Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Ideal Academic Library as Envisioned through Nietzsche’s Vision of the Eternal Return. I wrote this paper for an educational administration class I am and I just put it online today. Who would have thought that 19th Century existential philosophy could be applied to academic library management and make sense at the same time? Or maybe I am just full of it...

From the site:

There are many ways to look at the formal organization of academic libraries. This paper will view this process using the framework of Fredrick Nietzsche’s idea of the eternal return. While not a perfect conceptual model, it can be used to understand how events occur in libraries and how library leaders can best interact with the organizations that they lead. This paper will look at the different functional areas of the library and examine how these areas relate to each other and to library management. As a result, this also provides a glimpse of the author’s ideas about library leadership and the ideal library organization.

The Academic Library as Envisioned through Nietzsche’s Vision of the Eternal Return

The academic library can be a difficult organization to lead. It has a central role on campus but is considered in a peripheral manner by many university leaders, faculty, and students. It has a large budget invested in acquisitions that is easily cut when money is tight. Further, librarians have an unusual status on campus which makes them more than support staff but not quite faculty. Regardless of the rank or titles bestowed on librarians, they are always different from their colleagues on campus and this creates tension. Finally, massive changes in the manner in which information is delivered from print to electronic format has everyone (including librarians) questioning the role that the academic library plays in acquiring, organizing, and delivering information.

Beyond all of this, the academic library has the same problems that any other large organization will have. Some staff will be perpetually unhappy about a variety of issues. Turnover in staff will occur on a regular basis requiring continued efforts at recruitment and training. Finding ways to connect with the larger campus community will prove challenging. Meeting the needs of patrons will be a constantly changing endeavor requiring efforts in public service, teaching, and Web page design. And above all else will be questions of strategic and long term planning. Where do we go from here?

This author argues that perhaps the most important component in leading an academic library is for a leader to have a good attitude that he is willing to help instill in the library staff. This can be done in many ways. One novel way is to consider the ideas of the 19th Century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. His concept of the eternal return is apt for academic libraries because not only does it present a powerful way of thinking about daily events but it also provides a conceptual model for the formal organization of an academic library.

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