Opening Remarks by Paula McGrew at the Faculty Colloquium on April 7, 2016
View From the Plane
In 2011, I was given a remarkable opportunity to go to the Salzburg Seminar – Session 482. Our topic was “The Future of Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture” It was a gathering of 58 library, museum, and cultural heritage leaders from around the world. I had done my homework and my advanced reading. But, the first big thing that I learned was on the flight from Vienna to Salzburg.
As I was looking out the window at the beautiful farmland below, I was thinking to myself that this looked a lot like flying over Illinois. Mile after mile of flat farmland marked off in 1 mile squares like a quilt.
Then — much to my amazement and confusion — the people across the aisle from me started ooooohing and aaaaahing loudly and jumping up to take a better look out of the windows on their side of the plane. “Wow!!! We have never seen mountains this huge before!”
Taking another look out of my window, I rolled my eyes a bit — because, after all, I knew mountains. I had grown up in West Virginia. The Mountain State! But, looking across the aisle and out the window on the other side of the plane, I realized that THEY were looking at the Alps! And, that they actually WERE pretty amazing!
Then it dawned on me. Here we all were in the same plane, at the same time, going the same direction, but our perspectives could not have been more different.
So, here we are. In Buckhannon. At West Virginia Wesleyan College. Where we all know that our purpose as an institution is.
“West Virginia Wesleyan College challenges its students to a life-long commitment to develop their intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and leadership potential and to set and uphold standards of excellence.” We “aspire to graduate broadly educated men and women” who:
- Think critically and creatively,
- Communicate effectively,
- Act responsibly, and
- Demonstrate their local and world citizenship through service.
But we have the wildly different (at times) perspectives of faculty, administrators, librarians, student life staff, coaches, etc.
Even within the library, we have different perspectives and roles: cataloging, Interlibrary Loan, circulation, collection development (including access to electronic resources), instruction, outreach, and archives. Introduced Beth Rogers: Reference, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Brett Miller: College Archivist, Records Manager, & Music Librarian, Carol Bowman: Coordinator of Access Services, Acquisitions Librarian, Supervisor of Student Assistants. Sue Roth: Cataloger was unable to be here. Carol Smith: Interlibrary Loan and Periodicals Coordinator, Rhonda Bennett: Assistant in Cataloging, and Alice Teets: Library Associate and Wilma Whitlock, night supervisor were also “introduced”. In other words, we have lots of roles, titles, and perspectives in our own building!
So, what about our purpose?
Many of you know that I am a huge fan of TEDtalks. Recently, I came across one that had me thinking about it for days. How to Know Your Life’s Purpose in 5 Minutes (Adam Leipzig)
- 80% of the people from his 25th Yale Reunion were unhappy, still didn’t know what their lives were about
- The happy 20% had studied literature and Renaissance rhetoric
- The were theater people and history geeks
- They had studied for the joy of learning
- These people knew 5 things:
- Who they were
- What they did
- Who they did it for
- What those people wanted or needed
- What those people got out of it
- As we all strive to fulfill the mission of WVWC together, asking ourselves these questions is a great place to start
- But, we all have different purposes and perspectives along the way.
In the library, I believe that we are these things (and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my library colleagues had much to add to or tweak with these).
- Who we are: People who are curious about everything, and who regularly (and proudly) refer to ourselves as “Book Nerds” – people with a deep desire to be helpful.
- What we do: Provide people with the raw materials and tools to do their work (of teaching or learning).
- Who we do it for: The Faculty, Staff and Students of West Virginia Wesleyan College
- What do these people want or need? —- Information, Inspiration, and Entertainment.
- What do these people get out of what we give them:
- Information for their own research and continuing intellectual journeys
- Information for teaching in their disciplines
- Information for learning
- Inspiration for millions of things that can’t be assessed or even known
- Entertainment – movies-current fiction-music to help them relax after a hard day of teaching or learning so that they can recharge to start again
- A place to connect with information,with other people, and even with their own thoughts.
- Richer, more enjoyable, and more meaningful lives.
According to the formula used by Adam Leipzig, then, when someone asks me about the purpose of the library, the answer is,
“The library is operated by a group of people who are curious about everything, and have a deep desire to be helpful. We provide Information, Inspiration, and Entertainment to Faculty, Staff, and Students and the raw materials and tools to do their work. We help them to discover richer, more enjoyable, and more meaningful lives.”
So – now for Paula’s Library Manifesto (a word which means public statement of purpose)
What Libraries Do: Collect-Organize-Preserve-Share
What Libraries Are: Collections-Place-Service
What Libraries Provide: Information-Inspiration-Entertainment
Why We Do It: To make sure that faculty and students have the raw materials that they need in order to fulfill THEIR purposes.
Click here to see the full discussion at the Colloquium.