The continued wanderings of a newly minted librarian…. The back to school edition

Yes, school is back in session. The fall semester started on August 24th and it has been almost non-stop since. Enrollment is up, WAY up. I suppose most community colleges are in this position with the economy being what it is. It is nice, but it also means that classes are full, that students need to be turned away because there aren’t enough classrooms to put classes in, etc.

In addition to a record number of new students, we have also switched to a new ID system which means that ALL students need a new ID card/ library card. Of course this is done in the library and has made for a very, very, busy time. In 4 days we have probably made over 1000 cards!

Interlibrary loan requests are up also. In 4 days I have sent out 17 books as ILLs!! We used to average at least 1 a day and the most I ever had to send out was 6 in one day. Part of this is the beginning of the school year and the requests will probably dwindle back down to the usual amount.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about higher education. For me, college was a fantastic time of exploration and learning. I was learning about who I was and broadening my horizons in general. My classes were not “marketable skills” classes per se. They were classes that taught me skills for the rest of my life. I learned to think critically and to be inquisitive. I learned what it means to work hard both mentally and physically (I was on the crew team for 4 years). I recently read an article from the Washington Post, “An Education Debate for the Books”. It discusses the fact that enrollment is down at St. John’s College and other Great Books schools. St. John’s is a small private liberal arts college which follows a curriculum based on great works of literature, science, math, etc. Students study Homer, Einstein, Chaucer etc. and have no major per se. The students graduate with a well rounded liberal arts degree. Lately it seems that the focus on higher education has become a focus on getting that degree that will get you money. Instead of society valuing the broader education of its citizenry, the value seems to be on money and what degree will get you the most. Thus enrollment is high for medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc., but some people question the worth of a bachelor’s in philosophy or Ancient Greek and Latin (my B.A. major). It isn’t all about money, or it shouldn’t be. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from more education. Having a solid background in classical works of all disciplines is a valuable tool for life that once earned cannot be taken away from you. Schools of higher education do more than teach skills for just one job, they encourage the student to step beyond what they are used to and explore the unknown. They foster tolerance for others who are different or have differing opinions. They encourage one to support one’s opinions with solid facts and to critically examine what is read or even seen on TV or the internet.

It saddens me when I overhear students saying that they are trying to get into a fast track nursing program that will let them go from RN certificate to a M.S. in Nursing without having to do a Bachelor’s program. This way they can skip all the “useless stuff” such as foreign languages etc. I wish no such option existed. I want my nurses to have as much education as possible and I expect that anyone with a Master’s degree has gone through a Bachelor’s program and thus have a certain general level of education and experience. Does everyone NEED to go to college?  I suppose not, although I wish everyone did. What truly matters is education. I know people who are so well read that they probably have the equivalent of a college degree. I wish society would start to value education more, not for the job you can get but for the person you will become after having the time and chance to explore the world and yourself in a safe academic environment that nurtures and encourages this self growth.

For all those in academia, welcome back to class and have a wonderful and enlightening semester.