Swimming to the other side by Christine Schafer

Welcome to the library’s blog and welcome to the beginning of Fall Semester 2014.

As I celebrate my six month anniversary as Dean of Library and Information Services, I pause to reflect on my journey here and the continuing journey as part of the Metropolitan State University family.

Who am I?

I was raised in a southern suburb of Chicago during the 60’s and 70’s; a child of white privilege. I learned quickly what prejudice and hatred were around my family’s dining room table and in the public schools I attended. I struggled with this. It felt very wrong.

Photo of Chicago skylineImmediately after high school, while continuing my journey of white privilege, I set off to attend Luther College where, based on my “merit,” I graduated with a stellar 2.58 GPA. I had mastered the art of socializing and doing just enough to get by. Embarrassingly, I don’t recall ever setting foot in Luther’s Preus Library.

Life changed. I married a career Marine and for the next 20 years we moved ourselves and growing family all around the country; Virginia, California, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Iowa, South Carolina, and Alabama. Our experiences living in so many culturally diverse places opened our eyes to many rich traditions, lifestyles, and histories which shaped my personal growth and forward journey.

I went to library school. Odd, isn’t it, after never setting foot in a college library during my undergraduate years, I decide to get a library degree at age 37? It was a perfect move for me. After library school I thrived working with the culturally rich population of library patrons at the University of Hawaii and Honolulu Community College.

Life changed again

Our time with the military ended, and we moved our family from Hawaii back to the Midwest; rural southwestern Mi9781609804848_largennesota for a while and then Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Although Sioux Falls has some cultural diversity, the life of an abundantly culturally diverse community was minimal. I still loved being a librarian but missed the opportunity for the varied interactions I used to encounter. I was looking for something more in life and found it through a rather life-changing experience working on a leadership degree. This wasn’t a degree about corporate leadership; it was a degree about servant leadership in all areas of life, locally and globally. The readings and experiences I had during my coursework changed the lens I look though. Takaki’s A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America opened my eyes to a different American history than I had been taught in school.

A trip to South Africa offered interactions with a society containing stark contrasts in reality; Cape Town, iron bars and concertina wire around our accommodation, shopping malls, game reserves, apartheid, higher education, Mandela, Robbin Island, townships, HIV/AIDS, wineries. I came back truly wishing to keep the emotional scabs of my journey raw enough, in my life of privilege, to continue to seek ways to assist, ways of taking me out of my own comfort zone and into the uncomfortable zone; the uncomfortable life that so much of humanity faces each day.

And now, here I am at Metropolitan State University. I finally feel I belong to a place where I can make a difference in the lives of those around me. I can immerse myself in the cultural diversity of Dayton’s Bluff and Saint Paul. I can interact with the students and public who come into the library for so many needs and reasons. I can participate in rich programming like the Dayton’s Bluff Book Club, local art exhibitions at the Gordon Parks Gallery, amazing discussion and sharing in the Women Powering Women Series, amazing outreach to teens in Teens Know Best…the opportunities are endless.

As we begin the new semester, I challenge you during your time here at Metropolitan State University, to find your own “uncomfortable zone.” Get involved in something new, reach out to others, and of course, please join the library as we celebrate our 10th Anniversary in October. My hope is our collaboration and outreach in partnership with the Saint Paul Public Library and the Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship will continue to grow and make a positive mark on the communities we serve.

In closing, I find inspiration in these song lyrics which play through my head frequently:

We are living ‘neath the great Big DipperPhoto of a dock extending into water.

We are washed by the very same rain

We are swimming in the stream together

Some in power and some in pain

We can worship this ground we walk on

Cherishing the beings that we live beside

Loving spirits will live forever

We’re all swimming to the other side*

I feel blessed to be at Metropolitan State University! Have a wonderful new semester as you continue on your own life’s journey.

* Humphries, P. (1992). Swimming to the other side. On Same rain [CD]. Moving Forward Music.

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