Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Commencement 2012

This past Saturday was the third time in four years that I participated in the college's main graduation ceremony. The weather cooperated, and the whole campus sparkled. Librarians marched side by side with faculty and other administrators. I did not particularly enjoy these ceremonies when I was a student, I think because I took graduation for granted, but I have come to genuinely appreciate the annual rite of passage while working at the college. It's a positive event, in the sense that there are so many sad stories at the community college, and this is a celebration of achievement. I like to see the students who made it through and seem likely to go on to good things.

I remember when one student in particular, who graduated this year and has plans to transfer to a university, began classes here two years ago. Before the semester even started, he came to the library and wanted to know everything about it. Subsequently he was in the library studying in the mornings before I arrived at work, and I usually saw him throughout the day in the building. I've heard from faculty about his many academic successes. I'm also aware that he comes from a needy background, and that English is not his first language. But I would vouch that any financial aid he receives will pay off, which is reassuring in light of the increasing attention that student loan debt is generating. (The federal government has so far been willing to absorb much of the uncertainty, but there are cracks in the foundation.) 

Another thing I noticed, watching the students walk across the stage, was that I recognized those on either end of the spectrum -- the really good students, and the ones who needed a lot of help. There were a great many in the middle whom I'm sure I've never seen in the library. Now I'm wondering whether that's really OK. Is it a reflection of the library's success, that our services -- which are meant to support independent work -- function the way they are supposed to? Or is it a reflection of apathy toward the library and an indication that they never used it? My lack of recognition is the same for either condition.

Lastly, and this might sound strange, but at other times in the year it's not always apparent that we're all working together as part of a big team. Commencement is a welcome reminder.

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