Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Library and the University

During a recent library staff meeting, it became apparent that various staff members had differing views of what role the library served in the context of the university.  I think this is an issue that could surface at many academic libraries. I would almost say that we could call this a library identity crisis.

I had a bit of a pre-knowledge of this issue at my university due to my involvement in library marketing.  It is very difficult to market something that has a mission or vision statement that is vague or that is difficult to translate into on-the-ground action.  It’s also difficult to market something where those doing the day-to-day have differing opinions of how the work should be done.

In a much discussed recent article on InsideHigherEd, this very issue came up.  Are we working to help students “satisfice” or do we strive to push them to the next level of information literacy skills?  Do we give them fish or teach them to fish?  Is it bad customer service to say, “I can’t just give you a list of articles, but if you come to my office, we can work out how you search for articles”?  Are there different standards for undergraduate and graduate students?  Should there be?

I admit, I’m probably going to raise more questions in this post than provide any answers.  Part of that is because I’m young and new at this librarianship thing and don’t have the clout to say one way or the other.  The other part is that I haven’t exactly decided where I stand on these issues.  All I know is that the conversation must continue in order for us to be able to provide the best service possible to students, whatever that service may be.

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