It’s October now and the mornings are cloaked in fog and scattered leaves, the air is plump with the scent of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and induction madness is in full swing. It would be a magical time of year if not for the virulent and drippy colds that have infected the entire city of Leeds and, specifically, me.
I have spent the long summer months creating a new induction programme for our students, imagining just what jolly good fun we will all have together in a twirlingly saccharine Maria von Trapp kind of way. I could also breathe through my nose, which I didn’t appreciate at the time as being really fucking great.
The new term – three weeks in and I’m knee deep in delivering up to six inductions a day to a varied mix of ages and abilities – all my summer dreams now a soggy lump of mush. Yes, like my face. Yes, I am ill and yes, I want to complain.
This morning when ich war mir die Zähne putzen*, a strange comparison came to me. Librarians conducting inductions are like Hagrid from Harry Potter.**
It might be the eldritch time of year, the prevalent pumpkins or the fact that I have started to play the HP Lego game, but bear with me and let’s see how far I can drag this one out. I was hoping to compare us all to Hermione but I am feeling far too pathetic to compare myself and the rest of us to such a badass bitch at the moment.
So lucky you, here are four ways in which induction librarians are like Hagrid – a.k.a. the blog post you never knew you needed until now. Broomsticks away!
- Non magicians in a magical world
I am currently working my last few weeks at the fab College of Building (which I love). It can take an extra cup of coffee to imagine this place as Hogwarts but for you I am willing to go the extra mile. Through this caffeinated glom the plumbers and the brickies have become young witches and wizards and the librarian (me) is Hagrid; a non-magician in a magical world.
During inductions I am often alone with a class full of students (well-behaved or not), who all treat me as a teacher, right down to calling me Miss. I love the buzz that comes from teaching and recognise that it is a vital part of what we do, but I have no training whatsoever (are you listening library MA courses?) and sometimes it feels like I am wrangling Cornish Pixies, expected to perform complex spells with only a broken umbrella.
But just like Hagrid be-tailing Dudley, we are capable of magic. It just takes a bit more work and an acceptance that we are not trained wizards or teachers, just badass gamekeepers flying by the seat of our pants. Also coffee, lots of coffee.
- Damned if we do, damned if we don’t
Poor Hagrid, forced to live in a leaky hut without access to conditioner or wifi. When he gets that teaching job and brings out exciting new animals (Buckbeak!), some of the students react with excitement, whilst others bitch and moan. When he teaches them about those boring wormy things, they don’t like that either. This, in essence, is how I am finding inductions.
I think a lot of us will recognise that character trait of wanting to please everyone and do the best job possible, but with inductions I am quickly realising that it will never be perfect. This year we designed a new induction full of interactivity, bells and whistles – predictably some people love it and some really don’t. Learning not to take it personally is far harder than standing up in front of an unknown and begrumpled class – now I know there is no magical spell to make it perfect – all we can do, year on year, is refine and update and deliver.
- Mixed response from the faculty
Dumbledore and his posse all loved Hagrid and gave him support during his teaching career (although now I come to think of it, he did get accused a lot and slung into Azkahban…) whereas other faculty members were not so enthusiastic.
Doing inductions has brought me into contact with a lot of teaching staff, which has mostly been brilliant. I think when they see you standing in front of a class they see you more as a colleague and peer than a frumpy book wrangler, never a bad thing eh.
However, other staff members are perhaps more sceptical of the value of a library induction or assume we can tailor make a session for them without any notice. Grumble grumble grumble. Just gotta remember it’s (hopefully) nothing personal!
Hagrid loves cake, librarians love cake – we all love cake. Nuff said.
In conclusion, inductions have been hard but highly enjoyable. I am so glad we tried something new and put a lot of effort into making something fun, interactive and different, even though we had a mixed reception. The most important thing I have learnt is that we can only do so much – it is just never going to be an ideal situation.
Coming into an unknown class for a brief period of time without any real teaching education is just a crapshoot. I am happy that our students will have hopefully got a positive impression of the library and feel at ease coming in and using our resources, even if they will still have to ask us if they can get a book out.
So even though I feel like big lumbering Hagrid, sticking out like a squib in Tranfiguration, it’s still worth it. Looking back through this blog from the highs of being a Graduate Trainee and the utter lows of the course, I am now a real librarian. Bring on the next adventure…
*why not a bit of german in the morning eh
** using a forced HP reference to shove in one of my favourite videos like an outdated saddo.