WHAT = the results we get
HOW = what we do in order to get the results (think process)
WHY = our beliefs, cause, purpose
Today was faculty meeting day at mpow and I was asked to do a presentation on ‘What I’ve been doing lately’. In preparing for this I found it an excellent opportunity to crystallize (if anywhere – then in my own head) what it is I’ve been doing with my little job so far this year. Also today, the ACRL posted a piece on asking “The What Versus The Why” in which StevenB postulates that many of our mission statements answer the WHAT question (Our mission is to… ‘transform lives through education’ or ‘bring the joy of reading and the world of ideas to every resident’ to highlight a few local ones) but rarely state the WHY we are doing what we are doing. With academic library funding decreasing across the state – it’s very important that we can articulate WHY to administrators. So I looked at WHAT I had done professionally and decided that creating a WHY statement might be a more important (and no doubt more concise) way of communicating my latest activities.
I’ve principally been working on a state grant called “Rising Juniors” which is essentially trying to find ways for librarians and libraries to facilitate the successful transition of community college students to a 4 yr institute. Specifically we designed an online site (mini-site and single-page) that would be a resource for students taking a particular Biology research class (a mandated and statewide class for nursing degrees) that had a large research component to it. Currently I’m working on the final wrap-up requirements including summation activities.
Because “Most of us academic librarians understand the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. The hard part is the ‘why’,” in relation to recent projects – ‘What’ we are doing is facilitating the acquisition of information literacy skills and all that encompasses (the ACRL has developed standards) for our students, community members and faculty. There are many ways to describe ‘HOW’ we do that (workshops, physical and electronic material, staffed reference desk, etc) – but we haven’t been articulating ‘WHY’ so well.
Why am I or my college or any college doing this or anything associated with librarianship? My answer changes depending on local conditions, but generally my understanding of WHY is because we want to be able to help people succeed. Being able to facilitate people’s journey to success (however that’s defined – which is a whole ‘nother topic) is the most fulfilling aspect of librarianship in my experience. Whether this means helping emerging readers engage with text or college students differentiate between primary and secondary sources, librarianship has always offered a plethora of WHAT (do people need or want to do) and HOW (specific tools like Info Lit workshops) can we get them there.
In other words, as StevenB says: “We believe our library prepares community members to succeed as citizens, employees and scholars”.
That’s something we can all work on.