I had the great honor to return to my library school alma mater last week to give the 18th Annual Elizabeth Stone lecture at The Catholic University of America. It was an opportunity to talk about myself (which is always easy) and to talk about the future of libraries (which is always hard). I was a bit embarrassed to admit that it was my first time back to CUA, but I was suitably punished by the fact that they recorded the talk.
I was quite graciously received by the CUA faculty (which now only includes one member from my time there from 1994-1996), students, and fellow alumni. It was difficult to see firsthand that the Library and Information Science Library where I worked for two years had been dismantled in preparation for a new information commons space. A plant had taken the spot where my desk once stood…a desk that held the IBM 286 on which I created my very first website in early 1995.
I regret having taken so long to return, but the occasion of the lecture was a great way to come back. Elizabeth Stone was still hanging around as Dean Emerita in old Marist Hall when I was there. She seemed omnipresent, in fact, and she was one of the few faculty to actually use the library (which is probably why it got absorbed into the main library). I’ll admit to not ever speaking very highly of my library education, but as I reflected on my time there and the faculty who taught me, I suddenly had a new perspective.
Each of them, including ones I never even had classes with, had some impact on my career and the way I think about librarianship. Dr. Hsieh Yee taught me to love cataloging (something I will blog about another time); J.W. Coffman (my advisor, who I learned passed away recently) taught me that the separation of theory and practice was not as wide as many perceive it; Barry Wheeler taught me to question all technological assumptions; Paul Koda taught me never to take myself or the profession too seriously.
I received kudos for the lecture, which included a lot of stuff I have said in other venues. But frankly, I am grateful to CUA for inviting me back because it made me reflect on the last decade plus in a way that I would not have otherwise.