Dean's Update: A Physical Destination?

Dean's Update: A Physical Destination?
Jenny James Lee
August 2, 2013

[The Dean's Update is a column introducing each issue of the Libraries' monthly e-newsletter In Circulation.]

The library as a physical destination has been on my mind for some time.

We can all see the challenges to the traditional reasons for maintaining a library facility. A big place to house books seems intuitively less necessary as sources of information are continually easier to access through tablets and mobile phones. A set of quiet rooms with tables and chairs for students to sit and read begins to look outdated as ‘digital natives’ stop and meet friends anywhere while on their way to class or the gym, using their headphones to filter unwelcome sounds. They find electronic resources through various devices and sort competing stimulations for texting, viewing, watching and finding. Precious square footage designed for shelving books once illustrated the value of the library, but is now eyed for collaborative spaces where librarians and educational partners can enhance learning behaviors that are only started through reading a book. And yet, our library continues to be heavily visited and seriously utilized for gaining new knowledge.

The library’s value as a learning environment is linked to advancing a mission of education and research. Behaviors within it are dramatically changing: as access to information increasingly does not depend on going to a house of publications, as acquisition of new knowledge becomes more learner-centric and less teacher-driven, and as assessment focuses less on capacity than on achievement of impact.

Academic libraries are not only the heart of the university, as chiseled in some 20th century doorways, but are life-lines that connect higher education to scholarship, for solving problems in society and preparing an intelligent workforce. As a place, the library, as is the university, is not only a destination. Both offer environments for the interactions of people and of knowledge. They are where people formalize their behaviors to learn, research and teach. Knowledge is the culmination of a life cycle of creating and transforming data to information and in the academy, knowledge is nurtured through organization, preservation, discoverability, and utilization of information communicating it. The library’s mission continues to be the steward of knowledge in the service of people who learn and research to improve society.

This issue of In Circulation offers a few insights into the Drexel Libraries recent efforts toward creating useful learning environments. Read about creating new forms of information about the University’s history through oral recordings in the Archives. Meet our new manager of discovery systems who will lead us in improving systems to more seamlessly discover local and remote sources of authoritative information. And join us in celebrating alumni pride in contributing to our improvement of a study room by honoring a librarian whose Drexel education laid a foundation for professional activities still valued today.

It is not all about space, but rather the excitement of what happens within it.

Danuta A. Nitecki, Ph.D.
Dean of Libraries