Today was rough. Actually, today wasn’t so bad, but last night was rough. I was just finishing up my night shift (7 to 10) when I got an email from one of my professors. I worked on that until just after 10 and decided to put it aside until morning. Just as I was about to click “Log Off” on my computer, I looked up to see a smiling student.
She was so cheery. You could just see the way she would have walked up to the desk, with a spring in her step and a laugh over her shoulder to her friends.
I gathered myself, took a deep breath, and smiled.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“Where do you keep your primary sources?” She said, smiling, with such a hopeful and confident note in her voice.
I explained what a primary source was, finishing with, “so you see why we’d want to have a topic or a person in mind first, and then search for primary sources on that topic or by that person.”
She frowned, thinking hard to come up with a topic that she’d be willing to study for the rest of her term. “How about 19th Century American Women?” She asked.
Clearly I hadn’t adequately explained the nature of a primary source…
Incidentally, I never was able to provide the answer to that professor’s emailed question. I had my co-workers, the reference librarian at St. Olaf, and a couple of other staff members here and there working on it. The answer just wasn’t to be had. What a day…