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Dean's Update: October Celebrates Efforts to Keep Recorded Knowledge Alive

October 2, 2019

October’s calendar schedules national and international celebrations of two movements that are core to the purpose of libraries—to preserve and to disseminate knowledge. In this issue of In Circulation, we share the Drexel Libraries’ acknowledgement of October’s American Archives Month, as well as International Open Access Week, and invite readers to join us in reflecting on challenges and new strategies to keep recorded knowledge alive.

The University Archives staff continually process materials to preserve Drexel’s history and to facilitate and inspire engaging with that history through records and artifacts. Read about their recent work to process the Drexel Players Collection that exposes records of Drexel students’ engagement with theater productions since the founding of the University. Preparing the materials for future discovery inspired questions about changing attitudes toward society’s empathy to diversity and how to help today’s students understand their own different attitudes—and those of their institution’s—towards racial and cultural differences.

Keeping knowledge alive is also a challenge amidst growing economic disparity of readers and the rising costs of commercially disseminated scholarship. Government funders and libraries around the world are increasingly advocating Open Access intentions to facilitate greater access to research output. Publishers are revisiting business models to meet mounting pressures to make knowledge available more equitably—so that inquisitive minds can build their explorations on the results of those working before them.  

Not only researchers from different countries face economic disparity. Students in higher education also have different abilities to access readings assigned for their studies. Learn about recent attempts our Library Faculty Fellows have made to adopt OERs (Open Educational Resources), such as including open textbooks in their course designs to contain the rising cost of education—beyond tuition and board—for students’ out of pocket expenses. The article includes details on how to attend (on-site or remotely) an Open Access Week panel discussion where the three faculty will share their experiences and insights with the challenge of minimizing the impact of economic disparity among our own students.

Last month the Drexel fall quarter began. Enjoy a short visual summary of how Libraries staff joined others, to welcome new students to campus and to show them knowledge is alive and well and awaiting their engagement. Read as well about students who came to Drexel a few years before this new class and assumed leadership roles through which they have worked to improve the valued environment for learning they quickly discovered in the Libraries.  

Each new academic year reminds us of what we undertake in the Libraries and our contributions to ensuring that knowledge stays alive. Nearly 230 years ago, Thomas Jefferson affirmed his support for the noble cause of preserving knowledge for future intentional access, in a letter he wrote in 1791 to Ebenezer Hazard, a businessman, a publisher, and, later, the US Postmaster General: 

Let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident. This being the tendency of your undertaking, be assured there is no one who wishes it more success...” 

Archival preservation and library facilitation of discovery and access to records and publications continue to be fundamental to keeping knowledge alive. October is a good month to celebrate that history.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries