In schools across America we have replaced the library with the Learning Resource(s) Center (LRC). There are now even Success Centers on college campuses. (Is not that why the library became the LRC?) Success Center and LRC are shiny, bright, action oriented terms, but what do they really get the student, the library, or the school? Hmmm. Lots of questions.
I had been a librarian for a decade and I was pretty sure I knew what the definition of a library was until I came to work in an LRC. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) says a library “is a place set apart to contain books for reading, study, or reference.” Although it has gone through many variations in spelling from librarie, lyberary, liberary, librarye to the modern library, the basic definition has stayed the same.
So what is an LRC? According to the Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science, it is “synonymous in the United States with school library.”1 A school library being one that serves the information and curriculum needs of public or private schools. Ok. But, why cannot a library just be a library? The 1972 combined ACRL AECT Guidelines for Two-Year College Learning Resource Programs may be where it all started. (Although, I have come across several different starting dates for the term.) According to Wanda K. Johnston, since this report was published it became unpopular to refer to community college libraries (are you ready) as libraries.2 I work in an “LRC” and I have never had anyone who was lost or looking for the library ask me where the LRC is. Patrons call it the library. The only ones that contort the term library into LRC are library professionals. In the book It’s All About Student Learning the authors say that, “in many colleges learning resource centers are reverting back to using the term libraries, often reflecting that, in the vernacular used by students and faculty, our departments continue to be thought of as libraries.”3
No matter how different the mission and objectives of one library may be from another, all libraries are fundamentally the same. Whether a library’s mission is to support research, instruction, a specialized field, or the needs of the common citizen, at the most basic level the purpose of every library is to fulfill the information needs of its patrons. An overly specialized term like LRC does nothing to help achieve this objective. I am a librarian and I like to work in a library.
- Joan M. Reitz. (n.d.). ODLIS — Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. ABC-CLIO. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from http://www.abc-clio.com/ODLIS/odlis_l.aspx#learningresources ↩
- Johnston, W. K. (1994). Administering the Community College Learning Resources Program. New York: Maxwell Macmillan International. ↩
- McCabe, G. B., & Dowell, D. R. (2006). It’s All About Student Learning: Managing Community and Other College Libraries in the 21st Century. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited. ↩