Why Are You Here?

I have posed this question to our student workers for years, it is not a difficult question, it is not a trick question, and I still receive glazed looks of confusion.

A person sitting at a desk

Possibly, this question is too easy.  Or maybe they feel that it should be common knowledge why people attend college, and everyone should know the answer to that question.  That could explain why I have seen the “duh” expression from some of our student workers over the years.  For the past twenty years when I first started supervising student workers and graduate assistants, I have asked this question as a follow up to my new-hire speech.

As the Library Technology Manager and department supervisor of Library Technology Services (LTS), when we hire new student employees, I make it my mission to ensure they understand our expectations.  Yes, I do have to explain that punctuality, reliability, dependability, and communication are qualities that we expect from the student employees in our department.  I have come to accept and understand the fact that for some of these students this is their first job ever.  So, at the end of my speech when I hit them with the BIG question, I have my theory why the deer-in-the-headlight look appears on their young faces – it is literal and utter confusion.

Here is my theory.  If I were to lead with the BIG question first, I am certain I would receive the playbook answer, “I am here to get an education…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”  But because I drop it on them after my expectations sermon, they are uncertain why they are here.  I can see the gears churning asking themselves; am I asking them why they are here attending school, or am I asking them why they want to work in our department?  Well, the answer is both.

I answer the question for them.  I inform them, when they are in the library and scheduled to work in our department, they are expected to only work on their assigned projects.  When they are in the library, NOT working in our department, it is expected that they be focused on their school work.  It is that easy.  Since we predominantly hire students majoring in computer science, many of the tools we use in LTS are technical in nature for both hardware and software.  They are state-of-the-art tools that quite possibly are also used in their classes.  For this reason, it is important that they keep the two worlds apart and never mix school work with library work.  It is a simple directive that has worked seamlessly over the years.  Some of our former student employees have been hired by major tech giants i.e., Cisco, Apple, Google.

A group of people at graduation

If you are a TAMU-CC student reading this blog, ask yourself this same BIG question, “Why Are You Here?”  Be honest with yourself.  If you are simultaneously working and attending school, keep those two worlds apart but understand that school should always come first before work.  Use some of the many tools offered in the library such as, librarian consultations, electronic resources, computer labs, etc., just to name a few.  We make them available virtually and in-person.

Enjoy your semester and stay safe.

Abel Cantu

Library Technology Manager