This weekend, I got to partake in one of my favorite parts of being a faculty member — walking as part of the faculty processional for the 2015 Spring Commencement. For the past two years, I’ve been lucky enough to participate in the Spring Commencement at The Ohio State University — and while the weather can be a bit on the warm side, the event always leaves me refreshed and excited to see how the Libraries can find new ways to partner with our faculty, students, and new alumni; and this year was no different (plus, any event where you get to wear robes and funny hats is one I want to be a part of). Under the beating sun and unseasonable humidity, President Drake reminded all in attendance that while OSU is a world-class research and educational institution; our roots are and continue to be strengthened by our commitment as a land grant institution — to be an institution who’s core mission is to educate the sons and daughters of our great state, and beyond. And I believe that. I believe in the land grant mission, and of the special role and bond that land grant institutions have to their states and their citizens. So it was with great joy, that I found myself in Ohio Stadium to celebrate the end of one journey for the ~11,000 OSU graduates, and the beginning of another as these graduates look to make their own way into the future.
In my two years at OSU, one of the things you hear a lot at this institution is a commitment to “Pay it Forward”. I’ve found among the faculty, the staff, the alumni that number close to 1/2 a million — these aren’t just words but a way of life for so many who are a part of Buckeye Nation. Is this unique to Ohio State — no, but with so many alumni, the influence is much easier to see. You see it in the generosity of time, the long-term mentorship, the continued engagement with this institution — when you join Buckeye nation; you are joining one big extended family.
I find that it is sometimes easy to forget the role that you get to play as part of the faculty in helping our students be successful. It’s easy to get bogged down in the committee work, the tenure requirements, your own research, or the job of being faculty member at a research institution. It’s easy to take for granted the unique privilege that we have as faculty to serve and pay it forward to the next generation. Sitting at Ohio Stadium, with so many graduates and their parents and friends…yes, it’s a privilege. Congratulations class of 2015.
This past week, I’ve been out in San Francisco doing some speaking. One of the groups that I spoke to was the Northern California Technical Processing Group. A fantastic group, that included a mix of people currently in libraries, as well as a bunch of bright, young, soon to be minted librarians. So, a really fun group to be around. My talk tended to focus on some of the trends that I see or hope to see coming out of the work of these large national and multi-national projects like the DPLA, and what I’m hoping they will mean for metadata sharing, aggregation, reuse, etc. Essentially, I’m trying to convince folks that not only should information be open and free, but it should be slutty, hooking up with anyone and everyone. And, yes, I’ve posted my slides to slideshare (http://www.slideshare.net/reese_terry/rethinking-shared-metadata-at-the-platform-level).
The funny thing is, while I had a great time, and some great conversations, the thing I found myself most thinking about most was a sentiment that Sarah Houghton made (well actually, a couple things she said…some of which make me realize that she is way more dedicated to the profession that I would be in similar circumstances, I’m sure) about the need for libraries to cultivate those intimate moments, the special stories in peoples lives where they have made a difference. In Oregon, I served on a public library board, so I can definitely say that this type of connection is important (especially when you have to go before the community and ask for money) – but what got me thinking about this was wondering how many people at the conference have those types of experiences that played into their reason for becoming a librarian, or how many of those folks were like me, accidental librarians that really don’t have those emotional connections to a library (or the idea of libraries, really)
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t work in a library if I didn’t think what I (we) do is important. And working with public librarians, I was amazed at the impact that can make on their communities and their kids (they remind me of public school teachers in a lot of ways). But I’ve never been a library user (can I say that?). Even when I chaired my local library board, I never had a public library card. And at the same time, I certainly work in libraries because I believe in the transformational nature of the work we do, and of the library as the great social equalizer, and maybe that is enough for me. Honestly, its the pace of change, the questions, the potential research opportunities that make me excited to work at a research library.
I can say that I hope that my kids have these stories, and I know that they do. They are avid readers and that’s in no small part to the summer reading programs and involved librarians we’ve had the good fortune of knowing. And who knows, maybe when I finally get off the promotion and tenure track, I’ll take some time to slow down and start reading for fun again…and maybe then I’ll get an opportunity to get to know my public library…