Do you know any exciting examples of historic academic library educational innovations? I want to know about them, and here’s why: my contributed paper proposal for the forthcoming CARL Conference was accepted. It’s titled Reframing the narrative: Librarians as innovators in the past and present, and it’s all about the educational innovations derived from the work of academic librarians. Of course, writing the application was the easy part — now it’s time to research and write! The conference assembles in April of 2016.
In keeping with the conference theme, What we talk about when we talk about value, my paper is going to argue that contrary to popular perception, academic libraries have a remarkable but often unknown history as centers of innovation on campus. This research will build on the work I did for my Kentucky Library Association Conference presentation, Blazed Pathways and Skillful Glancing, when I looked at a number of historical comparisons for the contemporary debate around literacy threshold concepts.
From my application:
There is a common narrative when discussing libraries and the value they provide on a college campus. According to this narrative, the traditional library was valued for the collection it stored, and the modern library is valued for the services it provides. Rapidly changing technology is seen as the catalyst for this change, and the library of today and tomorrow is described as a center for learning, one that fosters creativity and curates the expanding universe of information. While this future is exciting and places the library at the leading edge of innovation in higher education, this narrative undercuts the creativity and valuable services provided by librarians of the past.
This contributed paper will examine the creative strategies and innovative instruction methods employed by our librarian forerunners, and present a position that libraries have been at the heart of educational innovation for well over a century. The presenter will demonstrate that early academic libraries were far more innovative than conventional wisdom suggests, and provide historical research that shows many of the trends in vogue today, such as embedded librarianship, flipped instruction, and advocacy around scholarly communications, all have roots in the practices of those early librarians.
If you, dear reader, are aware of any interesting, historic examples of library innovation, please be in touch!