From the Director: The Library as a Place of Memory, Perception, and Expectation

In his Friends of the Library lecture last April, publisher Gregory Wolfe discussed how those who mediate or curate cultural works are stewards, critics, and provocateurs. These roles are oriented, respectively, toward the past, present, and future.

In last spring’s Friends of the Library Newsletter, I wrote about how the roles of a library are oriented similarly to the three dimensions of time (see “From the Director: The Past, Future, and Present of the Library”). Augustine famously described how the past, present, and future are present to us through memory, direct perception, and expectation. Libraries help preserve and present these experiences of temporality for individuals as well as cultures. As an archive, a library sustains memory by bringing historical collections forward in space and time. As a site of discovery, creation, and sharing, a library is a place of dynamic activity in the present. And through this activity, directed toward anticipated outcomes, a library is a space that opens to the future.

In his lecture, Greg also shared his personal motivations for becoming a publisher, which included a desire to create community through communication. Here, too, the work of the publisher is consonant with the work of a library: a library is created for and sustained by a community. All the things that constitute a library—collections, staff, services, spaces, and systems—function to mediate these resources to a community for its formation.

An early publication for the institution that became Seattle Pacific University boasts of its proximity to “city libraries and markets” (see Thirteenth Annual Catalogue of The Seattle Seminary, page 11). But when the founders drafted the institution’s bylaws, it was assumed that the school would have its own modest library (books on hygiene and foreign missions are mentioned as particular needs). Throughout the following century, the SPU Library grew to become an essential resource for developing the community of learners and scholars at SPU.

This year’s Annual Report documents the many ways collections, instruction, tools, spaces, and personnel make the SPU Library a place that sustains memory, perception, and expectation for the community at SPU and beyond (see “SPU Library Annual Report 2012-2013”).

Michael J. Paulus, Jr.

University Librarian and Associate Professor

Seattle Pacific University

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2013 Friends of the Library Newsletter. If you would like to receive this biannual newsletter, send an email to Jo Krogh at kroghj@spu.edu.

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