It seems I’ve been advocating defending the concept of the academic library lately. Different people respond to different attributes, so I’ve developed this framework to help express the narrative. I call it N3P3.
- NATURAL. A natural place where scholars gather. They offer the materials, tools, and learning spaces that enable people to access, discover, use, and share information.
- NURTURING. A nurturing environment that promotes academic success. Librarians and staff are there to provide assistance with research and technical support. The space also promotes collaboration, enabling peer-to-peer mentoring and group work.
- NEUTRAL. An open and inviting destination on campus. It encourages exposure to interdisciplinary encounters and freedom to relax and reflect. Everyone is welcome to use the library.
- PRODUCTIVE. An atmosphere that generates active learning energy and advances the desire to develop intellectually, socially, and culturally. It also places students in close proximity to people, tools, and resources that will enable success.
- PRESERVATION. A safe house for historical and cultural scholarly record. Libraries collect and maintain useful information in print, digital, and a multitude of other formats. They also provide digital access to the most current research in every field.
- PEOPLE-ORIENTED. A place where people congregate and connect with information and each other. Historically libraries have been collection-oriented, but that is changing. The value now is the relationship that people experience using the full suite of spaces, services, materials, and tools available to them. Libraries about about people and helping them accomplishment their academic pursuits.
This framework doesn’t cover every topic or every circumstance, but in a pinch it helps get the conversation going. I typically watch for areas of interest and then focus in on those themes.
For example, if a person seems interested in the preservation aspect then I talk about the archives in our special collections, our digitalization projects, how we’ve engaged courses in this regard, or about our conservation efforts.
If they are interested in learning spaces, then I emphasize technology, group collaboration, and the ongoing evolution from the lone scholar to the team-based approach to learning.
What I like is that it’s a simple, flexible, easy to remember framework: N3P3. It works with large groups or one-on-one conversations. It can be broad or very detailed. It enables me to customize or ad-lib as necessary. It can be a 5 minute or 55 minute conversation. And lastly– people seem shocked that I don’t focus on just books– that’s what they expect to hear about– so when I talk about all these other qualities they get excited. Always leave them wanting to learn more about the library!