I had planned something else for this week’s Take One, but having just come back from the CUL Talent Show I am just in awe of the incredible array of artistic talent possessed by library staff, from singing and dancing, to playing a wonderful array of instruments, to poetry, photography, cooking, woodcarving, birdmaking, textile and bead art, printmaking…and more. I’ve taken piano lessons for ten years now and still cannot consistently maintain a beat, so I appreciate how much effort goes into developing artistic talent.
Returning late Friday night from a week of traveling on Cornell business, I breathed a sigh of relief to be back home in Upstate New York. I love the natural beauty of gorges and waterfalls and glacier-carved Finger Lakes. But I also love that Ithaca is such a caring community. Its citizens are generous, engaged, and supported to an extent I’ve not witnessed in other places I’ve lived. I’m not the only one who feels this way. In a half hour or so of talking to Library staff several months ago, I learned the following:
Diversity, teamwork, transparency, innovation, fairness, empowerment, recognition... these are just a few components of a healthy organizational climate. In Ithaca, we hear over and over again that Wegmans is a great place to shop because it’s a great place to work.
Can we say the same about CUL?
Abraham Lincoln thought no one would really care about the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. He told us so in the Address itself: The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
Every year, the American Library Association sponsors banned books week to draw attention to book censoring. The week of Sept 22-28 will be the 31st time the ALA has brought attention to the one of our most prized rights: the freedom to read. A highlight of each year is the listing of books that have been censored or banned in schools, libraries, and other places. ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded 464 challenges in 2012, up more than 25% from the year before.
In preparation for my first trip to Cuba in 2000, I sent an email out to the library system two days before I left, asking folks if they had any old jeans, medicines and toiletries (aspirin, vitamins, toothpaste, etc.) that I could share with the Cuban people. The next day my office was jammed with clothing and medicines and some unexpected other goodies, including a wedding dress (!) and a baseball glove. It took an extra suitcase and doubling up on the clothing I wore on the plane to accommodate the outpouring of generosity from library staff.
What would it be like to live in a house without a mirror, a clock, scales, tape measures, or thermometers? What about a world without weather forecasts? How would we be able to plan for the future or gauge our own lives?
This is the role that assessment plays for institutions: holding up a mirror, measuring needs, gauging effectiveness, helping us understand our world, our users, ourselves, our progress. It is a crucial function, especially in times of rapid change, like ours.
For the past several years, we have been updating the faculty on library news at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. This letter was sent out to them last week and I wanted to share it with you. Thanks, once again, for the good work of Assessment and Communication for preparing this impressive update. I trust you are also enjoying the return of the students (and the departure of their parents!)
Subject: News for faculty (Gettysburg, Borrow Direct, and more)
Having just come off two weeks of vacation, I return to work well rested and ready to greet the new crop of freshmen arriving soon. I think about these near-adults and the opportunities before them over the next four years. And I’m reminded of my own self at 18: naïve, optimistic, in a hurry. I also think about my parents’ generation and how their young lives were abruptly changed by the onset of World War II. Next week, new students will be discussing Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor was Divine, about a family of Japanese-Americans who spent the war in an internment camp.
About a year ago, both Harvard and MIT libraries became fully participating partners in Borrow Direct. This week we will welcome the University of Chicago. The consortium currently boasts more than 50 million volumes, and during its 14-year history, more than 1.5 million items have been shared. On Thursday, August 1, Chicago holdings will begin appearing in search results in BorrowDirect. The University of Chicago’s physical volume count is at about 8.6 million volumes, 45% of which are non-English and published outside the United States.