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Deans Update: A Memorable October to November Story

November 12, 2020

Releasing this issue of In Circulation a tad later than we typically do allows us to reflect on the Libraries’ activities related to probably the most unique presidential election any of us have ever witnessed. However, as is true of nearly every other dramatic event we have experienced this year, we cannot predict when this month’s story ends. 

You read last month how a few of us in the Drexel Libraries saw an opportunity to assert the tradition of libraries playing an important role of facilitating voting and encouraging the important civic duty to be a well-informed action. This In Circulation issue includes a brief recap of our “Countdown to Vote” webinar series with links to recordings of its five informative presentations and discussions of different topics related to voting and elections. 

More than 100 people attended at least one of the live Zoom sessions, and for one session co-hosted with the Committee of Seventy (a non-profit advocacy group), over 700 Facebook views were recorded within the first three hours. We were pleased that our efforts did resonate with this many, given all the other demands for attention of Pennsylvanian residents living in a fierce battleground state at the center of the 2020 presidential election. We may continue the webinar series to connect interested learners with experts who can help us understand the post-election topics we are bombarded with by the media and others.

I for one learned from our series more than I knew before about the Electoral College, the various ways to cast ballots, and the challenges of election reform. I was one of the millions of Americans who experienced a new way of voting in early October when I deposited my mail-in ballot at Philadelphia’s City Hall. Passing the statute of Octavius V. Catto, the 19th-century African American educator and civil rights activist, on the way to the deposit box brought another dimension to my heightened appreciation and commitment to voting as a civic responsibility.  

This year’s election experiences also raised awareness that voting is both a rational and an emotional experience. The DUL was honored to nurture the rational side by helping our community engage with authoritative information. The joy shared on Philadelphia streets Saturday after Pennsylvania delivered the final votes to tip the winning scales marked many of our emotional reactions to the importance of voting. Catto’s words seemed to be voiced as well: “There must come a change which shall force upon this nation that course which providence seems wisely to be directing for the mutual benefit of peoples.”

The election—during a pandemic—took front seat among events this month. However, this issue of In Circulation also brings attention to another important topic recognized this fall: Open Access.

Two articles about Open Access (OA) highlight ways the DUL raises awareness of the challenges and opportunities to ensure greater equitable access to scholarship and educational resources in an age of growing commercialization of access to information. The second article offers reactions from a sample of Drexel faculty about the importance of OA for them and their research and courses.

Attention to both the elections and Open Access illustrates in different ways the Libraries’ commitment to advocating for the power of access to information, while raising awareness of the challenges to ensure self-directed learners both on- and off-campus can turn to libraries for help in understanding the issues.

Best wishes for a healthy, safe and relaxing Thanksgiving, when many will be grateful for the freedom to be informed.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries