Dear First Year Students,

Well, we miss you already.

True, those who taught First Year Experience (FYE) are glad to be finished grading, just as you are undoubtedly glad to be done with the papers, projects, presentations, and exams. But we miss you, all the same. Your energy, your interest, your willingness to step into the role of “college student” for the first time in such a strange time.

As the FYE Librarian, I worked at the periphery of several FYE classes. I met with you individually and through workshops, and even I could feel it: the way many of you were transported, buoyed by newfound interests and ideas, thoughtful and original in your own responses and approaches. It was the best kind of contagion, if I can even use that word positively right now. Every day that I had a meeting with one of you was a good day.

With you in mind, those of us that are still here are thinking about spring already. As a native of Wisconsin, where true spring doesn’t come until April, May, or sometimes even June, “spring” is a misnomer for what I mean. For those of us who work in academia, “Spring” means “spring semester,” just as “Fall” is fall semester, and “Winter” is basically winter break. So really what I’m saying, is “I’m thinking about January already.”

But should I? Perhaps in looking ahead, we miss these last few moments with the fall. And–I know. Is there anyone who wants to linger in 2020? Probably not.

Personally, I don’t even have a full grasp on December. I am, like all of us, making a lot more room for uncertainty than I used to. I continue to draw inspiration from the most recent past–these past few months learning alongside you. In fielding questions about your research and helping you find relevant library resources to explore, I have learned about such topics as:

    • The genius of Led Zeppelin
    • Experiences of Latinx students in Texas public schools
    • Monsters of all stripes
    • Gender and class dynamics of body modification in ancient China
    • Dietary sugars and food policy
    • Studio Ghibli
    • The Mexican Revolution
    • Therapeutic benefits of virtual reality
    • The beauty of silence

I am reminded by your research that the wide and varied aspects of our world and our history are worth knowing about and wondering about.

I am reminded that what we can find and read in books and articles enriches us in ways that my own doomscrolling news habits do not.

I am reminded, in seeing you gain confidence as you gain understanding, that knowledge is transformative.

While the particulars of each topic and source fade for me quickly as I move from one student and one search to the next, what sticks is more of a sensibility I see in so many of you: that drive forward, unsteady and sluggish as it can sometimes feel. That sense of feeling your way through the dark, tracing the contours of your new surroundings and finding new sources of light to illuminate your path.

And, sure. Most of you are researching these topics because you must. You have been assigned a paper and will receive a grade, and would prefer a good one. That doesn’t change for me the fact that what you are doing and learning is worthwhile, and good.

Over these next few weeks, maybe even this next year, I want to try to remember that. To reorient myself, again and again, to what is worth attention. To what is worthwhile, and good. What in my work has given me that this fall? You. You, plus books. Thank you, and until next “Spring,” take care.

Prof. Anne Graf
FYE Librarian