A Quick Reflection on ARL and ARL-Ignatian as Intertwined Paths to Excellence.

Tom Wall, University Librarian, reflects on how Boston College Libraries fit both in the world of Research Libraries and the world of Jesuit Universities.

Boston College Libraries belong to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), which includes the largest research and academic libraries in the United States and Canada. The organization meets twice a year and has a variety of programs, committees and initiatives that allow for conversations on like experiences, best practices, trends and planning relevant to all areas of academic and research libraries. ARL provides value, and BC benefits from our involvement.

The only other two Catholic ARL institutions are Georgetown and Notre Dame, and of course only Georgetown identifies as Jesuit. We also belong to several other library and professionally relevant organizations, but for the purposes of this reflection I am only focusing on ARL, but not actually on the ARL above.

I recently experienced the transformative Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP), and found myself reflecting on issues and concerns specific to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) with colleagues across all academic areas, and these conversations were rewarding in ways I that are outside of ARL’s scope. The ICP colleagues were inherently caring, without ego and understood the importance of both cura personalis (care for the entire person) and cura apostolica (care for the work). The ICP folks are, to a person, committed to following their hearts, souls and imaginations to make our students and institutions the best they can be. The overall 18 month program led to a collective experience that demonstrated the value of communal discernment unique to AJCU institutions.

Pivoting back to ARL, issues raised at meetings provide some opportunity for conversation, but local nuance and ambitious personalities can obfuscate meaningful takeaways, at least to my mind. Moreover, most ARL attendees are sitting directors (like me); I have been increasingly sending our Associate University Librarians (AULs), and frankly see the AULs as the ones closest to many of the issues discussed at the ARL meetings.

BC Libraries are committed to contributing to and engaging with the ARL. But in terms of our organizational culture I would like to suggest that we are also Ignatian; we can use the ARL letters as a mnemonic device and as a community aspire to always being Attentive, Reflective and Loving in all matters related to our professionalism, our Boston College community, and greater concerns and challenges that come with everyday life.

So while we are certainly an ARL Library and all that entails, we are fundamentally grounded in the Ignatian ARL as well. These ARL-isms are not mutually exclusive either, particularly with regards to topics that revolve around complex social justice matters. We can do our best work when we are attentive, reflective and loving to all groups, especially those on the margins in a damaged world, by paying close attention to equity, diversity and inclusion, without losing our deep service commitment to library excellence. I would maintain that Boston College has the opportunity to always be driven to doing better in these areas because of a shared ongoing commitment to practicing librarianship within an institution that also practices community discernment. Having a leadership role surrounded by amazing people that understand both ARLs evokes gratitude, humility and promise.