Guest Post by Abbie Fehr
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I came to work at the library the beginning of my freshman year at Cairn. I just thought I’d be working with a bunch of books. And while that has been overwhelmingly true, four years of working at the library—including 2 J-terms and 3 summers—has taught me that it’s so much more.
The library’s about journals. I wouldn’t be a proper library employee if I didn’t at least give the obligatory nod to some of the other resources the library offers. I bet you didn’t even know this job was an option, but I worked two years as the Serials Clerk—stamping, shelving, and shifting the various periodicals that come into the library. They’re nifty, but most people don’t even know that they exist on the right side of the bottom floor of the library. Check them out sometime, except not literally because they’re set as Library Use Only and taking them from the library would be considered stealing. And that would make me sad. And for goodness sake, please use the online databases sometime. They make your work a whole lot easier and more credible, and you’ll have less to regret when you graduate and have no access to them anymore. At least make the most of the time you have. There’s also CDs and DVDs, including all three seasons of Downton Abbey, which of course you have the time to watch during the semester.
The library’s about studying. I didn’t actually do all that much studying in the library because, as an employee, I invariably got people coming to me with library questions when I was trying to do my homework. I didn’t like the tension between the joy of helping someone and the frustration at being derailed from my train of thought, so I just stayed away. But I’ll still think fondly of how I used the uncomfortable chairs to spur me on to finish my paper faster or how I felt lost and confused when I found that some cruel person had taken my spot at study carrel #42. Sometimes the library felt like an existential time loop, where hundreds of students have written that same eschatology paper in this building over the past 20 years. There’s a strange solace in that kind of solidarity.
The library’s about people. While library patrons are all well and good, the people in the library that will stick with me the most are the librarians. Having worked in both parts of the library—the “downstairs” Circulation department and “upstairs” Technical Services department—I’ve had the privilege of working with all 7 of Cairn’s librarians. (Yes, there are more than just the two you see on a regular basis.) I will miss the quiet kindness that I observed in Gwenn, the teasing I took from Alice, the thunderous theological discussions I had with Melvin, the vegan recipes I stole from Laura, the analysis of period dramas I thought through with Stephanie, the laughter I shared with Nang Tsin, and the polite banter I ventured with Dr. Hui. Those things might have little to do with actual work, but that is not to imply that everyone’s lazy. We’re not. We do a lot more than patrons will ever see, and we like it that way. More than all of the stamping and shifting and shelving that I’ve done in the library, these conversations that happened amidst and around that work will stick with me the longest.
The library’s about Jesus. Mostly, I think, the past four years have taught me that the library’s about Jesus. I mean this on more than the fundamental fact that it’s a theological library at a biblical university. That’s just the obvious part. But through example and explanation, I’ve seen the Gospel play out between those pale pink walls. I was forgiven one day when I completely forgot to show up to work as a freshman and then restored to the point where I was given a key and the freedom to come work on library projects at off hours. There was the time where I sent my boss an email because I was nearing an emotional breaking point and didn’t know if I could keep it together at work—and rather than lecturing me about professionalism—he simply told me that he and his wife were praying for me. From serious talks on Calvinism and church music to advice on how to seduce men with pie, I’ve been convicted, challenged, amused, unsettled, and encouraged by the various people at the library. They’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. But beyond a shared love of books, a shared love of Jesus draws us together in a way that nothing else can.
I’ve learned a lot in these past four years, and the library has been a big part of it. Though gone for less than a week, I already miss it. I will always be grateful.