Library Matters / Libraries Matter: Infrastructure Part Two

Posted on November 13th, 2019 by

A few weeks ago, I wrote that the Library provides the infrastructure that supports most undergraduate and a big chunk of faculty research across campus. Today I’m going to unpack what that means.

When we think about research, we often picture the scientist in the lab, hunched over her microscope. Sometimes she’s working with students, teaching them about research methods in the lab. That is a key component of research, but those pictures don’t tell the whole story. The scientists only go to the lab after studying the existing scientific literature. Who provides access to the literature, whether through our databases or journal subscriptions or ILL? The Library does.

Gustavus values undergraduate research and lifelong learning. It’s part of the mission of the college.  Where do students learn many of those essential research skills and habits of mind? At the Library. Most FTS courses come to the Library for at least one instruction session taught by a member of the library faculty. These interactions lay the foundation for the research habits necessary for undergraduate research. Library faculty members also teach advanced research skills & approaches in many courses, including research methods courses, capstones, and senior seminars. Of course students are also learning research skills from classroom faculty, but who provides much of the faculty development resources and programming to help faculty teach research better to first-year and upper-level students? We do.

Who provides students with research help at any time of the day and night, and on any subject? Whether a student visits us during our reference desk hours or schedules an appointment with a librarian or emails one of us directly with a question or consults one of the many online research guides that we prepare, we provide that help.

We don’t do this work alone. Many offices and people provide support for undergraduate and faculty research. But what we need to remember – and what sometimes gets forgotten – is that the Library is a core part of the entire academic enterprise.

We are the infrastructure through which research is conducted and supported on campus.

We can talk about how the infrastructure is stressed. There are not enough resources for us to implement the kinds of initiatives we want to implement. We talk a lot about the maker space we wish we had, or the expanded faculty development and campus outreach we could do if we had more people resources. We’re not complaining (really!). Everyone – no matter where you work or what passions you pursue – can point to the things you would love to do, if only you had more resources.

Yet just as roads and bridges need attention, so does the infrastructure that supports research at Gustavus. Our work is essential in furthering the priorities laid out in the Gustavus ACTS strategic plan, especially goal 2.1.2: “Create a campus culture of intellectual engagement by developing, expanding, and supporting greater opportunities for research, scholarship, creativity, and dialogue.”

So as we continue to promote and support research, let’s all remember the integral part the Library plays. And if you’re confused as to why libraries still matter, just reach out to any of us. We love talking about our work and why libraries remain key institutions in our world.

This post is part of the Library Matters/Libraries Matter blog series



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