Academic librarians believe they have something to contribute to the development of lifelong learners. There’s more to being a lifelong learner than having the skills for workplace success, but listening to what employers are looking for could provide guidance.
At a recent conference for medical and health sciences librarians, the conversation that broke out that was hardly what I expected it to be. Delivering the kickoff speech, I addressed current higher education challenges with the potential to either pose problems or new possibilities for librarians, depending on how we approach the situation. In referring back to observed trends, for example massive online education, some attendees wanted to discuss an issue that is very much on the minds of many higher education leaders: what is the purpose of higher education?
Students and their parents are increasingly demanding that college degrees lead to jobs. New forms of higher education respond by emphasizing the acquisition of career skills. Those attending the conference, like many educators, argued for a more well-rounded, liberal arts college experience. College should be about learning—and learning how to learn. What we were less certain about was whether the work of librarians contributed to that outcome, or how we could be more effective in making it happen.