Elsewhere in this issue of Bellarmine Magazine, you will find a story about the history and naming of the W.L. Lyons Brown Library on the Bellarmine campus. The library will always have special meaning to me as the first major capital project of my presidency.
It was clear to me when I arrived at Bellarmine that we needed a great library to support and continue the trajectory of excellence begun by Msgr. Alfred Horrigan and carried on by my immediate predecessor, Dr. Eugene Petrik. With the help of great people like library director Dave Chatham, who was very tech-savvy, and the support of a wonderful Board of Trustees led by Owsley Brown Frazier, we designed a beautiful building with award-winning architecture and décor that would set the tone for future campus construction, and which included miles of hidden wiring that we were confident would more than meet our technological needs going forward.
Little did we know that less than 15 years later, so much of our computing and electronic communication would be “wireless” (to say nothing of “the cloud”), and that the technology in the W.L. Lyons Brown Library, which not only was cutting edge, but ahead of cutting edge, at the library’s dedication in April 1997, would soon be outdated.
So, in 2014, once again we find ourselves giving thoughtful, mindful consideration to the role that technology plays, and will play, in our teaching, learning, and research and to our overall strategy for using it most effectively. The pace at which information comes at us has only accelerated both in volume and speed in the years since the library opened. In addition, a marked shift has occurred in universities’ relationship to information. For much of the history of higher education, the university was in charge of information and made it available to the user. But with the remarkable advances in personal computers and smart phones, most information now is directly available to users.
At this point, therefore, the university’s responsibility is to support and empower those information users – our teachers, learners, and researchers – by helping to create for them the best conditions and support for learning. As we update our comprehensive master plan, therefore, we are reconceptualizing our entire institutional engagement with technology. The library will surely continue to be an important part of our information strategy. Rather than a storehouse for books and printed material, however, it may well become more of a central teaching and learning space; a welcoming place with reading rooms and study lounges where teachers and students can bring their “stuff” and engage with friends and colleagues exploring the world as it is emerging.
It has been rather fun, actually, to see the library information and technology at Bellarmine evolve – from its modest beginning in one of the campus’ original two buildings, to our wonderful W.L. Lyons Brown Library, which has made such a difference on our campus, to whatever it will become for us next.
One of the things that has stayed with me from the dedication of the library was a comment from Dr. Douglas Den Uyl, a professor of philosophy here at the time. He said, “You can tell this place was created by people who love to read – for others who love to read.” What a great compliment that was. Like most people, I love to read, and so to me, our library is a sacred space. I think there always should be something called “the library” on a university campus. But our library of the future will be quite different, as will Bellarmine University’s imagined, innovative, and increasing use of technology for teaching, learning and research.
For example, as I write, we are about to launch a new Institute for Advanced Analytics, a yearlong, full-time master’s program that will position graduates to help companies do a better job analyzing data, managing data, and drawing meaning and value from data for strategic purposes.
Today, our students and faculty use tablets and smartphones, live chat, video, e-books and scores of other devices and technologies that weren’t even thought of when our library opened just those few short years ago. Our Faculty Development Center and IT department keep faculty and students abreast of the best technology practices, and even I’ve become a bit of an expert at typing with my thumbs. It will be wonderful indeed to see what comes next, not only in terms of technology and the library, but in terms of new and improved ways of teaching, learning and research. Onward!
Dr. Joseph J. McGowan | email@example.com