Dean's Update: September Memories
[The Dean's Update is a reoccurring column introducing the Libraries' monthly newsletter In Circulation.]
I suspect that many of us associate September with the new academic school year. What are your memories of and expectations for the experiences that come with this annual milestone?
My own most vivid recollections include opening a box of new, sharp-tipped crayons in grade school and wrapping the covers of school-issued textbooks with flattened paper shopping bags in high school. Having these fresh school supplies at the start of the year somehow gave a special energy to all the reading and writing that I knew was to come.
However, with newness also comes uncertainty. In college I most remember associating the start of the school year with being in classrooms full of strangers. It was always uncomfortable at first, finding ways to engage with different people of diverse backgrounds and talents. But as the school year went on and we learned together, these strangers became friends. Initial discomfort of the unknown prefaces learning and growth.
When I graduated from being a student at Drexel one spring to becoming a librarian at another university that autumn, I was suddenly in a position to influence the student experience by how I welcomed newcomers to campus, even by simply offering a smile or directions especially to those who were disoriented. University staff have a responsibility to help ensure that the student excitement of new beginnings is not overshadowed by their natural anxieties of being in a different setting. Especially many first-generation college students or those coming from other cultures may come to Drexel with little knowledge of what to expect. Drexel’s “personal librarians” aim to transform the anxiety and discomfort surrounding the new school year into a positive experience – the first steps in the work of supporting the development of life-long learning skills.
I am reminded that for many at Drexel, there is nothing special about September, since between working and taking courses, student life goes on without stop. I hope even those students might take a moment to join the traditions of starting a new school year, to take stock of what’s ahead and to welcome learners to the Drexel version of intense learning. Embracing the new in order to learn and grow is a habit that will last long after graduation.
As this school year begins, don’t be surprised to find that we too are constantly on the brink of change at the Drexel Libraries. This past year the Libraries replaced some chairs and added a digitization zone to improve the environment for self-directed learners. Several new arrivals on campus have discovered us during this welcome week, and it doesn’t take much to see their excitement for the new school year. Although fashion and learning accessories may change, some traditions of September’s new beginnings on campus stay the same.
Welcome to new and returning students as well as faculty and staff who join us in cheering them on to Dragon success!
Danuta A. Nitecki
Dean of Libraries