Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Changing How not What

Eric Lease Morgan has posted a lecture (in text form) he gave this month entitled Today's Digital Information Landscape. I find that his stuff is generally worth reading and this is no exception.

In the lecture he argues libraries don't need to change what they do but rather how they do it. ELM identifies the "what" that libraries do as "collection, organization, preservation, and dissemination." In the lecture he talks about specific opportunities afforded to the library community by XML, databases, indexes, computer networks, and more.

As I read this I wonder, do we really know or think about what we (academic librarians) do? We know how to do lots of things, acquire and catalog all types of material, circulate it, answer questions, etc. But when we are claiming serials or cataloging DVDs, what are we doing?

ELM writes that, "The catalog needs to be defined as the content needed by the students, instructors, and scholars necessary to do their learning, teaching, and research." He goes on do discuss the catalog as the place where collections and services connect. How we populate this catalog and the types of services we offer may need to change but finding and supplying the content needed by our community will not.

This leads me back to the topic of community. If we as librarians are not connected to what our community needs, both their information needs and their educational or instruction needs, we are left doing what we know how to do whether it is appropriate or not.

Finally, I also wonder if building community is part of what libraries do. Though we may think more pragmatically about our interactions with patrons, Stephen Abram for one argued that it is the uniquely human connections and the social network they create that makes libraries and librarians valuable.

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