to decrease my stress load, but please return things like staplers, scissors, or the three-hole punch to roughly the same places you found them. We like them to be available to anyone who needs them, and sometimes people get quite upset when they can't staple their papers. Also, the old and cranky staplers we sometimes have to resort to have wounded people who attempted to refill them. Seriously. There was blood. There were bandages.
Good luck, and hang in there. May your computer never crash, especially while you're writing. May your research be as painless as possible, and may your study sessions never be so exhausting as to make you sleep through your exams. May your holiday travel be smooth and uneventful. And may you learn enough that is useful and true and important to make all of this work worthwhile.