If you’re either around college-age or have a student who’s beginning to look at schools, you’ve probably spent at least some time researching and visiting different universities, weighing the respective pros and cons of the institutions that interest you. One factor which I know I took into account when I was looking at schools is the difference in the number of resources found at a large university as opposed to a smaller one. I worried that, were I to go to a small college, I would be missing out if I didn’t have access to everything made available by a large university. Certainly, such a wealth of resources—primarily in the form of enormous libraries—is an extremely valuable asset. What I’ve found since coming to Erskine, however, is that, thanks to incredible librarians and a well-oiled interlibrary loan system, I never have trouble obtaining exactly the resources I need, no matter how specific or obscure the topic I’m researching.
Today, I saw a bit of the flip-side of the research process that I’ve become familiar with at Erskine when I made my first foray into the world of researching at a large university. Before I comment on this experience, I should note that I don’t mean in any way to disparage the University of Alicante by doing so—I am greatly enjoying my classes at the university, and all of my experiences and professors thus far have been excellent! It’s just that, my time in the library this morning helped me see that “the grass is always greener” is an adage because we often don’t fully appreciate the good things we have. You see, when I walked into the huge, multi-level library and saw the shelves upon shelves of books, I was enchanted. Had I gone to a huge school, such copious amounts of resources might have been at my fingertips as well. (Of course, such resources are at my fingertips within three to five days of requesting them from WorldCat…but the green monster is rare
ly logical.) I then commenced searching for books on the topics on which I plan to write my final essays. And gracious, I couldn’t seem to find anything. This was probably at least partly due to my unfamiliarity with the system of book cataloguing used in Spain (which, like measurements, temperature, and classroom numbers, is completely different from that used in the US). Nevertheless, I was quite disheartened to discover that the books I needed were scattered all throughout the vast library building and that some apparently weren’t even in the same building where I was seated. Sigh.
So I did what I usually do when I’m confused (which, of course, happens only *cough* very rarely): I asked for help. Walking up to one of the librarians, I was met with what can only be described as something of a grimace. She explained—in rapid Spanish—where I could find the list of books I’d compiled and seemed quite annoyed when asked for further clarification on where the basement and the Law Library were. Later, after I finally wandered back to the front desk on that particular floor, I asked the other librarian on duty if I could check my books out then. Only, as I quailed a bit under his scowl, my Spanish vocabulary seemed to vaporize, and I stumbled over my words a bit before being told, rather gruffly, that I could check books out on the first floor. All that to say, the librarians were reasonably cordial, if not friendly, and answered my questions. But as I walked out of the library thinking that I would prefer to just do my research online, I couldn’t hel
p but think how spoiled I am to walk into McCain Library in Due West and to unfailingly be given swift, one-on-one assistance by one of Erskine’s well-versed keepers-of-the-books (surely “librarian” is too mundane a name for such an important job?). I’m not sure that the contrast between that possibility of “being a number” at a large university and the personal, close-knit-community feel I’ve come to enjoy at Erskine have ever seemed quite so stark to me. That’s not in any way to say that one can’t thrive in either a small-school or large-school setting or that each type of school doesn’t have its charms… I just happen to really appreciate my Erskine family and am thankful that God has placed me in it!
In the end, when I arrived back at my piso (apartment) and attempted to use the online Erskine journal database, I discovered to my consternation that I couldn’t seem to log onto the website. Of course, considering that there are a number of US websites that are not accessible from overseas, I wasn’t particularly surprised, but I figured I would email one of the librarians at Erskine to ask about my difficulty. I also mentioned, in my query, the topics I was attempting to research. And what do you think I found in my inbox only hours later? The news that the aforementioned librarian had entered my student ID into the system and that I should now have access to Erskine’s databases AND (get this), a flood of academic articles on the topics I had mentioned in passing. Wow. All the way from Spain, I felt so blessed. And now, I’ve got some reading to do.