Ten Minutes at Carleton

/ 19 February 2011

Well, to tell the truth, I spent more than ten minutes at Carleton, it just felt like it flew by. I had a wonderful time, and speaking out loud with engaging partners really helped my mental gridlock begin to break. Toward the end I was asked to share a few thoughts, and I wanted to capture the kernel of those thoughts here for future reference as well.

Why am I a librarian? The value of sharing. The value of organization. The value of considering context and the boundary of the question.

Part of what brought me to librarianship was the artifact of the book. The joy of paper and ink and glue binding together a conversation across time. Yet I am also a child of the digital age, sneaking onto a campus much like Carleton to learn to code on a PDP 11/70, going to a public library in Ohio to write software for a computer much like the PET I in a downtown Northfield shop window. I feel the joy of electrons, code, and protocol bringing together a conversation across not just time but space. What Tim Berners-Lee launched from his NeXT machine at CERN is only beginning to unfold. That we all agree to let people into our computers from a world wide network expresses the same value of sharing that drew me to libraries.

I believe in the mission of the library, but rather than that mission being to share the resources of the world with our community, it will be to share the resources of our community with the world. Oversimplified in all sorts of ways, I acknowledge, but in essence true, I think.

I believe in the mission of the academic library as a home for everyone on campus, a place to reach beyond the bounds of your own domain. A place that respects an intellectual journey taken in community.

I believe in the mission of the librarian to make resources discoverable, help the enquiring mind find purchase for it’s questions, to ensure faculty have the tools of their research and the fodder for their teaching.

I believe at least these three missions endure whatever rapids lie ahead for the institution of libraries, but we must grab them, own them, and help our patrons understand the value that they represent.


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