Director's Watch: The Library as Intellectual Crossroads
At the core of the academic library mission is scholarship, namely, the access, promulgation and preservation of scholarship. In this context, libraries occupy a unique position on their campuses.
They are concerned in the broadest possible way with the intellectual output of the scholarly community, and they are invested in the economic, institutional and symbolic networks through which intellectual work is circulated and made available. Even in the Google era, the library serves as a local nexus and portal to the world of scholarship for the institution. It is a small step to expand this role to include programming and outreach.
In taking on programmatically the role of intellectual crossroads, a place to gather and exchange ideas, within its host institution, the library has the unique capability to
- provide a forum for faculty to operate as public intellectuals within the campus community
- stimulate discussions that will develop understanding and communication across the disciplines
- bring faculty research to an interested general audience
- present to students the full diversity of the life of the mind
- promote reading, literacy and cultural engagement through such activities as campus-wide “one book” programs
- bring to campus writers and scholars who can speak to the academic community across the disciplines
- provide students with a setting in which to perform as thinkers, writers and apprentice members of the intellectual community
At Falvey, we are committed to enhancing the library’s role in promoting the life of the mind at Villanova. This is evident in the exciting and diverse series of events we have hosted this academic year: a faculty book talk by Sterling Delano (on his recent book, Brook Farm: The Dark Side of Utopia); a panel discussion by political science faculty on the 2004 presidential elections; a lecture by distinguished literary biographer Virginia Spencer Carr; a panel discussion on bioethics featuring Dr. Art Caplan from the University of Pennsylvania accompanied by a group of disciplinary colleagues from Villanova University; a reading by Irish poet Eilean Ni Chuilleanain; a talk on environmental sustainability by recognized conservationist Dr. Peter Raven; a number of undergraduate literary readings; and the Falvey Scholars presentations by gifted seniors in the Arts & Sciences Honors program on their thesis research.
Intellectual programming is key to our future. If academic libraries are to remain vibrant institutions, their fate cannot be conceived in relation to the slow but inevitable attenuation of print culture in the digital era. Instead, we must embrace in this epoch of digital transformation the very real possibility that one of the academic library’s important functions is the cultivation of the intellectual crossroads. By connecting naturally to the life of the mind in its local settings, the library will maintain its place as an essential catalyst of intellectual enterprise for future generations of students and faculty.
Joe Lucia is University Librarian and director of Falvey Memorial Library.