Return to Alexandria
by Dick Kaser
Gerald Franz, assistant library director at Hodges University, spoke recently at the ACRL convention in Philadelphia on the ancient library of Alexandria in a talk he subtitled “Embracing the Excellent, Avoiding Its Fate.”
I must confess the cover of this issue was inspired by his remarks. As we turn this month to the topic of change in academic libraries, the vivid images Franz conjured of old Alexandria seemed to fit perfectly.
Early librarians, he reminded us, were part of the knowledge community, and libraries were centers of scholarly thought leadership. Only with the decline of the library in Alexandria did the idea come about that librarians were mere custodians of knowledge artifacts, the “clerical” archivists of the works of others’ creation.
Franz said, “Academic libraries must resist those who would drive them back to be the keeper of the resources.”
The articles we are publishing this month reflect the changes taking place in academic institutions today. Their authors consider how libraries are something more than books and how the role that librarians play is something more than the retrievers of tomes from the stacks or facts from the reference files.
This issue’s authors suggest that libraries should play a role in helping set the academic curriculum, teaching students, and inspiring academic communities.
As Franz observed in his remarks at ACRL, “If you took all the librarians with all their specialized degrees and brought them together, it would almost be Alexandrian.”
And what a pleasant idea.
Dick Kaser, Executive Editor