Thursday, September 06, 2012

Fanning the Embers of Knowledge

From September 1 to October 31, 2012, Armacost Library is holding an Intellectual Freedom Blogathon featuring posts on topics concerning censorship, the freedom to read, view, and express, and the connection these various freedoms have to individual life experiences and the state of society. The following essay is part of the Armacost Library Intellectual Freedom (ALIF) Blogathon. 

All libraries do the first aspect of facilitation, providing access.... Where too many libraries fall short is in how they: see knowledge as a thing, overemphasize access, and support consuming knowledge instead of creating it. If our libraries are going to support our communities in the future, they must do a better job across the spectrum. 
~ R. David Lankes, 2012, Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today's Complex World, p. 43

Lately I've been asking myself why I chose to be an academic librarian. This navel-gazing is not just because my faculty review dossier, including a reflective evaluation piece, is due in a few weeks. I've been asking myself this question mostly because I have been feeling a little...lost in the dark. I entered library school thinking that what I was studying to become, the profession I was seeking to be a part of, made a difference in the world. I still hold this opinion. Well, I cling to it. The daily tasks of emailing, organizing, meeting, reviewing, and scheduling have made me lose sight of what drew me to academic librarianship in the first place.

Finding my professional path
While thinking about my professional purpose as an academic librarian, I settled on Armacost Library's own organizational vision statement. Simply, it affirms intellectual freedom as our reason for being, our collective purpose, our heartfire. Intellectual freedom, in brief, encompasses two parts -- the freedom to access others' ideas and the freedom to express one's own. Both are important and rely greatly on the other. The freedom to access and to express, germane elements of intellectual freedom, are necessary conditions in a world where knowledge is dynamic, powerful, and constructed in the hearts and minds of people.

Thinking about the active nature of knowledge presents big challenges. Questions abound. If reading about some things only provides initial steps toward learning, how do we go further, especially with our shelves and shelves of printed books? Our continuous searching for and licensing of more, increasingly expensive, databases and digital content? How can we nurture active learning spaces, feed the carefully tended intellectual flames throughout the University community? These are some questions we are currently grappling with at Armacost Library in order to better facilitate knowledge creation within our communities.

Armacost Library Intellectual Freedom (ALIF) Blogathon is a small spark of light. It does not offer comprehensive answers or assume final solutions. But it does open up a part of our library online space for wider conversation.

How can Armacost Library inflame the embers of your knowledge creation?

Melissa Cardenas-Dow
Outreach/Behavioral Sciences Librarian
Armacost Library, University of Redlands
melissa_cardenasdow (a) redlands (dot) edu

1 comment :

Peter Dow said...

I like the succinct definition of intellectual freedom.