small communities

This morning when I dropped my daughter off at daycare, Ms. Amanda said, “I don’t think I’ve seen you in jeans, before.” I smiled, and said I only had meetings with library staff and two faculty who already know me well, so I didn’t have to dress for anyone but me today. (Then Gwyneth spit up all over my leg. Baby puke cleans off denim better than wool trousers, anyway.) Not five minutes later, as I sat playing with my girl before going to my office, another parent dropped off his son in the Infant Room. That parent is also a campus colleague, and an alumnus of the College, and a member of our Alumni Board, to whom I had given a presentation over the weekend, on our campus Bicentennial in 2016.

While sitting on the floor in jeans and a sweater, holding an adorably overalls-clad little girl covered in spit-up, I invited him to join our committee as we do our final planning work, talked about some of the challenges we’re working around, and batted around a few ideas for solutions.

Small campuses, and small towns, are full of those connections, those moments of serendipity, and the chances to make them wonderful or to fail at them miserably. On small campuses, and in small towns, we’re always “on” — on duty, on the job, on our best behavior, on the record. You never know who knows who, who is related to whom, works with the other one, is married to another, or is part of the board of the next. Everyone has the potential to be connected in visible and invisible ways to everything you touch, and so everything you touch and everyone you see has value, potential, and, if you’re careless, pitfalls. Small professions like librarianship are the same. Every action has an echo, every connection has a network, and every choice has a legacy.

Small communities require that we not be careless with the human capital of our connectedness. I try not to be careless, but I’ve forgotten before, and I’ll forget again, and be forced to pull my foot out of my mouth. This morning, though, covered in denim and baby, I got it right.

One comment

  1. So true! Small towns, small campuses, small profession. I definitely identify with the feeling of always being “on.” Being very visible in the library and also a member of a local band, people often know way more about me than I know about them. Sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure, but just as often it’s nice to know that I am a part of my community.


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