Evergreen's library and information resources, which include traditional library services, media services and academic computing, support "freely chosen inquiry based on broad skills of knowing, reasoning and communicating about issues whose outcomes remain to be discovered" (Smith, Standard 2). All areas work to balance dynamic tensions between the open-ended demands of free inquiry in a flexible, responsive curriculum with the need for stability, security and efficiency in systems and services. Thus, Evergreen’s information resources and services should be evaluated as they support the aspirations of free inquiry, balanced with the need for reliable, efficient systems and services.
Many distinctive challenges arise in working to support a fluid, interdisciplinary curriculum and individual students free to pursue any significant question. Historically, in recognition of this college-wide focus on independent and freely-chosen inquiry, the library has been comparatively well funded. To effectively meet the expectations of independent inquiry, the library, media and academic computing depend upon well-established, intensive, personal, resilient and institutionally thoroughgoing interconnections to the curriculum, the faculty and the academic administration. These exceptionally strong interconnections form the essence the work and help assure high levels of use and satisfaction in the campus community.
During the period of the self-study, the college has weathered the digital turn and the information services and instruction faculty and staff note and actively encourage the disappearance of the barriers among the library, media and academic computing. The faculty and staff teach and serve across various spaces, formats, disciplines, budgets, administrative units, geographical areas and jurisdictional boundaries, while working with platforms that have become increasingly interchangeable. Most students now presume such fluidity. They do not recognize format distinctions which were common in academia as recently as ten years ago.
Founding Dean of Library Services, James F. Holly, wrote his “Position Paper No. 1” in the Fall of 1969. His primary assumption about the library was that it would be generic:
By generic I include man’s [sic] recorded information, knowledge, folly, and wisdom in what ever form put down, whether in conventional print, art forms, magnetic tape, laser storage, etc. By generic, I also eliminate physical boundaries such as [a] specific building or portion limited and identified as “the library.”
As library services developed over time, the premise of the generic library proved untenable in many ways. Budgetary and technological limitations and traditional expectations often caused retrenchment from this ideal. Today, information resources on every campus are becoming generic in Holly’s sense due to the broad reach of networked information and the ubiquity of the increasingly portable personal computer. With Holly’s vision as the foundation of the library, and interdisciplinary curriculum as the environment, Evergreen’s information services have moved quickly and flexibly into boundary crossing. The largest single accomplishment of the past decade, a major remodel of the library, media and computing areas, interconnected the disparate areas into a more cohesive information technology wing. Looking ahead, continued integration of information services provides the greatest challenge and opportunity to thoughtfully and effectively support the academic mission. This evolving web of staff, facilities, tools and services needs a manageable name and for the purposes of this study, it will be called the Library and Information Resources Network or LIRN, covering the work of what is administratively identified as Library Services (which includes Media Services) and Academic Computing.
Two broad categories of shared work organize the description below according to the college’s academic mission. First is teaching and instruction as a function of LIRN. This section will describe and assess the instructional work of the LIRN in the context of the college's alternative, flexible, student-centered pedagogy. The second section will consider the collections, tools and resources supporting the curriculum, driven by content which is interdisciplinary and fluid and which ranges from the broad to the deep. In each case the discussion will consider whether the resources and services of LIRN encourage and support "freely chosen inquiry and broad skills of knowing, reasoning and communication about open questions with real world implications." A third section will discuss plans for embracing the new opportunities and challenges identified in the assessment to that point.