You know those moments when two separate ideas converge and become one, and that one idea feels so right that you're unsure how you never thought of it before? Well, that happened to me recently. The first idea came from a blog post that Jenica Rogers wrote a couple of months ago, “harm created not out of malice but habit”. It's a short post, so I recommend you read it in its entirety. As for me, the crucial part is in the title of the post. It's from a quote about how so many colleges have problems with students actually graduating, especially students whose lives are so different from our own. I've long had a certainty that for some of the students who attend my institution, we are doing as much if not more harm than good by forgetting they are not us at that age.
The second idea is from a particular document with which I (and a lot of us in academic libraries) work on a regular basis: "Standards for Libraries in Higher Education." I've had to revisit some ideas from our multi-year assessment plan because of personnel changes in other departments, and one of the recurring themes from that document is the need to demonstrate our value to our communities and supporting the mission and needs of our students, faculty, and staff. And I know the best way to communicate is to make it a conversation. I need to follow Roger's example and start some conversations.
I already have a relationship with our Student Government Association, and I'm lucky in that I have an assigned liaison each year with whom I have a good relationship. But I need to push this further. I need to dig deeper and do better with communicating. Also with listening. I don't know if it's true this academic year, but I know we were designated a "minority serving institution" in the past - that means that 50+% of our student population are members of racial minorities. That's why what Rogers wrote resonated so strongly for me.
I need to noodle on this a while longer, but I need to reach out and I need to stretch myself. We need to do the best we can for our students, and then we need to do better than that.
How about you? What are you doing to serve your community better?