News & Views‎ > ‎

Faith, Learning, and Libraries

posted Jun 17, 2011, 8:06 PM by Greg Smith   [ updated Dec 15, 2011, 5:30 PM ]
The Association of Christian Librarians (ACL) held its annual conference this week at Cedarville University. This year's slate of workshops included at least four that addressed the connections between faith, learning, and libraries:
  • Using Spiritual Memoirs for Theological/Spiritual Development through Book Groups (Jennifer Ewing & Alison Jones)
  • Faith, Learning and Libraries: The Library's Role in Academia's Faith and Learning Conversation (Garrett Trott & Jane Scott)
  • The Pursuit of Outrageous Faithfulness in Our Campus Communities (Austina Jordan)
  • Librarianship as a Christian Calling (John E. Shaffett)
I would have liked to attend these sessions as well as some others that were more directly relevant to my current work assignments. From 1996 to 2007 I was a regular at the ACL conference, missing only two of twelve events during that time. However, as my career has shifted toward academic/library administration, I've found myself seeking out different conference fare. I still attend library events, but some of them deal with very particular topics, such as performance measurement, assessment, accreditation, and marketing. In recent years I've also taken part in institutional research events focusing on data analysis/visualization and benchmarking. Later this month I plan to attend a local event in the field of public relations.

For the most part I'm content with the career and professional development pathways that I've chosen. Nevertheless, there are times when I take a look in the rear-view mirror and realize that I've effectively left some meaningful things behind. That backwards gaze is sometimes conflicted. For years I did my best to engage colleagues in ACL and beyond on matters pertaining to the integration of Christian faith and librarianship. Now that I'm entrenched in assessment data, financial figures, and facility planning, I find that others are continuing the conversation in which I used to be deeply engaged. That's both gratifying and disappointing: gratifying because others have caught the vision that I sought to impart, and disappointing because I'm not as involved in the conversation as I was before.

I'm certain that I'm not alone in my situation. Surely every administrator has had to leave behind some roles, duties, and activities in which he or she has found fulfillment and success. I recall reading not long ago about a college president who regained his passion for his position simply by spending a weekend with students in leisurely activities. I suppose I'll find satisfaction in my new challenges and accomplishments, making occasional forays into the kinds of pursuits that figured more prominently in my professional past.