Today as I walked back from the student union with my burrito (the burrito lady knows my order, now, because, oh how I love the burrito), I was thinking over my week and realized that I actually DO know what my library motto is. Usually, when people ask questions like that, I shrug and smile, because the only thing that pops into my mind is snarky, like, “Libraries: We do stuff you don’t understand”, or “Libraries: our jargon is better than yours” or “Libraries: Expensive software, awful usability”. None of those is terribly helpful.
But today, I was thinking about some recent interactions. A new faculty member wasn’t sure yet what her students’ information gap was regarding research skills. My answer? We can help you with that. A student at the reference desk who needed to make a table in a report: We can help you with that. A student who couldn’t figure out how to cite a resource: We can help you with that. A community member who needed to use a computer for a few hours: We can help you with that. A student looking for “a good book to read”: We can help you with that. A departmental secretary was trying to figure out how to archive their alumni newsletters: We can help you with that.
So there it is. I’ve been tossing around the phrase “libraries don’t exist to ‘be libraries’; they exist to support institutional goals” in my own head for the past six months or so. I think I heard it at Computers in Libraries, but I don’t remember from whom… the idea of it just stuck. And a better crystalization of it is this simple. Libraries: We can help you with that.