My College Job is Obsolete

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 22 of #BTBC14
Share a story from your college years.

     I went to the University of Illinois in Urbana- Champaign.  I worked at the Undergraduate Library for my freshman, sophomore, and junior year.  I worked at the Reserve Desk, where professors would put articles "on reserve."  Students would come to my desk, give me their driver's license or student ID, and I would give them the article, which was stored in a three pronged file folder cover.  They could read the article for an hour I think before they had to return it.  While I sat at the desk, sometimes I prepared new files for classes or re-shelved ones that had been returned.  Most of the time, I just sat there and read a book myself.  

     I recently was back on campus for a football game with my niece, who is going to be a senior in high school this year.  We turned it into a college visit of sorts, where I gave her a tour of my old alma mater.  I showed her some of the buildings, the quad, some nostalgic things (like Lincoln's nose and the eternal flame) and then we got to the Undergrad.  I bragged about how it was built underground, and showed them the view from above.  We then went in for the grand tour.  I showed them the computer lab (which wasn't there before) and the coffee shop (which wasn't there before).  We went to the lower level and turned the corner and as I showed her where I sat for three years, I looked at a wall.  Turns out, the Reserve Desk isn't there anymore.  

     How could part of my past not be there?!?!?!

     Could it be part of the past?

     Back when I graduated (in 1999) we had email, but professors certainly did not email us, let alone their class files.  We did not go to websites or wikis to get files, either.  We used floppy disks to store our data, not flash drives or airdrop, so we couldn't just transfer files like that either.  We did research with books and microfiche.  Google had been founded, but it wasn't a public company yet.  Student life was clearly very different back then.

     In that moment, standing there with my niece and admitting that the world did not need my college job anymore, I felt OLD.  

     It was also at that moment, my bruised, old ego aside, that I realized that we are indeed preparing our students for a world that is different than ours.  We have to really think about that.  

     My job might be obsolete, but I am not.  What qualities can I transfer from that job to jobs that might be in the future?  Or what qualities made it obsolete?  My students deserve an education that prepares them for their future, whatever that might hold.  I need to keep an open mind to be ready for that future. 

     In the meantime, I will embrace the tech we have now while reliving my past.  I kept snapping pictures on campus like a tourist.   I turned to my niece and said, "It will be nice to have pictures of all these places."  When she asked why I don't already have some, I explained that my cell phone was only a cell phone back then.  In fact, it was only turned on while I was driving from Chicago to Champaign.  She didn't really know how to react to that.  Wow, times sure have changed.  :)


  1. It is amazing to think back about how much things have changed since we were in college, and to think that the students I have right now in my class weren't even born yet when I was in college. When my class is waiting for a webpage to load on the computer, I kill the time by telling them how I NEVER had to wait for anything on a computer to load when I was in first grade. Then I ask them why. Usually they decide it's because my school had some sort of super sonic computers. When I tell them it's because we didn't have computer they look at me like I must be from another planet. :)
    Not very fancy

  2. I remember having a computer at home with a blue screen and no mouse. All you could do was type and print it out on that paper with the holes along the sides. And now I am teaching kids using smart boards and laptops!