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Understanding the Catholic, Lasallian, and Liberal Arts Traditions

On August 15, 2012, Brother Ron’s last annual staff day, he shared with the staff that the upcoming sesquicentennial year is an occasion not only to celebrate, but to reflect on the meaning of the College’s traditions and mission. Brother Ron’s memorable presidential reflections prompted me to reflect how my work and activities here at Saint Mary’s College of California since December 2009 have supported the traditions and mission of College. My first step is to take a closer look at the College’s three-prong (Catholic, Lasallian, and liberal arts) traditions, and how these traditions are integral parts of the College’s mission.  I believe that it is only through the perpetual effort of understanding the College’s educational philosophies and mission that my future plans and goals in the College can be properly guided and actualized throughout my spiritual journey and professional growth.

How is the Catholic tradition an integral part of the College’s mission?

The College’s Catholic tradition emphasizes the fostering of the dignity, integrity, and morality of the human person from Christian theological perspectives. The Catholic tradition manifests the divine goodness, extends the love of humankind towards one another, and embraces individuals coming from all religious and spiritual backgrounds. The longevity of the Catholic tradition is extended through a pedagogy that strives to integrate both intellectual and spiritual journeys in the quest for truth.

While the mission of the College is built on the steadfast principles of Catholic values, the College cultivates a learning environment that promotes engaging and stimulating discourses in seeking the unity of faith and reason. Even though we are not all Catholics, we all benefit from the Catholic tradition. The bond of community is strengthened in the presence of God through the immersion of diverse spiritual and religious experiences that celebrate the sacramental lives of the learned individuals who are committed to reach out and touch the hearts and souls of the others.

How is the Lasallian tradition an integral part of the College’s mission?

The College’s Lasallian tradition is defined by its five core principles:  faith in the presence of God; quality education; concern for the poor and social justice; respect for all persons; and inclusive community. As an extension of the Catholic mission and the teachings of St. John Baptist de La Salle, the Lasallian tradition is dedicated to inspire lives through educating the poor and transforming individuals to become practitioners of social justice for the society and common good.

The Lasallian principles foster a safe and an inclusive community among the Faculty, staff, and students. Mutual understanding and respect for all persons is preserved through sensitivity and inclusion of the cultural, social, and economic diversities in the campus community. Immersed in a service oriented environment where Lasallian teachings and practices are established as the core foundations, individuals equipped with the will to learn are being prepared to become the future Lasallian educators and leaders of the community. Through the education we receive, we develop leadership qualities and a sense of social responsibility within us, and contribute in whatever small ways to right social, ethical and environmental injustice. As we are learning ways to help the disadvantaged and underprivileged coming from varied social, cultural, economic backgrounds, we become aware of regional and global concerns and more determined to change the world.

How is the liberal arts tradition an integral part of the College’s mission?

Like the Catholic and Lasallian traditions, the philosophy of the liberal arts tradition is centered on the cultivation of the moral virtues within oneself and the student-centered community. In the process of becoming a learned scholar and reflective thinker, one nurtures the passion for lifelong learning and to acquire knowledge and wisdom, as well as the intellectual skills to apply that knowledge into practical learning experience.

The mission of a liberal arts college is to educate individuals to become spiritual, compassionate and responsible leaders. At the heart of the liberal arts tradition lays the core foundation of the Collegiate Seminar. Drawing from the Great Books from various ages and cultures, the liberal arts curriculum integrates branches of knowledge from arts, sciences, education, and business to inspire and lead learners to live a balanced and enriching spiritual and humanistic life.

The core curriculum is a practical adaptation of the liberal arts tradition. Combining theory and practice, the learning goals in the three categories—habits of mind, pathways to knowledge, and engaging the world, are the essential ingredients needed to foster scholarship and leadership qualities in our students, to prepare them to become the reflective thinkers, responsible citizens, and democratic leaders of the 21st century.

In what ways can I support the College’s Catholic, Lasallian, and liberal arts tradition?

It is important to remember that the weight of the College’s mission is supported by the three-prong traditions. It seems logical to start my examination with the Catholic tradition, proceed to the Lasallian tradition, and complete the cycle with the liberal arts tradition. The College’s Website provided many resources that helped me explore the three traditions. I came across three sources that have inspired and guided my will to put the traditions into practice.

“Love and knowledge: the Heart of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition” by Dale Lauderville is an essay about the challenges of the Catholic intellectual tradition in shaping the changing trends of society and higher education today. Father Lauderville observed that Catholic thinkers are entrusted with the mission to use love and knowledge as driving forces to reconcile the tension between faith and reason.  In a Catholic higher education environment sustained by the three aspects of love (agape, eros, and philia), the pursuit of knowledge and the shared concern for the common good are conveyed through dialogue and communication. Students as embodied thinkers are guided to explore the metaphysical mysteries of human existence as well as the dynamic social relations of being in the world through critical or methodical inquiry.

Sharing the Lasallian Mission: six orientation/Lasallian formation seminars for faculty, staff, students, parents is a series of oral interviews with the Saint Mary’s College Professors of the Year 1992-2004. Saint Mary’s College provides a passionate and diverse environment for the lifelong learners coming from various religious traditions. The campus is a safe zone for interfaith dialogues, intellectual partnership, and every other form of engagement within the grounds of peace, tolerance, and mutual respect.  In this student-centered learning community, faculty, staff, and students work collectively towards promoting the Lasallian pedagogy of social justice and fostering responsible leaders  who are committed to make a difference in the world.

Brother Mel’s memoir, Years of Yearning, enables me to gain insights into an important time in Saint Mary’s history. I was struck by how much of the College’s strengths and challenges were shaped by the mission to defend its liberal arts tradition. The 60s was the best and worst of times. During his 28 years of reign, Brother Mel not only successfully contended with the external climates affecting the College’s stability, he managed to reconcile the various voices within the College regarding administrative matters. Under his leadership, the 4-1-4 calendar was implemented. Women were admitted for the first time to Saint Mary’s College. Despite the financial challenges, Brother Mel raised funds for new facilities and residence halls. New programs were introduced. As the President of College, Brother Mel demonstrated tremendous wisdom and courage as he overcame the never-ending challenges by leading the College through several WASC accreditation visits. His everlasting legacy will continue to be reflected in the College’s mission and its spiritual transformation in the years to come.

The campus offers many opportunities for staff to participate in activities that support the Catholic, Lasallian, and liberal arts traditions. Among the events sponsored by Office of Mission, Mission and Ministry Center, CILSA, Intercultural Center, and Human Resources, my favorites are the annual De La Salle week, the Soup and Substance meetings, and the professional development workshops.

For the library staff, the 2012 De La Salle week was particularly exciting due to our participation in the post-it project. The library invited the community to contribute their thoughts and reflections on “What ‘Together and by Association’ means to us” on a post-it board that constituted a colorful image of a Lasallian five point star. Meeting the Brothers and attending the Soup and Substance special presentation were the highlights for me.  It was eye-opening to meet with the Brothers who dedicated themselves to teaching disadvantaged youth and to listen to their stories and first-hand experiences at the St. Mary’s Boys’ School in Nyeri, Kenya.

The annual staff in-service day is an important themed event that marks the beginning of the new academic year with anticipations of continuing and new directions as indicated in the State of the College Address given in the previous year. The staff day is also an occasion for the staff to remember their role as Lasallian educators. I always appreciate the community time we share at the staff appreciation luncheons. The special short films presentations on Catholic involvement in social and environmental issues always leave the staff something to reflect on.   As always, I look forward to the Soup and Substance gatherings and sharing my thoughts on the new readings of the year.

The Campus of Difference workshop was the first order of business on my list within six months of my arrival at Saint Mary’s as a new staff. It was my first encounter of getting to know the cultural and social climate of the College. I was so impressed with the training that I continued to participate in several follow-up workshops sponsored by GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), Intercultural Center, Human Resources, CCIE (College Committee of Inclusive Excellence), and Staff Council, such as, the safe-zone workshops, and a series of staff workshops on cultural diversity, communication skills, and leadership development. The participants who attended these workshops with genuine openness and friendship bonded with one another. After we left the workshops, our positive learning experiences enable us to appreciate the fact that we as a group of dedicated individuals love working in the College together.

Gaelebration events were prepared campus-wide to kick off the Year of the Gael. In the spirit of celebrating the College’s sesquicentennial year in 2013, the library was proud to host a current faculty scholarship exhibit (along with their citations and bibliographies) that showcased faculty’s distinguished publications and artistic accomplishments. Out of the many spectacular events throughout the Year of the Gael, the great(est) conversations symposia series are definitely not to be missed. As part of the audience, I am confident to state that the crowd never ceases to be in awe of these scholars who share their passion in the Catholic intellectual tradition, Lasallian education, and the liberal arts commitment in promoting the common good. It is indeed a great honor for me to be part of the Saint Mary’s College history during this special year. Happy 150th Birthday Saint Mary’s and many more to come!

Resources

Anderson, FSC, Mel. (2011). Years of yearning: Memoir of Brother Mel Anderson, FSC, President 1969-1997. Moraga, Calif.: Brother Mel Anderson, FSC.

Lauderville, OSB, Dale. (2009). Love and knowledge: The Heart of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Retrieved November 1, 2012 from http://www1.csbsju.edu/catholicidentity/values/love_know.htm

Saint Mary’s College of California. (2005). Sharing the Lasallian mission: Six orientation/Lasallian formation seminars for faculty, staff, students, parents [DVD].  

Saint Mary’s College of California. (n.d.). Living Lasallian. Retrieved November 1, 2012 from http://www.stmarys-ca.edu/living-lasallian

Getting to know the profession, better

Whether you are an experienced librarian or someone new to the profession, networking plays an important role in career development. Mentoring is a component of professional networking. If used effectively, mentoring can be an eye-opening and productive experience for library novice and expert alike.

In the context of this article, I use the term “library novice” to refer to someone who is new to the library profession, for example, a library volunteer, a student who is enrolled in library technology or MLIS programs, or a newbie librarian who has less than five years of professional experience; a “library expert” is someone who has considerable amount of library work experience and skills in areas of his or her expertise. This someone can be a library novice and expert at the same time but in different respects, for example, a librarian can be an expert in instruction, but a novice in budget management.  Hence, it is a misconception that mentoring is only beneficial for a library novice, and not a library expert. Mentoring programs are not only simply established to help those who are not familiar with the nuts and bolts of the library profession. Mentoring is also designed to help professional librarians and experienced library staff members to get to know the profession better.

Finding the right mentoring program

The unique aspect of a mentoring program is that it focuses on one-on-one interaction between a mentor and a mentee. Mentoring could take the form of informally unstructured or formally structured. Before I decided to participate in mentoring programs, I thought through the logistics of my involvement. Why am I doing this? Who are my potential mentors and mentees? How much time am I willing to commit to this? What do I hope to get out of this mentorship? I am a new librarian who has only been to a handful of conferences. I did not know many library professionals outside of my institution. I was quiet and did not feel comfortable expressing myself in a group. I was attracted to Baynet mentoring program when I attended their annual meeting in May 2012. Although I previously came across mentoring programs offered by other library associations, the timing was not right and I was not ready at that time. I want a mentoring program which allows me to communicate electronically most of the time but still offers the option of meeting with my mentor and mentee in person.

Preparing for becoming a mentor/mentee

Based on similar interests and skills, the coordinators of Baynet mentoring program matched up the mentor/mentee pairs very quickly. During the one year mentoring relationships, we get to know our mentor/mentee. The mentoring tip sheet and worksheet are great resources especially for first-time participants. In order to maintain a cordial and professional interaction, it is crucial for the mentor and mentee to communicate their expectations and ground rules at the start of the mentorship. We agreed on how we should communicate and how often to check in with each other. Together, we defined our mentoring goals, objectives, priorities, and timeline, intending to take advantage of the opportunity to create a productive mentoring experience.

Providing an insider’s look into the library world

As a newbie librarian working at my first professional job, my views on librarianship are no doubt limited. I have wonderful colleagues to guide me through surviving and thriving at work but I often feel the need to have a second opinion of what librarianship outside my institution looks like. Every library and its parent institution have a different educational philosophy and organizational culture. My mentor and I exchanged our perspectives on academic librarianship, explored ways to stimulate career growth, discussed challenges that libraries and librarians face during the economic downturn, and shared the ups and downs of our work experience.

Establishing connection within the information profession

Mentoring is one way of being involved in professional organizations for new library workers who do not yet know many experienced information professionals in the library field. A mentor is often a mentee’s first connection to a national or regional library association. An experienced mentor could unveil many committee opportunities available within an association to the mentee. With a mentor’s help, the mentee could join the right library association and get introduced to collaboration with other library professionals who share the same career goals and interests. Having a network of library colleagues is a valuable asset for a librarian to prosper in the information profession. In addition to emails and face-to-face meetings, I am now connected to my mentor and mentee via LinkedIn to ensure that we stay in touch throughout and after the end of the mentoring program.

Putting things in perspective

During times in transition, whether there are jobs changing, work reorganization, or morale issues, a mentor can be an excellent confidant. A mentor often fills the role of a therapist who can help the mentee to see and analyze the situations in a different light. A mentor who is an outsider and has no conflict of interest with the mentee’s struggles can offer constructive and rational advice on managing difficult situations. In an effective mentorship, trust and respect must be established prior to the sharing of sensitive work issues. Professionalism needs to be maintained throughout the communication between mentors and mentees at all times.

Promoting the positive aspects of librarianship

Mentorship is an excellent vehicle for promoting the mission, vision, and value of librarianship. Librarians realize that a lot of new library workers do not sufficiently understand the inner workings of the library profession. Many newcomers are unclear about the different types of library operations and responsibilities. Librarians are information experts who provide service to users in need of research assistance. Academic librarians are champions of research, scholarship, and teaching excellence. We are advocates of information literacy and lifelong learning in age of emerging technology. For those who are new to the profession (especially MLIS students and those currently enrolled in library technology certificate programs), mentors could use this valuable educational opportunity to impart their work enriching experience and wisdom to future librarians.

Enhancing professional development

Professional development is an integral part of a librarian’s career. Librarians are encouraged to participate in various professional activities to gain experience and insights beyond their work routine. Librarians are eager to collaborate with others, to develop new skills, and to explore innovative trends in information services. Through mentoring and coaching others, librarians share expertise and strengthen their leadership skills in building a sustainable community support system to overcome challenges and contribute service to the profession.

Rekindling library passion

Job burnout may not be very common among librarians. However, for librarians who have worked in the profession for a long time, mentoring young or prospective librarians could be rejuvenating and bring a breath of satisfaction into their career. Working with mentees can be an inspiring and rewarding experience. By relating their success stories, mentors once again feel the same excitement and passion as when they first became librarians. Their mentoring effort in effect renews their dedication and commitment to the profession.

Reflecting on the mentoring experience

One of the positive outcomes of a successful mentorship is that both library novice and library expert have something valuable to learn from their experience and each other. The library profession is constantly evolving. Every mentoring experience is unique. The more mentors and mentees communicate with each other regarding their expectations the more they will benefit from the mentorship. When the assessment of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses are evaluated without prejudice, mentors and mentees can come out of the mentorship knowing better about the library profession as well as themselves.

Mad about social media

Mad about social media: putting libraries on the (digital) map

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is social media?

Built on Web 2.0 technology, social media applications connect groups of users and promote network sharing of user-generated content in the forms of interactive media (images, Web links, audio, and video). Among the dozens of social media applications, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest might be some of the popular ones that you have heard of.

Who has time to play with social media?

Like staff of other academic libraries, Saint Mary’s College of California (SMC) Library staff is constantly busy serving the needs of faculty, staff, and students. We are also in the midst of getting funding for a new building. In addition to the regular library operations (campus committees, reference, instruction, and collection development), we have very little time to do professional development, not to mention energy to invest in using social media.

Libraries generally recognize that social media can be a useful tool to feature and promote library news, information, and services to library users who are digitally savvy. However, library staff members are often too overwhelmed and unable to go beyond our daily responsibilities.

Libraries are user-centered institutions

A librarian is charged with being sharp and sensitive of what is happening around the information world. There are signs that show if something is a worthy venture for the libraries. If you read about popular technology tools in literature and hear Internet users mentioning them, it is time for your library to explore these new tools. If you see other libraries promoting new social media tools on their homepage, you better hurry up and catch the train. Social media is a new and friendly way to connect with users. Your online presence in their favorite social media pages makes it easier and more convenient for your users to reach out to your institutions.

The niche of a new librarian

I am a new librarian with no administrative or supervisory duties. My primary job is cataloging and reference. I am involved in collection development activities and instruction. In the profession, I am considered “too young” to take charge of other major responsibilities. Fearful of becoming invisible, I have been desperately searching for some place to exercise my strengths and I found my answer in social media. Granted, I am not a power user in these applications. I don’t know all the hips and hooplas, but one thing I do know is that social media is not a fad going away anytime soon. I would like to share with you our library’s involvement in Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Pinterest.

In the beginning: Twitter and Tumblr

Twitter is widely used on mobile devices. We use Twitter to send timely announcements to our “followers” (https://twitter.com/#!/smclibrary). It is very handy to tweet our basketball games highlights, scores, cool links, special hours when the timing is important. We also use Tumblr mainly to post interesting images and book covers to showcase Saint Mary’s College Library’s newest resources (http://smclib.tumblr.com/).

   Addicted to Facebook

Our library has accounts on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook but they were not very active. A few months ago I volunteered to be one of the Facebook  administrators. I became addicted to Facebook initially because of its networking component with my friends. I figured since I am on Facebook most of the time I should do something useful with it. I am a faithful reader of AL Connect, the American Libraries Online Newsletters. Every week I post interesting links on the library’s Facebook page along with taglines and questions to attract viewers’ attentions. It has become part of the routine for me to post the library’s new announcements on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SMCLib).

Going berserk with Pinterest

My coworker is one of the first staff members who discovered Pinterest and how it could be used in the library. Pinterest is an application that allows users to post, organize images on the Web and share images with other users. I was not familiar with Pinterest and found it clunky to use initially. It was difficult and cumbersome to get the right images to post. However, we discovered that Pinterest can be an excellent navigation tool to showcase our library’s collections in self-assigned categories, and to help users to discover the hidden treasures in the catalog. I joined my coworkers to become a contributor for our Pinterest page. Together, we developed a consistent method to post images and descriptions that link users to our catalog. As of this writing, there are 48 categories on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/smclibrary/), and 223 followers. Both numbers are growing.

Social media apps all in one place

The social media application icons (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest) are featured on our library homepage. We configure the app settings so that posts from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest can be shared with one another. We promote our social media pages whenever we can: at the service desks, during library instruction sessions, or orientations with visitors and perspective students. We are happy to support and connect to other libraries, library users, and information organizations through social media. Although some library users may not be active in social media, they can still visit our pages and stay in touch with library news, latest resources, and development.

Three things libraries need to thrive in social media

A library that wants to get its feet wet with social media apps needs to do a bit of planning, reflection, and conviction to carry out its mission. SMC library is supportive of using social media to promote library services and resources. We have a number of enthusiastic staff members who love to take on new projects. We have had very encouraging feedback with our social media tools since we started to follow the social media trends two years ago. Before libraries embark on any social media projects, they need to be convinced of the need, significance, and effectiveness of social media on library advocacy. There are three ingredients libraries need to possess: passion, devotion, and collaboration.

  • Passion

SMC library staff members are always eager to look for new ways to promote our services and resources, and to connect with our faculty, staff, and students. We want to be strong advocates for any technology tool that enhances educational effectiveness. We are not blind followers of the social media fad, we know what we want to do with these apps and we develop strategies to carry out our plans.

  • Devotion

It is indeed difficult for library staff to squeeze anymore time and energy from their busy workload to play and experiment with new social media apps. However, there are always one or two self-starters who are willing to go one step beyond the call of duty; someone who is bold enough to take the lead and just do it. Here at our library, we have staff members just like that.  They do the groundwork from scratch, smooth out the kinks, and set a great example for other interested staff members to follow their footsteps.

  • Collaboration

Sustaining the activity and currency of library social media pages is a challenging project. The project is a work in progress and it should not rest on the shoulders of one or two staff members alone. The more staff members are involved, the less burdensome it is to keep these library pages running, and these pages will have more interesting and diverse content.

Playing with social media is not a waste of time. On the contrary, it has become one of the channels to connect ourselves with library users on their level. According to Pew Internet report (2010) on social media and young adults, 73% of online teens and 72% of young adults use social network sites. 40% of adults ages 30 and older use social networking tools. These numbers are not negligible. Libraries need to realize that while the goal to connect and communicate with our users has not changed, there are more nontraditional ways out there we need to explore in order to reclaim our positions on the digital map.

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