In high school I was asked to come up with a list of words that describe who I am. I don’t remember the list today, but it probably read (uncontroversially) something like the following: female, Caucasian, observant. In thinking about this idea over the past week, I’ve attempted to identify a few more words that get at the very core of my being. If I was born on the other side of the globe, would those traits still describe me? The pleasure (or displeasure) of this exercise can depend upon the stage of life one is in, or even the mood du jour, but I think it can help center thoughts and actions the way a mission statement does for an organization.
My thoughts have also wandered to what words might describe a library, specifically Luther’s library. The building? I don’t think this is essential to the library’s essence since buildings come and go (some more swiftly than others). The books? Getting closer, but what about the internet and the prominent place digital resources hold? What books represent is organized information, which is very central to the library. What makes a library a library is its capacity to not only hold books and provide journal articles, but to make those items findable and usable. That’s why Google is not called a library, and I think in the year 3000, when we are living on other planets, a library will still be a collection of organized information, in whatever means that information is presented (paper, pdf, or brainwaves).
This simple exercise invites one person or one organization to focus on the central aspects of its existence, leading to a more focused life or mission. In times of budget deficits and ever-increasing tools for research, study, and reading that are competing for library users’ attention, a mission statement driven from the steadfast qualities of the library will help guide decisions, focus staff energies, and hopefully ensure stability in the 21st century and beyond.
What other words would you use to describe Luther’s library? A few more ideas: community center, research assistance services, study space, research collection.
-Sophie Schottler, Luther Seminary Practicum Student