30 May 2008

What Does It Mean to be Green?

I've been thinking about sustainability an awful lot lately. And in a lot of ways.

I am the co-chair of Sustain Champlain, Champlain College's campus wide sustainability initiative. In about an hour, I am meeting with our college president to advocate for the overwhelming need on our campus for a sustainability coordinator. While Champlain does an incredible job of improving our facilities to be more energy efficient, a key component to sustainability, we have, in my opinion, a ways to go in terms of developing a culture of sustainability on campus.

Ryan Deschamps wrote a terrific post on sustainability based on a conversation we had back in April. As he pointed out, doing the bare minimum is no longer enough in the library community. We need to be leaders in sustainability on our campuses. ACRL seems to agree as sustainability is one of the tracks at the bi-annual conference next year. Frankly, I am really looking forward to hearing what libraries are doing to lead sustainability efforts on their campuses. But I am more interested in hearing what sustainability is to libraries, and to institutions of higher education as a whole.

Admittedly, I might seem "hard core" to some people, especially people that don't live in Vermont. I ride my bike or ride the bus to work. We have one car. We recycle. We are avid gardeners. We compost. We use phosphate-free soaps and detergents. We keep our heat at 68, maybe 70 in the dead of winter.

Funny that those actions are even remotely considered hard core. As I type them up, they seem minimal to me.

And that gets at what I think is the biggest problem on our campus, and on most campuses: a culture shift. Michael Stephens highlighted a great post by Nicole Engard, a new blogger to me about not giving out handouts during classes or conference presentations. At the end of her post, Nicole said "I feel for everyone who had to make this decision because they’re going to be bombarded with librarians complaining about not having handouts!" This gets at what I see as the overarching problem: the prevailing view that my individual preferences override the societal need for change in order to preserve our society. Better that I have a handout that I invariably will toss than have to keep the conference books with presenters information, take notes, or pay attention or care enough about what I hear to seek out information when I get back to my desk. This, from a profession that is trying to teach students that there is more to searching and information seeking than the easiest thing available. Steven Bell, who commented on this post, mentions that the paper is recyclable, so it's not so bad. Perhaps, but I have yet to be in any conference, classroom, store, or street where recycle bins are as prominent and available as garbage cans.

There are a lot things to think about as libraries, educators, and just plain people decide to go green. It is about infrastructure, leadership, accountability, engagement, regulation, fiduciary responsibility, resource allocation, longevity…the list goes on. But I think that as bedrocks of education and knowledge in practice, we need to set examples for our students as they head out into a world that is going to change because of energy, water, carbon, and waste. We need to show them and offer them tools to conceptualize, apply, and develop new ways of learning, doing business, and living in a way that not only mitigates but improves our spaces. If not institutions of higher ed, then who?

22 May 2008

Where is the Busy Bee? Busy.

One might think that when students leave campus, work slows down. Not so. The last three weeks have been a whirlwind at Champlain as we held the Faculty Collaborative. As part of this three week event, I hosted a workshop on the power of Annotated Bibliographies in generating better researched, more well written and more organized research papers. The 12 faculty that attended all were very supportive and interested in both using annotated bibs but also incorporating an exercise I developed into their class time to bring the bibliographies to life for students.

I then participated in a discussion on The Role of Technology in our Classrooms. It was a fascinating discussion and certainly made me think about the write up I am doing of CiL presentation on taking 2.0 to Faculty. One of my key points is about faculty perceptions of technology and this talk made me focus in on that topic once again.

But for the last week, I have been pushing info lit on our General Education faculty (the Core Division, as we call them at Champlain). Champlain redesigned our gen eds a year ago and first year of the new curriculum was reviewed, discussed, and revised. There was a lot of positive feedback on the information literacy efforts. By far the biggest challenge is trying to remind faculty that information literacy is not just about finding information for a research paper. It is a life skill, rather than something you just do for school. But the faculty at Champlain is so extraordinary in their willingness to collaborate that I have no doubt that we will make great strides in our efforts.

So what am I getting at? Like the rest of you, I've been busy. But I have been also feeling guilty about not taking the few minutes I've had at my computer to blog. But between ACRL Immersion, which I will be prepping for and attending in late July, and designing the 2nd year curriculum, I will be back to blogging as a venue for bouncing ideas around and seeing where they land.

05 May 2008

My Signature Statement

"What defines you as a librarian? What’s your signature statement?" asks Steve Bell over on the ACRLog. "What’s at the center of it all?"

It's a great question and a great challenge. Steve elaborates that the signature statement is in some way supposed to say "this is who I am." I imagine that this is particularly tough for librarians because we are so many things. We are innovators, technologists, ontologists, generalists, adapters, thinkers, qualifiers, extrapolators, learners, and educators. As a profession, we are constantly changing and growing. It is wonderful as well as challenging, difficult, and overwhelming. Personally, that's what draws me to it.

So what is my signature statement? "Learning More IS doing something."

Part of my statement is based on my core desire to be a part of change, to act. Many of my students feel powerless in the face of complex challenges, especially in today's world. My signature statement is my signature reply: if we don't learn more about the problem, the causes, the obstacles, or the attempts to rectify or solve those problems, then how can we determine how a difference can be made? Learning more IS doing something.

Libraries are at the very core of the educational process: we are houses of learning. And for us to progress, to change, and to improve, we need to learn where we've been and where we might go. Learning more is a must in any situation on the road of life (love that metaphor, VW) and libraries are our proverbial gas stations. We've got what you need.