Recently, WSU’s Office of Service Learning offered a “coffee and conversation” on a Monday morning, during which those in attendance discussed the article, “Renewing the Civic Mission of the American Research University” by Barry Checkoway. This article is a must-read for all in higher education, if you ask me! It was published in The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 27, No. 2 (March/April 2011). (I also added the citation to the recommended reading section of this blog). I had a conflict and was unable to attend the discussion, but I had the read the article, anyway, of course. And, as a side note, I thought this “coffee and conversation” to discuss an article idea was brilliant.
One quote, in particular, sticks out for me as relating very closely to the library’s mission:
- “Civic renewal [in higher education] would require structures for making knowledge more accessible to the public.”
The latter part – ‘making knowledge more accessible the public’ – does this not align with some of the fundamental principles of libraries everywhere? Among these ‘structures’ Checkoway discusses are: systems that would encourage the exchange of information, and joining together producers of knowledge with potential users of that knowledge.
Once again, this national conversation about civic engagement in higher education has struck me as very much in line with what librarians do every day. Our desire for “information literate” students, in part, comes back to them being engaged, informed citizens. So, isn’t civic engagement and service-learning an opportunity for the library to insert itself into the mission of the academy? That is, if the academy does return to its civic mission.