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Dean's Update: The Library, A Platform for the Life-Long Quest for Learning

January 10, 2018

John Seely Brown suggests we reimagine the library as a platform, moving beyond traditions of a “platform” being a product[1]. In the context of technology, a platform refers to the operating system—that which supports applications to function, and perhaps more relevant in today’s age, to constantly change with compatibility to existing devices. 

Academic libraries are challenged to be relevant to the changing ways 21st century students prepare for successful professional and civic lives. At Drexel, the Libraries strives to inspire the quest for life-long learning as one of its strategic contributions to increase the value of higher education. This issue of In Circulation highlights our third major focus articulated in the Libraries’ refreshed Strategic Plan 2017-2022: to inspire a life-long quest for learning. Our approach is to guide the Drexel community to utilize any information responsibly and to build learning environments that promote self-directed learning.

Principles of active learning behaviors and intrinsic motivations to learn drive the Libraries’ “platform” for becoming a life-long learner. We experiment with designing different learning environments to inspire our students and others in the campus community to take ownership of framing their own questions and exploring knowledge—formally documented as well as shared among peers—to create and exchange new ideas.

Unlike the formal classroom or lab, library learning environments are free of course objectives and grading; they are venues for learners to set up their own goals and seek assistance to achieve those goals through engagement with information resources—whether publications, experts or peers. But like formal teaching and learning settings, library spaces bring people together with intentions of learning. This month’s featured articles highlight how we continue the traditions of “libraries building community” by fostering ways to bring those with like interests together to support personal growth. 

Our ScholarSip program, now in its sixth year, offers a platform for bringing faculty and professional staff together to nurture intellectual life around campus topics of interdisciplinary research, doing so in a social learning environment. 

The introduction of new workshops for first-year students accessible through the Blackboard platform allows online community building as learners find the interactive sessions helpful to strengthen their skills to find information resources.

In the article Kitchen Table Talks Generate New Ideas for Addressing Libraries’ Strategic Objectives, we highlight a different approach to engage the Libraries staff in exploring new and imaginative ways of advancing our strategic directions. An amazing pool of creative and diverse ideas emerged from these small group chats, and we are in the process of seeing how to implement a few that we hope will help Drexel students experiment with ways to become and to practice being life-long learners.

Many of the discussions at these kitchen table talks also overlap with progress made this fall to introduce some new technology and furnishings in the W. W. Hagerty Library’ 24-7 space that we think will inspire our students, faculty and staff alike to engage with active social learning.

Renaming the space—previously called the Bookmark Café and home to the Taco Bell food retail service—was also a topic of discussion during a recent brainstorming session among about 25 students who attended the fall 2017 ScholarSnack event. From suggestions made during ScholarSnack and the staff kitchen table talks, we crafted the “Dragons’ Learning Den” as a new suggestive name for what we hope will continue to evolve as a destination for those seeking to explore their own life-long learning habits.

We have started 2018 in freezing weather and unexpected time away before the winter quarter begins. Nevertheless, the Libraries is ready to ignite initiatives to be relevant and add new applications to our operating system for being the place to enjoy preparing and fine-tuning life-long learning habits.

Happy New Year! 

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries

[1] Reimaging Libraries and Learning for the 21st Century, transcript of keynote presentation John Seely Brown made at the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Library Innovation, Aspen Colorado, August 10, 2015.

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