Thursday, November 4, 2010

Libraries, the Universe, and Everything

Barbara Fister has a good response to "Truth be Told," the latest report from Project Information Literacy. She asks questions that preoccupy my professional mind quite frequently: "For instructors, this may mean thinking hard about what the purpose of a research assignment is...What, ultimately, will students know, be able to do, and value as a result of the experience?...For librarians...How do we guide them to the best sources when most of our efforts in developing collections has been to simply make them bigger?"

Partly these questions preoccupy me because I'm tasked with things like aligning collection development with learning outcomes in an assessment plan. Partly they preoccupy me because they are enjoyable, fiddly kinds of questions. Mostly they preoccupy me because I like to know what the heck it is that I'm doing. I am responsible for a small library with a small staff and a small space and a small budget. I can burn through the available time and money at an impressive rate. I don't recommend it, though, and even if resources were more abundant, I think I'm a person who is happiest when my work is some recognizable part of a purposeful whole. "I have fun and keep people reasonably pleased" isn't a bad vision for my work, but it is not that compelling, either.

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