Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nothing New Under the Sun: Fun Research Consult

I had my first research consultation in awhile today. My former Bosslady of Reference and Instruction sent a wayward English major wrestling with an advanced-level political science paper my way. The student's paper was a comparison of rhetorical techniques used by women candidates during campaigns. An interesting topic, and my old polisci-nerd self was excited.

In the course of helping the student wrestle her topic into a shape she wanted, while keeping to the recommended direction given by the course professor, I recommended that she try to stick to female candidates who ran at the same level, with similar stakes. The student noted that out of her initial list of female politicians, Condoleeza Rice hadn't had to run for anything, and so didn't have similar speeches as Palin and Clinton, and that O'Donnell was running at a completely different level.

Older librarians may well laugh, but I prodded the student. "You know, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were not the only women to vie for presidential/vice-presidential honors." I got a confused look in return. "Her name escapes me, but there was a female VP candidate way back in the 80s when I was wee." (Give me a break, I was five for that election, and my polisci chops are in international relations *grin*.) Seconds later, Geraldine Ferraro on the monitor, her speech transcripts beside those of Clinton and Palin, footage of her speeches and commercials during the campaign on YouTube along with the other womens'. The student's eyes went wide as we listened to Ferraro accept the VP nomination. They grew even wider at this really fantastic doomsday commercial from the 80s campaign. And her face as Ferraro snapped back at Bush Senior during a debate for sounding patronizing...priceless.

Oh, yes, good stuff. Living in the future is awesome.

Even better was seeing a very young woman's mind churning at top speed, the surprise on her face at the knowledge that yes, this had all happened before. A woman had reached for the Vice Presidency before. The commercials all addressed the concerns of the elderly about the inadequacy of social security, the concerns of parents about health care and education, and protecting jobs. And really, not much in politics at all had changed since 1984.

Some of us take this for granted, this feeling that there is nothing new under the sun, knowing that much of what we see today is more of the same pulled forward from former threads of history. At 31, I'm young enough that it doesn't happen to me often, but when it does -- wow.

It was fun to put my reference librarian hat back on and help a student out with an interesting topic. It was thrilling to see a new young voter doing some hard thinking and connecting dots on her own.


Mary Jo Finch said...

Don't forget Shirley Chisholm who ran respectably for the Democratic nomination in 1972 "in spite of hopeless odds... to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo." She was a seven-term Congresswoman from NY.

Colleen said...

Mary Jo - thank you! Am looking up some information to send to the student on Chisholm. Much appreciated!

Virginia L. Cairns said...

Bravo! This was exactly what I hoped would happen when I sent the consult your way. I love it when we have these moments where we can see clearly that librarianating is MUCH bigger than just helping find answers to research questions. :-)