Author Archives: Shyam Sharma

About Shyam Sharma

Shyam Sharma is an assistant professor in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric. He teaches a variety of courses including Writing For the Profession, Business Thesis, Writing in the Disciplines, Communicating Science, and Basic and Intermediate Writing. His research interests include Composition pedagogy and theory, academic writing in/across the disciplines, multimodal composition and digital scholarship, rhetorical traditions and histories, and multilingualism and language policy.

Yes, Going to the Library Is an Assignment in this Class

Assignment 3: Going to the Library (instruction and guidelines) 

Yes, going to the library is an assignment in most classes I teach–even in college. Tell me in the comments section if I don’t convince you why this is an important assignment for a college course. Read on.

I wish I didn’t have to say this, but the library contains materials that the Internet doesn’t. Using the library may not be as easy as clicking on hyperlinks, but libraries contain the knowledge created by societies around the world over the course of centuries and in some cases millennia. Not all books have been scanned by Google. Yes, there is a “search” function on the Internet (the library’s version of it is far less efficient–although that’s the assignment you are required to do, so keep reading); but the library has a powerful “organize” function that the Internet almost totally lacks. The library has quality control, professional librarians ready to help you, different types of services, and often fun activities — not to mention archives, lounges, study areas, often free coffee . . . but, wait, how do you compare the last few items with the Internet? And I’ve not even told you what the library assignment is. It’s fun– just read on.

I know you are wondering why a library visit should be  an “assignment” with credit points attached to it. You will see why when you read the assignment instruction, which is as follows.

First, get a camera. If you can use a phone camera, that’s fine. As you enter the entrance of the library (and make sure that I can recognize from the picture which library you’re visiting), take the first picture of yourself walking in. Go up stairs, to the third floor, and find the book Cultural Democracy: Politics, Media, New Technology (Call Number: HN65 .T7 1997). Just look around the HN tag and search for the number until you find the book. Take a second picture of yourself with the book in the background when you find it (a selfie type, okay image is fine). If the book seems to be checked out at the time, don’t worry (you’re not supposed to check it out anyway). If the book is there, take it out, look at the content, blurb, and publication information; read a page or two from any chapter that seems most interesting; then put it back where it was.

Now, move a few steps to the left of HN65 .T7 1997, read the titles of a dozen other books, taking a third picture (capturing a dozen or so books). Pick one book whose title you find intriguing, look at the content, blurb, and publication information; read a page or two from any chapter that seems most interesting; then put it back where it was (remember: in the library, a book misplaced is a book lost). Take a third picture of yourself, holding this book.

Return to the location of HN64 .T7 1997, then browse a dozen more books to the right of this book, then take a fourth picture of the spines of the second dozen or so books. Pick one book whose title seems interesting, look at the content, blurb, and publication information; read a page or two from any chapter that seems most interesting; then put it back where it was. Take a fourth picture of yourself, with the third book.

Finally, delete all the pictures–unless you want to keep them. The assignment is over.

The objective of the assignment was to go to the library, to browse books, and to realize that the Internet is not so rich, so organized, so friendly a place as the library in the same way. The two places can’t replace each other, and there are things about the library that can only be appreciated by going there. You get an A.

By the way, as you walk out of the library, especially if you decide to check out a book (optional), consider saying hi to the fellow student working at the check out desk.