- College Libraries and the Teaching/Learning Process: Selections from the Writings of Evan Ira Farber
On its surface, this book serves as a useful time capsule of the thinking of one of academic librarianship's premier practitioners. As librarian of Earlham College, a president of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), and recipient of both the ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year and Miriam Dudley Instruction Librarian awards, Evan Farber has been consistently acknowledged for his insight, leadership, and contributions.
To view this work as such, however, is to miss the wondrous experience of Farber's perspective of the library in what he terms the teaching and learning process. A 30-year span of topics is included. These topics range from the role of the library in the academic environment and the changing forms and content of bibliographic instruction and information literacy, to the impact of information technology and the relationship between librarian and teaching faculty. What consistently shines through the individual explorations of changing academic library issues is an abiding belief in the centrality of student learning. In essence, the book can be read as a conceptualization of the academic library and all that it does and can be as a source of student-centered teaching and learning. Farber habitually nuances his discussions of teaching information retrieval, of reference librarianship, and of the library's collection with how significantly these activities can contribute to the learning of vital cognitive processes. He views what libraries do in the context of how they contribute to the ability of students to inquire, consider, and understand the world in which they live.
Farber offers an analysis of the challenges that the teaching faculty and librarian relationship faces, and he is, at all times, respectful of the distinctions between the two players in the teaching/learning process. He also encourages both groups to continue to engage in the forging of effective relationships for the benefit of students. In fact, the dynamic nature of relationship building is a recurring theme in the writings included in this book. He holds a holistic view of the academic library in which the elements of reference service, collection building, instruction, administration, faculty, and student relations all inform one another for the mission of having an impact on student abilities to use information effectively and to think well.
Each selected writing is enhanced with prefatory remarks by Farber, which [End Page 95] provide historical context and a contemporary commentary on previously articulated thoughts. These notes serve to give the reader an experience of the person behind the ideas. Many of the inclusions come with extensive textual notes as well that illuminate the influences on the author and give an appropriate context from the professional literature.
Although this book clearly addresses the environment of the college library, Farber's thinking, especially as it relates to that environment's differences and similarities to the university library situation, is relevant to any academic librarian. The issues that Farber considers are germane to all those engaged in institutions of higher education and to all who care deeply about the impact effective academic librarianship can have on students.