I had some very good discussions on twitter recently (complete with book recommendations, naturally) about whether higher education is transformative, what that even means, and how you might measure it.
My very, very cursory look at some of the research seems to indicate that the number of college students who show truly transformative increases in moral reasoning, critical thinking, cultural understanding, and the like is fairly small. Moreover, there seems to be some evidence that students (and their parents) are actually not approaching college with any sort of transformative goal in mind — most kids are pursuing a college degree for understandably instrumental reasons.
And yet, despite the fact that it rarely happens, and it may not even be what students are seeking, I still believe in the transformative potential of the college experience. For example, I believe in the possibility that a student might be encouraged by a classroom experience in such a way that ignites a life-long passion for social justice. I believe in the possibility of a student discovering an unknown aptitude for art, for programming, for scientific analysis, or for leadership. I believe these sorts of transformative self-discoveries can happen in the classroom, in the dorm, in extracurricular activities and in the library.
I’m more than willing to admit that the kinds of life-changing transformative college experience I’m talking about may be very rare. And in spite of that (or perhaps because of that), I want to create libraries and library experiences that facilitate those rare events. I don’t quite know what that looks like, but I think it may be as much an attitude as any specific set of actions or programs.
That’s the argument I couldn’t figure out how to make in 140 characters, but that came into relief for me through those twitter exchanges. Thanks to @lisalibrarian, @NancyDryden, @bfister, @JMarkOckerbloom, @jillian6475, @MerrileeIam, and @olinj for the twitter conversation and the book recommendations.
I would love to know if the idea even makes sense and/or if anyone has ideas about what a library that facilitates transformative experiences looks like.