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Dean's Update: Preparing for spring cleaning

March 6, 2019

I grew up in rented urban apartments—I recall six of them between the ages of 5 and 16. My mother always considered moving as an opportunity for deep “spring cleaning.” She enthusiastically instilled in each family member the expectation to sort through our stuff and put aside what we had not used or did not need, to give to the Salvation Army or to trash. It was a time when my father also made sure we knew where important documents were, and we often caught him fondly looking at old photos and memorabilia he had carted around—artifacts he wanted to be sure we moved again, no questions asked. 

Recently the occasion of an academic department moving to a new building made me think of these preparations my family made ahead of a move, as well as the help librarians should offer campus colleagues during their relocations.

It is a timely opportunity for librarians to help academics recognize that their scholarly contributions are valuable artifacts of a university’s history and its academic mission. Without delving into the importance of history and preserving evidence of what brought us to where we are today or what we have learned from our past to shape the future, we remind our colleagues that libraries have responsibilities to ensure evidence to gain these insights is available over time. It is also an opportunity to help change stale perceptions that libraries are only interested in taking care of evidence recorded through books or letters.

At Drexel, the University Archives is an important department within the Libraries that maintains physical collections reflecting our 127-year history. We are strengthening the Libraries’ human expertise to address this responsibility, particularly as we face new challenges of preserving digital artifacts, building integrated discovery systems, managing diverse metadata structures, and guiding practices to meet records retention schedules not only for business records, but for research output as well.

In this issue, we have featured a few articles that tell how the Libraries raises awareness and builds community around the value of an institution’s historic records. Starting with a summary of this year’s Celebrating Drexel Authors Event to a look at our newly revamped Library Explorers program and an interview with one of our 2019 Library Faculty Fellows, we chronicle the wider impact of our programs and staff on the University today and in the future.

As spring’s breezes inspire us to clean out our closets, I encourage you to check with your local library—public or academic—before you toss out evidence of your history to determine how it relates to your own communities.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries