I am writing from Lesotho, Southern Africa to testify how the love and the faithfulness of God has sustained me during this global pandemic. I grew up in Pitseng, in the rural area of Lesotho, and was raised by my mother after my father abandoned us. It was not easy, but the love of God and His faithfulness kept us. I know that God is love; His love is unmeasurable and incomparable; His promises are faithful; He will never leave us nor forsake us.
It’s obvious in the posture. There’s a unique brand of sheepish hesitation that might as well announce audibly, “I’m here for the Poetry assignment.” The assignment requires students to collect the following: the title and author of a librarian’s favorite poem, information on finding poetry in the library’s print collection, and a selfie with a librarian. Most students have never asked a librarian for anything like a favorite poem or a selfie. Most of them are a bit tentative as they approach the Research Help Desk (they often come in pairs or small groups – safety in numbers!). They aren’t entirely sure where to start. Occasionally, as they pause in indecision, I’ll just break the ice by asking, “Assignment for Poetry?” The relief is visible. They don’t have to explain the assignment to me. They no longer worry that I will think they are weirdos for requesting selfies with someone they’ve just met. They know I already know what they need.
Imagine my frustration with my Dollar Store bargain. In spite of the clock on my computer, the time of day on my cellphone, and my wristwatch, I wanted to note the time—and it was exactly the same time it was when I last checked. Yes, I changed the batteries yesterday! Something about the big hand on the 11 evidently is messing this clock up. It makes it almost to the top, and then it’s just too hard to move on. Every once in a while it gets stuck.
I spent most of the spring and summer months working from home except a few “in office” days. I normally spend several summer weeks in other places. With those events cancelled or moved online, I began to get “cabin fever.” As a single person, I saw mostly myself, my three cats, and the view from my home. With a vacation out of the question, a day trip where safe social distances could be maintained offered a solution. Last week I fueled my car and drove to Asheville, about 90 minutes away. I stopped at a fast food chicken restaurant for a “picnic lunch” and headed north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As I stopped at the first overlook, I marveled at the breathtaking scene before me. As I pondered events necessitating my need to get away, I realized God brought me to this place to remind me to lift my eyes to Him. The previous week, library colleagues and faculty members questioned what we would do if students returned to campus with the present virus spread level, I told them we “trust in God.” However, God knew I needed a fresh reminder in my own life of this simple truth. The panorama before me was soothing to both my eyes and to my spirit.
I have spent a lot of time reflecting on suffering and death lately. As some of you know, my daughter suffers from a chronic, potentially fatal condition, and the year 2020 started for me with the death of my mother in January, followed by a February struggling to help my family come to grips with the suicide of my young nephew.
I am not a morning person. I would like to be a morning person, and I occasionally feel really good and productive when I rise early, but generally speaking, I am simply not a morning person. But for one glorious week in November, I became a morning person at the Wesleyan-Holiness Digital Library (WHDL) development team meeting. What compelled me to get up in the morning was the glorious sunrise, one of the many beauties of God’s created world.
Librarians are not strangers to uncertainty. For at least a generation, developments in technology have raised serious questions about how the future of the library, and the library of the future, will look. Further, sweeping industry changes leave most librarians facing serious concerns about the future of their departments, if not their institutions. Given that uncertainty has long been so pervasive, why do we still yearn for certainty?
Who are we? As we read these verses from 1 Peter, may we remember that we are not primarily librarians, and our main job—even at work—is not to provide research help, create tutorials, or select new resources. Our roles and responsibilities as Christian librarians are merely the manifestation of the deeper call on our lives. This deeper call is for all of us who “have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:3).
As a librarian, I often hear how lucky I am to work in a quiet, calm place. This is true, but those of us “in the trenches” get to see a different side of libraries. We know they can at times also be as hectic and stressful as any other workplace. While most of us are wearing multiple hats and dealing with unanticipated challenges, we may not always see the library as a place of shelter and peace. However, the reality is that often our patrons see us as a refuge.