Deans Update: Learning in a World of Constant Change

Deans Update: Learning in a World of Constant Change
Jenny James Lee
February 4, 2015

[The Dean's Update is a reoccurring column introducing the Libraries' monthly newsletter In Circulation.]

Last month, I was invited to speak to a gathering of Drexel donors at the close of their luncheon. The audience included a mix of generations – mostly alumni – who I challenged to question what they valued from their university experience that inspired a habit of giving thanks. The luncheon was for many of Drexel’s most dedicated donors – giving regularly for numerous years, or planning to donate through their estate.

My story highlights the value of an engaging education that prepared me to become an intentional life-long learner with a capacity to address constant change.

This ability to address and adapt to constant change is a valued outcome of higher education. The constant flux that characterizes the 21st century is nowhere more evident than in how technologies, the Internet and rapid growth of digital information and data have changed our lives, from how we read, to how we learn.   Such change continually challenges librarians to consider the contribution an academic library provides to improve the student learning experience to develop strong learning skills to be successful throughout their lifetime.  

In preparing my comments, I was influenced by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s discussion of different learning approaches.  A basic notion of learning is to focus on development of skills or acquiring information through “learning about,” for example course content.  Putting learning into a context, such as a chosen profession, calls for “learning to be.”  But as Thomas and Brown note, in the 21st century, learning about and learning to be are not enough and they encourage us to adopt a focus of “learning to become.”  The outcomes of engagement with a library echo this approach to “think of learning as a practice of becoming over and over again1.”  The library is a learning enterprise providing different strategies to foster development of the self-directed life-long learner.

This month’s In Circulation highlights some of the Libraries recent efforts to facilitate the Drexel student learning experience to embrace learning to become—to use new software [such as Browzine] to organize their own collection of publications, to join discussion of social topics such as civil rights with stimulation of information presented through an exhibit, to influence service improvements through offering feedback, and to help identify what is important for round-the-clock study spaces such as those explored in Hahnemann Library.  For those interested in hearing the ten-minute comments offered at the donor luncheon, please visit our website.

Happy February,

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries

1 Thomas, Douglas and John Seely Brown, “Learning for a world of Constant Change: Homo Sapiens, Homo Faboer and Homo Ludens revisited.”  Available online: