Throughout this past year, because of the work of the Program and Social
Committee, I have thought frequently about the nature and benefits of faculty
status -- and, of course, have participated in many discussions about it with
colleagues. But I kept having this nagging feeling that I wanted to add
something else to the discussion. It's this: faculty status is cause for
celebration if only because it allows us the time and the resources
to draw upon our full creative forces in our work. Of course, all work should
be "a natural, ongoing, creative process."(1)
Faculty status nurtures our creativity and encourages artisanship in our work.
During my years as a professional librarian, some of my most fulfilling work
has developed out of a sense of inquiry and the uninhibited pursuit of answers
to questions. A commission to do a bibliography on the Ohio River raised
questions about aspects of early life along the river usually omitted from
school textbooks. They ultimately led to an exhibition at the Lilly Library
on the cultural history of the river (where I grew up). The questions "who
is my user community" and "how do I best serve this community?" led me to
Uganda to help collaborating researchers set up a library. The question "Is
the Internet a commons" (shared resource) led to the study of information
technology, economics, and sociology.
Looking at my InULA colleagues, it is quite clear that all of us engage in our
own unique ways of professional creativity. The list of InULA Research Grant
Recipients, for instance, reads like a litany of inspired, creative output:
"The Novel in Woodcut" (Perry Willet); "The Role of Books and Libraries in
Utopian Communities" (Marty Joachim); "The Study of Libraries as Social
Agencies..." (Elizabeth Hanson); "A Bibliography on the LA Riots" (Grace
Jackson-Brown); and many more. Or we can think of the creative processes that
led colleagues to Norway (May Jafari), Australia (Mary Strow), and
Cameroon (Andrea Singer). Other colleagues' professional craftsmanship led
them to new areas of research: Social Informatics (Mark Day); Men's
Studies (Nancy Wootton Colborn); Illinois Folk Music (Jo Burgess); Railroad
Advertising (Stephen McShane).
Creatively pursuing our questions aligns our work with our spirit. The process
can bring us satisfaction and fulfillment. At the same time, this ongoing
creativity is also necessary if we want to make significant inroads in
advancing the field of librarianship. I don't believe there has ever been a
time when creative discovery, analysis, and communication have been more
important in the worlds of scholarly information and the library profession.
In a recent article, information science professor Phil Agre writes:
New technologies create a wider range of institutional
possibilities, but precisely for that reason they also force us
articulate more deeply the nature and purpose of our work.
Indeed, we are at a crucial stage of evolution of our existing information
institutions (universities, libraries, etc.). The complexity of the decisions
we must make is enormous. Steady, careful, and creative research and analysis
are required if we hope to create successful and sustainable libraries.
However we decide to communicate our knowledge and
insight to the community, we must do it well, with energy. And, hopefully, we
will enjoy it.
1See the stimulating book Zen and the Art of Making
a Living in the Post-Modern World by Laurence G. Boldt (NY: Arkana, 1993)
2Agre, Phil. "Meet Me at the Crux." Educom Review 33,3
(Sep/Oct 1998): 30.
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