Office Hours: Our Common Purpose

My new column is available at LJ’s site:

http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/06/opinion/michael-stephens/our-common-purpose-office-hours/

“Get a blog, launch texting, create a Facebook page” has been the rallying cry—from me, too—for some time, but the reasons for doing these things should be clear. They’re an extension of what we have always done, the foundational purpose of libraries. Service. Access. Context.

Many LIS programs include “how-to” technology classes. These are useful for providing the skills new grads need to be marketable. Along with those skill-based courses, however, we must give students opportunities to learn how to engage actively with people, facilitate people’s interests and conversation, and promote the creation of community. These concepts should translate from the real world to online and back again.

Peter Block writes in Community: The Structure of Belonging, “Communities are human systems given form by conversations that build relatedness.” This echoes Wesch’s point—building a relationship between the educator and the learner or between the librarian and the user is a step toward establishing the bonds of community. That’s why we can’t just hide behind our reference desks or our virtual lecterns and hope that students or users listen but leave us alone. Active engagement begins here. If we can articulate our purpose well and use it as a basis for building community, we are on the right track.

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