Valentine’s Day – a day set aside to celebrate the ones you love, a day devoted to one of the highest expressions of the human spirit. This past Valentine’s Day – V-Day 2020 – my husband and I chose a rather unexpected activity. One that was very spur-of-the-moment, but has impacted every single day since. You see, we adopted a puppy. Not just any puppy – a 3-month old runt of a French Bulldog, one that is speckled and looks like someone spilled a pot of the darkest black ink all over him. In personality, he is French Bulldog through and through – in turns lazy, adorable, and obstinate (sometimes all at once!).
Now, why, you might ask yourself, in the midst of a global health crisis that is rocking everyone’s personal and professional lives, am I talking about puppies? Unbeknownst to me, and quite unexpectedly, raising this French Bulldog (whom we named Wagner – with a hard, German V-sound) has taught me that shepherding a dog through puppyhood isn’t all that different from earning my MLS and working in a library. In fact, I’ve either learned or been reminded that:
It’s all a learning experience
My very first post on Hack Library School was all about perfection and how the drive for perfection can sometimes (often!) get in the way of learning and seeing your education for what it is. So it is with Wagner. He’s the first time I’ve had a dog and I wanted to be a “perfect” dog dad. I wanted to anticipate his needs and do everything just right. I was going to be the dog dad all others admired. Perfect doesn’t exist with dogs and it doesn’t really exist in academia or professional lives. Learning to recognize your shortcomings and your strengths is all part of the journey. I may never be a “perfect” dog dad or a “perfect” librarian, but I am positive that I can be highly capable and successful in both roles.
Even the difficult moments are worth it
Related to the above, even the moments that bring the most struggle are valuable. In fact, they might be among the most valuable experiences we have, both as students and as professionals. Writing that paper that doesn’t bring you an A, or trying to teach your dog the simplest commands when he has no burning desire to pay any attention to you, can feel disheartening. But those feelings are foundational materials on which to build success. Just because one paper earns you a B, or just because it takes your dog the better part of two weeks to learn “stay”, those moments are still worth it. You’ve still spent your time in a meaningful endeavor and, hopefully, learned something in the process.
Just because they bite, doesn’t mean they are bad
Wagner is currently at that puppy stage where the world seemingly has to be explored by what he can put in his mouth. Rocks, mulch, my big toe – whatever it is, into his mouth it goes. While, with any luck, you won’t come across any patrons or fellow students who physically bite, you are going to come across people who find other ways to “bite”. It might be a patron who is having a rotten day and decides to take it out on you or a fellow student who takes the critical part of “constructive criticism” a little too far. Either way, you are going to have to deal with people who aren’t doing what you want and might hurt you in the process. In those moments, it is helpful to remember that, by and large, people – just like puppies – aren’t bad, they just sometimes have bad moments or find themselves in bad situations.
Hopefully, you have found my reflection on new puppy fatherhood to be enlightening ruminations on librarianship, as well as a little bit humorous (again, hopefully!). If you are just wrapping up your first semester of library school, know that there are lessons everywhere that can apply to your current academic situation. For those students, like myself, who are nearing their last semester and graduation, take a moment to reflect on the lessons learned (both bad and good), and to the professionals remember to take a step back and reflect on what you hope to learn as your career progresses. In the end, just like with me and Wagner, I hope librarianship becomes a partnership that you never regret.
Nick Dean is a second-year master’s student in the School of Library and Information Management (SLIM) at Emporia State University. Nick currently works full-time as an academic advisor at a medical school and as a part-time employee at a medical library, both in the Kansas City metro.