Today I had the ultimate outreach experience: I (along with my librarian colleagues) met with our Provost. While she and our Dean meet regularly, the librarians themselves have not had any formal opportunities to meet with this current Provost during her five years in office. I’m interested in how often other librarians have the chance to meet with their provosts and what is on the table during those meetings. Of course, we asked for her support (and not just monetary) for some strategic initiatives, such as digital scholarship and preservation of electronic College records. But to guide our conversation, we also used the document “Redefining the Academic Library: Managing the Migration to Digital Information Services,” which was put out by the Education Advisory Board for chief academic officers. Have you read it yet? It looks like some people involved with putting together that report will be coming to Lafayette in February to present to faculty and administrators, and the librarians will be brainstorming ways to both interact and respond. While there are many pronouncements in there that are “old news” to us, there are also some assumptions that we don’t agree with or that don’t fit our profile. One of the biggest is the assumption of a “collections arms race.” As a liberal arts school and not a research institution, we’ve never been engaged in one; our collections have been built up to support our curriculum, so we don’t have a lot of dead weight we can now get rid of to gain space.
I was reminded during the meeting about my job interview at Lafayette. I was prepared for the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Instead, I got asked “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I was so taken aback that I completely stumbled my response. The Provost challenged us librarians today to think 10-15 years out, and I realize I don’t have a lot of practice with this kind of long-range thinking. In fact, I’ve sort of shied away from the “library of the future” conversation that is so common at professional conferences and on listservs these days. But fifteen years from now, my son will be in college, so it’s probably about time I get invested in the question of what his academic library might look like.