Lit in the City

This year I was once again thrilled to be a part of Hamilton’s very own gritLIT Literary Festival.

In the past, I have been on the organizing committee as a volunteer, as part of the marketing team, and most recently as the writing contest manager. Yes, gritLIT does have a writing contest, and you should probably enter. Next year, of course.

For a festival that happens in April, it’s not unusual that a lot of the heavy lifting and organizing and planning goes on late in the previous year. And late this past year I was extremely preoccupied while my son was in hospital, then with his subsequent recovery, and sadly my gritLIT responsibilities fell away. And Jen, our artistic director was amazing about it, of course, and of course the contest happened and then the festival happened and oh was it a good one, friends. For gritLIT’s 15th anniversary, stops were pulled out, let me tell you. I do wish I had been able to be more involved this year, but there is, of course, always next year to amp up my involvement. And now, let me tell you what I did get to do.

I hosted two workshops over the course of the weekend. The first was world building with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes, the book that made me want to start a book club JUST SO I COULD TALK ABOUT IT WITH SOMEONE. And Thea is delightful and so, so knowledgeable and funny, and honestly, her book is as wonderful as she is, and everyone should read it. And then talk to me about it. Please. I’m begging you.

I also hosted and participated in K.D. Miller’s workshop which was all about connecting art and stories and was about as perfect a workshop as I have ever attended. Her most recent collection of short stories is inspired by the works of Alex Colville, and she brought small recreations of Colville paintings as prompts and inspiration. If you don’t know Colville, please be aware that there is a LOT going on in his paintings and they make for excellent – if potentially dark – writing prompts.

I then attended a fascinating panel with Tamara Faith Berger, John Miller and Claudia Dey (who has impeccable style, FYI) which was all about writing sex in literature, and later that evening I went to another panel called Confronting the Apocalypse featuring Thea Lim, Waubgeshig Rice, and Larissa Lai. And finally on Saturday a discussion about love, loss, and betrayal with Claudia Dey and Antanas Sileika and moderated by Ann Y.K. Choi who remains one of the loveliest people on earth.

I also got to drink wine with Gary Barwin and gush to Thea Lim not only about how much I loved her book but also how much I loved the Largehearted Boy playlist she created for it, because I am a sucker for those book playlists, honestly. And hers is a really good one.

If it seems as though I am namedropping, I totally am, and I’m not done. On Sunday, I watched Liz Harmer and Scott Thornley as they talked Re-imagining Hamilton with Mark Osbaldeston, and then I had to go home and, you know, spend some time with my family.

So basically what I’m saying is that when you attend and/or volunteer at a literary festival, you get to meet a lot of amazing, amazing authors. They will blow your mind in their workshops and on panels and in interviews, and then they will graciously sign your books and you might even get a chance to drink wine and talk random shit with them. Authors, they’re just like us!

There was so much more I wanted to see and participate in and next year, when I am a full-fledged volunteer again, and I don’t have to spend twelve hours a day in a hospital for five solid weeks during the most formative time of the festival, I will do it all.

Thanks for being amazing, gritLIT. Can’t wait until 2020.

I Survived Barton Street Too: For 52 Years and Counting

I should be working on my Camp NaNoWriMo project because I am a few hundred words behind, but after reading an Opinion piece in the Hamilton Spectator earlier today, I was inspired to blog instead. Well, inspired might not be the correct word. I was seized with a blinding hot rage is more along the lines of what I felt, honestly. And oh boy, where to begin.

In this piece, the author decides to walk the entire length of Barton Street in the northern end of Hamilton. Barton runs from Stoney Creek in the east end of the city, to Locke St. in the central part. Why? Well because he is a transplanted Torontonian, don’t you know? (sorry Toronto, but most of these dudes are) and it seems he wanted to get to know his new city – his “adopted hometown” and its “most maligned thoroughfare.” Ok, sure. I guess?

It’s a pretty big task, honestly. It’s a long street. And when he said that he survived, I thought maybe he meant because it’s a really long walk and wow, maybe that’s a little much for him? Haha, no, of course, I didn’t think that. I knew exactly what he meant.

Throughout his walk and the article, he manages to hit nearly every stereotype in the book and then some. From the bars that would have been “heaving with steelworkers in the ’60s” to the closure of the Prince Edward Tavern being “One fewer place to drown your sorrows on cheap pints – or advance alcoholism, depending on your perspective.” I guess because hipster bars only have expensive pints and contribute to zero alcoholism? Help me out here, bud.

There’s more, there is oh so much more, and I encourage you to read it. It is, as I’ve said, an opinion piece, but some opinions ought to be kept to oneself.

He does seem to like the gentrification of a couple of areas on Barton because of course, he does. But I don’t know how anyone can walk that street and not notice the lovely churches at Barton and Sherman. St. Ann’s and St. Stanislaus have a proud history of serving the residents of that area. Or Woodlands Park. Or the Polish and Portuguese bakeries, the small grocery stores, the bustling hardware store and the stores selling bonboniere and other gifts. There is community there and there always has been, but it’s much, much easier to write about how downtrodden the street is, how it’s drug dealers and no sidewalk buzz. Was it a weekday when you undertook your epic walk? People work during the day. During the week. Consider that perhaps before making sweeping pronouncements about how the place requires serious saving.

You might already know or have guessed that I grew up on Barton Street, well just off it on Oak Avenue. So by disclosing that it would be easy for you or anyone to dismiss my thoughts as just anger at someone sullying my memory of the street, but the truth is I would defend anyone’s street in anyone’s city from people who arrive, agenda firmly in place, form an opinion, and leave. Whether it’s another street in Hamilton or Windsor, Calgary, Halifax, or Toronto – ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, honestly. And no, I don’t want to talk about how great Barton Street was when I was growing up, that is so not the point. And I also don’t want to try and convince this writer to come back later in the spring or summer when the street is livelier! And prettier! And please come back and like usssssss!

Barton Street is not without its problems, of course. There are no streets in any city anywhere that are without problems, and walking the length of a street you’ve never been on before in a city you barely know and congratulating yourself for living to see another day doesn’t make you a hero. It just shows what a privileged asshole you are.

 

Here I Go Again…

Some of you might know that back in November I signed up for and participated in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo.) You might also know that I was VERY DILIGENT about writing my 1667 words – or more! – each day from November 1st to 15th, and at the end of the day on November 15th I had written 25,468 words on a project (I was and still am hesitant to call it a novel, so it continues to be known as a project) and was feeling quite smug about my process and my success thus far. And you also may know that on November 16th, my son had a spontaneous brain hemorrhage, and no writing was done from that point on.

Now that Max is practically 100% better after a few months of recovery, I started thinking about that project again. In fact, he and I had been talking about my writing recently and he brought up  the NaNoWriMo project like this:

Max: Hey, speaking of your writing, what about that thing you were doing where you were trying to get to 50,000 words or whatever?

Me: Yeah, I did that for a couple of weeks in November, but stopped.

Him: Oh, that’s too bad.

Me: Yeah.

Him: Wait. November? Ooooooh. Shit. Sorry.

It was kind of a funny conversation, honestly, and if he hadn’t almost DIED it would be truly hilarious. But things are good now, so I decided it was time for me to get back at it and so I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo for the month of April.

LOOK HOW CASUAL I AM ABOUT WRITING THOUSANDS OF WORDS EVERY DAY FOR A MONTH.

Honestly, though, it will be great, and it will be just what I need to kickstart my project and see it through to (sort of) completion. I’m excited, and while I haven’t even looked at this draft since November 15th, I have missed my characters, and I have been wondering how they are and what they are doing, so it is clearly the right time to find out.

If you’re camping and novel writing in April, please let me know! I am very good at sending along encouraging words, cheering you on, and virtual s’mores. We got this, pals.

Emily Starr 4ever

I am rereading Emily of New Moon because of Russian Doll.

If you’ve watched or are watching Russian Doll on Netflix you will probably understand the reference. If you’re not, well first off you SHOULD because it’s amazing, and next off, well… I don’t want to spoil it at all in case you watch it (which you should) but the main character makes reference to the book a few times over the course of the first season. And while Nadia, the main character,  is not the most optimal person to aspire to be, as soon as she mentioned Emily of New Moon, I definitely wanted to be her friend. (Ok fine, I loved her and all her flaws anyway, but the Emily reference put it way over the edge.)

There have been so many instances in pop culture, movies, TV where characters claim to love or hate books and those choices have resonated with me but this is the first time I’ve felt it viscerally. For real.

I spent a lot of time during my childhood and youth in the Barton branch of the Hamilton Public Library. I absolutely loved it there. My mum took my brother and me pretty regularly and then of course when I was old enough to go by myself, I went every opportunity I could, starting when I was around 8 years old or so because it was 1975 and obviously if you could walk, you could get yourself to wherever you needed to be, without parental supervision. (One day I will write a post about taking my younger brother and some of the other neighbourhood urchins to see the movie The Hindenburg because that was totally age-appropriate.) But back to the library. I would sometimes go with friends, but I mostly went on my own and I would stay as long as I possibly could.

In typical 1970s childhood fashion, I was required to be home when the streetlights came on. Once after browsing in the children’s section, I had signed out a few books and then another one – a teen book, in the teen section, scandalous! – caught my eye so I started reading it and before I knew it it was dark, the streetlights had been on for a while and I had to bike home alone, completely freaked out. 42 years later and I still remember that the book that had me captivated/terrified was Are You in the House Alone? and I was convinced that the killer was after me as I biked as fast as I could along Barton Street to home. Honestly, every book for young adults in the 1970s was either terrifying or about sex. Which to be fair was also terrifying at the time.

But I didn’t find Emily at the branch, I found her at the main library downtown. If you know Hamilton you know that the Central Library is a massively modern (well modern in 1980) structure with a lot of glass and concrete. It’s a fantastic building and I love it so much. But, if you are of a certain age, you will also know that the earlier Central branch was at Main St. and MacNab St. (it’s now a courthouse) beside what used to be the Canadian Football Hall of Fame – and that is where I found Emily.

On a rainy early summer evening, possibly the same summer as the Are You in the House Alone? experience, I went downtown with some older kids from our street. We had taken the bus downtown specifically to go to this library, I remember that because I guess we were that cool. And I also remember wondering if kids were even allowed in this formidable place. I was definitely nervous; the building was big and dark and very, very different from the bright, windowed, one level branch library I loved so dearly. But walking in was a revelation. It was much brighter than I had expected, the facade had always seemed gloomy – masterful but gloomy all the same. The main floor was massive – the building itself is quite large, although when I pass it, as I do daily now, on my way home from work, it seems a little less gigantic than it did when I was 11. The floors were cool marble, and there were two wide marble staircases that dazzled. And there was, in fact, a children’s area. The paperback racks spun quietly and as I browsed, a thick book caught my eye. I recognized the author, but the cover seemed more modern than something written by L.M. Montgomery should have been which didn’t make a lot of sense but then it was the 70s amirite? So I found a place to sit while my friends wandered around and I started reading and it was SAD, friends. Like really sad. Before we even left the library to head home I was completely hooked and immediately transported to Emily’s lonely world, so I signed it out. Nervously because I wasn’t sure my library card would even work at this big, impressive library. But it did, and I took Emily home.

This cover! I mean, how could I have left it there?

I loved her right from the start. I loved her relationship with her father and her relationship with nature. I loved the fact that she composed descriptions and elaborate events in her head – most of which involved her dying pitifully and tragically and everyone in her life being super sorry that they were mean to her now that she’s dead, which is a thing that I also did when I was 12 (it is probably a thing  a lot of 12-year old highly dramatic kids do to be fair) and then when she had some actual paper she wrote these scenarios down (which is also a thing I did.) I especially loved the letters she wrote to her dead father which act as a kind of diary for her, and in which she pours out her heart dramatically about her experiences living at New Moon with her aunts and cousin. Emily is so fucking emo, you guys, it’s amazing.

In Russian Doll, Nadia searches for her own copy of Emily of New Moon for reasons (again, which I won’t spoil) and when a friend tells her did you know it’s the same author as Anne of Green Gables, Nadia says, “Everyone loves Anne but I like Emily. She’s dark.” And Emily is dark – so dark – and a little bit extra. She has a sort of intuition, a second sight kind of thing that includes visits from The Flash (not that one) and a kind of spooky understanding of people, which is and has always been my total jam. And Emily feels things deeply – so very deeply – but she can also make adults a little afraid of her, and who doesn’t want that power as an overly dramatic preteen? In short, Emily was and continues to be everything to me.

So I’m glad Russian Doll reminded me how much I loved the Emily books, and how much I love them still. I’m not sure I’ll go on to reread the others in the Emily series, but New Moon will always be a favourite and it, like the library where I found Emily and the night I found Emily, will always be a treasured memory. It was more than 40 years ago but sometimes it feels like it was just last summer. I have a lot of amazing childhood memories and I will always be so grateful that so many of them revolve around books and libraries.

 

In Praise of the Desk Lunch

When I worked in a small library where I was the only staff person, I often lamented my sad desk lunches. With the exception of the patients that would use the library, I spent my days alone, and so often my lunchtime was also spent alone. I did have colleagues from another (attached) hospital library and we would occasionally go out for lunch, but my midday meal was largely eaten in solitary.

I ate – for the most part – where I worked although I would usually stow the keyboard somewhere away from potential crumbs, and I would minimize any work-related browser tabs or documents I had open. A true vacation from work, right?

And it wasn’t as if I didn’t have options. There was a staff lounge and an outdoor patio area with picnic tables, as well as any number of benches on the hospital grounds I could have escaped to, but I rarely did. The lounge was a bit of a cesspool of negativity, and I really didn’t want that in my life. When I would occasionally use one of the communal microwaves there, I tried very hard not to get involved with conversations complaining about management, other staff, etc. I had worked for a lot of years in a workplace with that kind of lunchroom and so when I encountered that I would quickly retreat to my desk, grateful that I no longer had to endure that.

The outdoor options? Well as promising as they were, if you know me at all you’ll know I really don’t like being outside. Especially when the weather is very warm and especially at the noon hour when the sun is strongest. If I couldn’t guarantee a spot in the shade, I wasn’t interested. So back to my desk I would go.

And yet, I complained. Friends would post photos of work lunches, potlucks, camaraderie over the noon hour and I would be envious. I would scowl at my boring sandwich and veggie sticks like it was their fault they weren’t a four-course Italian meal lovingly prepared by work friends and brought in for all to share, or a glass of red wine at a colleague’s birthday lunch at a downtown bistro.

It was a lonely existence.

When I started my new job (it’s been two and a half years, but it’s still my new job) I noticed that hardly anyone ate lunch at their desk. There is a staff lounge here with all the things you need to eat a proper lunch, including a real kitchen table and chairs. People bring their lunches from home or they buy them from the cafeteria, and many of us eat together. It feels like a real and welcoming community, and it’s so, so great.

So each day I grab my lunch bag and head to the staff lunch room and chat with whoever happens to be in there at the time, or not. There’s no pressure to participate in conversations, there’s also not any exclusion from conversations, you can join in or not, you can just do what you want. So refreshing, and such a step up from my sad desk lunches of yore.

Last week we were informed that the lunchroom will be getting a real overhaul. New or newly-covered furniture, a new fridge (honestly!) and a few other razzle-dazzle kinds of changes will be happening, which is amazing, but it means that the room will be out of commission for most of the week while these things happen. We were told to plan our lunches accordingly since we would be without access to things like a fridge, the microwave, etc. So making my lunch this morning I built myself a sandwich and added a few other things to the bag, and then at 1pm, after my desk shift, I stowed my keyboard and closed my work-related browser tabs and docs, and proceeded to eat my lunch. And I found that I kind of missed it. After all those years of moaning about being alone and having a solitary lunch day after day, I was actually kind of excited to sit and eat without any other distractions.

I found I slowed my pace because I really had nothing else to do. I could have read my book, but I was almost halfway through my sandwich before I even thought about it. I scrolled through my phone a bit but even stopped that after a few minutes. I really just ate. And I realized it had been a very long time since I had just eaten without doing anything else.

There’s a lot to be said for eating and only eating, and there has been a lot written on the subject of mindful eating, of eating without distraction. Mindless eating is – or can be – eating on the go, eating while doing a bunch of other things simultaneously when you’re not even thinking about the food you are ingesting. Mindful eating encourages us to focus on the act of eating – without doing anything else – and this is kind of a lost art when there is a lot of pressure on us to always be doing something.

Meditation apps include courses and sessions on eating mindfully and a quick Google search turns up dozens of sites all about why and how to practice mindful eating. (I know this because I did a search after I ate my lunch.) And while it would be amazing to spend a full hour in contemplation of our food, even just a few minutes of only eating can have a positive impact on slowing down our day.

Once the lunchroom renovation is complete, no doubt I will return to the lunchtime social time, but I think every so often I’m going to make an effort to slow it down and find a quiet place to be alone with my lunch. Today was a good reminder that a desk lunch doesn’t have to be a sad lunch after all.

 

Waxing on. And on and on…

I leave for work, as you are no doubt getting very tired of hearing, extremely early in the morning. My bus arrives at 6:50 am, and I am fortunate that the bus stop is practically at my front door, so I can dash out around 6:49 am and still make it. It’s a small luxury, to be this close to a method of transportation that you don’t own, I recognize that, and I am very grateful for the HSR and this bus route in particular.

Because I leave so early I don’t eat breakfast. At home, that is. I find it difficult to eat at such an ungodly hour, so I have been bringing breakfast to work with me, and depending on my information desk schedule I can usually squeeze my breakfast in somewhere between 8 and 9 am. Not too bad at all.

Sometimes I bring a smoothie I made that morning or the night before, but when I returned from my leave while my son was recovering, I noticed our workplace toaster. And this was quite the revelation.

It’s not new, this toaster. I am pretty sure it’s always been here – at least as long as I’ve been here – but back in February while I was waiting for the kettle to boil for my morning tea I thought “I can bring things to toast in that toaster!” and that changed my world.

So now I bring a bagel or English muffin with cheese or marmalade or something and I can have these bread products TOASTED which is much nicer than having them UNtoasted, and I honestly look forward to this new ritual every day. My life is VERY EXCITING PLEASE TRY NOT TO BE JEALOUS.

When I pack my breakfast and lunch, I mostly used wax paper for wrapping things like sandwiches, cut up cheese to have with crackers, cookies, etc. When I unwrap these things and then consume them, I fold up the wax paper (or ball it up if something leaked on it) and place it back in my lunchbox. I understand this is…unusual, or…perhaps even downright weird. It’s ok, I get it.

In high school, I began taking my lunch daily. For both elementary and middle school, we all went home for lunch unless there was something special going on (choir, sports, band, etc.) This was the 1970s, friends, and most of us lived less than 10 minutes away from the school, so going home for lunch was a thing. It was The Flintstones and Big Al’s Cartoon Capers, (“The cartoons are comin’ your way!) and tomato soup and cheese sandwiches, and it was life.

But my high school was too far to go home every day for lunch, and I also joined a lot of groups which met at lunchtime, so I brought my lunch. And I used what we had in the kitchen to wrap my sandwiches, and that was wax paper.

My mum was a big fan of wax paper. By this time, in the early 80s, plastic wrap had taken over, and that’s what most of my friends had. Sandwiches and vegetables wrapped in plastic that you just threw away afterwards. What a concept. My food, wrapped in its milky white parchment-like shroud, seemed exotic to my friends and it turned me into the one thing I absolutely hated: being different. At the time, my goal was to be just like everybody else, as much as possible. This only lasted a year or two, by grade 11 I wanted to stand out, but those first few years, eating lunch with the other bandies in the music room, I didn’t want the attention that wax paper brought upon me.

Which…is ridiculous, right? Who the hell cares what your food is wrapped in? Well, I did. And so I asked my mum to buy Glad plastic wrap next time she went grocery shopping. And I did so off-handedly like it was no big deal. And my mother flat out refused.

Wax paper, she told me, could be reused. It was sturdy, and it was biodegradable – at least more biodegradable than plastic – and, it was cheaper.

My mother, you see, was an avid recycler from way back. She saved newspapers and bottles for people who would come around to collect them to sell. She flattened aluminum tins and saved those too. She recruited me to remove the little windows from envelopes so that the paper could be recycled. Eventually, our city got a recycling program (doesn’t it feel weird that at one point everything just went in the garbage?) and the collecting people no longer came around, and all the papers, bottles, and tins went in the blue box. But until then, our front porch was a storage area for recyclables before anyone really knew what recycling was.

She was also one of the first in our neighbourhood to compost kitchen waste, and she would even save the apple cores at the school where she worked and bring large bags of these cores home to put in the composter, rather than have kids and staff throw their fruit scraps in the garbage. People thought she was so weird (she kind of was but in a nice way) but she didn’t let it bother her and she remained diligent about the importance of reducing, reusing, recycling. So much so that one year she was awarded special golden blue boxes (not real gold) for diverting nearly 90% of her household waste from landfill. I don’t remember our family of four ever having more than a single bag of garbage on any given week, sometimes one in two weeks, sometimes none at all. She was a machine.

And this is the woman that I tried to convince to buy me some damn cling wrap so I could be like everyone else at lunch. Nice try, kid.

So even today, at age 52, I wrap the parts of my lunch that require wrapping in wax paper. We have cling wrap in our household (shocking!) and we even have Ziploc bags (the horror!) but I am insistent that those get washed and reused until they spring a leak or rip. And wax paper can now, if it can’t be reused, go in the green bin. See? She sure was on to something.

My kids rolled their eyes at the sandwiches they would pull out of their lunch bags, tightly and perfectly wrapped in wax paper. But they too would save the paper, balling it and throwing it back in the bag to bring home where I could smooth it out and determine if it could be reused. If not, it went into the green bin, my mother’s legacy intact.

It’s astounding that I’ve written over 1000 words (mostly) on the subject of wax paper (and if you’re still here and reading, well thanks and congratulations I guess?) but it was on my mind this morning as I made my lunch. And then, of course, my thoughts drifted to my mum, the wax paper advocate.

On May 5 she will have been dead nine years, and it was around this time of year in 2010 that she started to feel unwell. It’s a funny thing how the body remembers, how the melancholy can start to seep into your day to day world and little, trivial things become shockingly important without you really even realizing why.

I miss her just as much as I did nine years ago, but the absence is less raw than it was. It still hurts, and it hurts a lot, but now when I remember those little, insignificant things – like how she fiercely defended wax paper and recycled like it was her job – it no longer feels like a punch to the gut. There’s more of a fondness now, more smiles, fewer tears, although the tears still do come, and often when you least expect it. I imagine they always will.

So next time you are wrapping a sandwich, considering pouring one out – or tearing one off I guess – for Pat.

 

 

 

 

 

Medline Searching as a Metaphor for Life?

This morning I got to work at my usual extra-early time and did what I normally do when I arrive early. Once my colleagues and I had finished the opening routine, I went back to my office to get started on the typical morning tasks: checking email, making a cup of tea, etc. Our library, as I mentioned, opens at 8am, but we don’t actually start offering reference services until 9am. the 8-9 shift on the desk is usually a quiet one, letting us all ease into the day. This morning I was scheduled on the desk from 9-11am, but at around 8:30 my first shift colleague who had a lot on her plate to start the day came and asked me if I would help a student. The look on her face told me it was a kind of special/urgent situation, so out I went.

When I sat down at the desk a student was waiting for me, laptop open, and a vague deer in the headlights look on her face. I introduced myself and gave my standard opening of “How can I help?” and we got started.

She took a deep breath and started talking. She explained that she had an assignment, but that she felt completely overwhelmed about where to start, where to look, how to formulate her PS question, what words she should be using, and on and on. I let her speak, let her dump all the information she needed to get out onto me, and let her voice her frustration as to how she didn’t exactly understand and how scared she felt because it seemed like everyone else knew how to do everything and she didn’t. I listened, and once she had said everything she needed to say, I asked her a couple of clarifying questions, questions designed to help her slow down her thought process and questions that would allow her to explain the topic to me in her own terms, using her own vocabulary so that I could understand.

It’s a fascinating thing to watch someone who minutes earlier had been so flustered and confused patiently tell me about her research topic, and to see passion and excitement replace panic. Once I had a handle on what she needed to find I asked her the question I ask a lot of students in this situation: “What words or phrases do you think you should use to search the database?” And she, like a lot of students, looked horrified.

“It doesn’t matter what I think! It has to be evidence-based!”

“True,” I told her. “But you can’t find anything until you enter something in the database, so tell me, who is your population? What is the situation? Just think in regular language, normal, everyday words and you’ll be surprised what the database will turn up.”

This whole exchange likely won’t make much sense unless you too search databases with college or university students, but the wonderful thing about the entire conversation was that it became a Wizard of Oz moment. You know, when Glinda says to Dorothy, “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.” THAT is what it’s like to see students go from “Oh shit, database searching” to “Ooooooh SHIT, database searching!”And it’s a glorious thing to witness.

These are some of my favourite kinds of interactions. I love that moment when students realize that they do have the power, that they can figure it out, that all they needed was a little guidance and someone to get excited for them once they were on the right track. Today’s student left with the tools and resources to take her further in the searching process and the promise that someone would always be at the desk in case she needed a little more assistance down the road.

But most of all I think she left the desk with a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride that she did know what she was doing after all and no, maybe she didn’t know the exact MeSH terms she should be searching, (who does, really??) but that’s ok. The relief on her face made my day. I helped her, but she also helped herself. Slow it down, trust yourself. Your thoughts and opinions are always valid, and they are such an important part of the process.

Database searching, like life, can be very confusing. And, like life, it’s a lot of trial and error. But, also like life, you do have the power. You just have to learn it for yourself. And it helps to have friendly people along the way to get excited with you and high-five you when you figure it out.