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Education by Librarians that Creates Value

As a member of the Board of Directors for Creative Educators International, I provide appreciation and support for activites that invoke the writings and educational practices of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944), an early 20th century Japanese elementary school educator, philosopher, and religious reformer. Makiguchi rejected the force-feeding of knowledge and forced memorization of information and instead promoted exploring the inner motivation of students’ for their subjects, helping them develop enthusiasm regarding their studies. A young educator in one of Makiguchi’s schools, Josei Toda (1900 – 1958), became his educational disciple. Both Makiguchi and Toda rejected the Japanese militarization of the 1930s as folly, and both were jailed in 1943 as anti-war thought criminals. Toda was released as the war ended, and Makiguchi died in prison. In the bleak wreckage of a post-war defeated Japan, Toda began to offer lectures about hope and Buddhist teachings that offered self-improvement and interpersonal bonding. In 1947, a young man attended one of Mr. Toda’s neighborhood lectures. His name was Daisaku Ikeda, and Mr. Ikeda learned Makiguchi’s teachings from Mr. Toda. Eventually, Mr. Ikeda created a modern Soka Education global network from kindergarten through higher education. Soka Education is neither narrowly prescribed nor isolated, and our non-profit organization for value creation in education supports projects and individuals in a number of global locations. Because there are differing perspectives on creating value in education, I decided to share how value creative education is present in my own profession of librarianship. I hope you find this worthwhile.

Value Creating education in academic libraries and medical education

Historically, Libraries had a more physical identity as a place to access information on shelves.  In the past 20 years, information associated with academic libraries began a transition to provide students and faculty with increasing access and reliance on digital collections. This transition to the online, digital library collections means that library information used to study and review is available to university students 24/7/365, though that access will expire when a student graduates.  Academic library services have also evolved to serve the digital study and research environment. There continue to be problems of information inequity, where not all universities can afford the comprehensive research collections found at the most highly selective university libraries.

I have been fortunate to have a work history of library collections and services at three American medical schools, including my current appointment as Library Director at the Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine. I have also been a Founding Library Director in mainland China for a new University with municipal funding and unexpected fiscal limitations on my ability to provide the kinds of digital and print collections that universities in America expect.

Since 2003 I have also had a part-time position teaching students in library science graduate programs.  Since 2007 I have taught for the School of Information at San Jose State University.

What does value creating education mean to me?  Value creation in education begins with having the wisdom to appreciate every situation we face as educators and transform situations into joy, hope, and victory. Education for creating value starts with the situation, with the learning objective, and the learners in a given situation.  Librarians know that some situations are governed by a classroom setting where the instructor has invited the librarian to demonstrate or teach effective information discovery.  During other situations to try to appreciate the situational goal or task when an individual student or researcher asks for assistance. Through dialogue with the information seeker, the need and/or situation is clarified, and the librarian proceeds to provide hope, satisfaction, and victory.   

When I became the founding library director for a Chinese-American cooperative university, my charge was not just assemble a print and digital resource library, but also to prepare these Chinese students studying in English to develop library research skills and information competencies that would serve them after their graduation, which for many of them would be pursuing a graduate degree from a university in an English speaking country like the United States, Canada, Australia, or the United Kingdom.   Some of the instructors at my Chinese university did invite me to their classroom, because independent library research was required for an assignment. Rather than just rely on these classroom encounters to engage students, I also created optional information literacy and information discovery activities at non-class times and took advantage of an incentive I could offer students.  My American university had a system of co-curricular transcript credit that students could earn for volunteer or optional activities.  I was the first librarian at the University to attach this optional credit to library-sponsored activities.  This is an example of situational wisdom of leveraging a system of value to provide tangible motivation for students to attend a book discussion or learn about library research tools outside of the classroom. Having these non-classroom value creative educational activities sponsored by my library was one of the most treasured accomplishments I earned as a founding library director.

I was asked to do a lecture on my American university experiences for the Office of Student Affairs.

A different kind of community education took place during my non-work time in China.  I decided to offer free cultural events that would educate the Chinese public about the history of jazz music,  a unique original American art form.  Rather than lecture, I wanted to educate using the actual performances of jazz artists that were available on YouTube.  Because YouTube is not available in China, I downloaded the video performances, then presented the videos with narration, from my laptop computer. Over my five years in China, I presented video events at least 20 times, in Chinese libraries, coffee shops, and bookstores around my Chinese city. I usually invited a friend to be my translator, so that the audience would have an accurate understanding of my educational intent. These events were free for the public.   I often received engaging questions, sometimes in English and sometimes in Chinese through my translator.  Each occasion and venue was a unique situation that were sometimes challenging when the technology to project my computer’s output did not work as expected.  Flexibility, calm, and hope were needed, and in one case my event started two hours late, and the audience was very patient and eventually rewarded.

I presented a lecture on Jazz and Art at one of Wenzhou's public museums

Currently I direct a library at a medical school  just east of Philadelphia, in Stratford, New Jersey. When librarians teach or support graduate students in longitudinal programs like medicine, preparing them for professional roles such as physicians or health providers, these doctors-in-training are extremely challenged as individual learners to absorb and demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills, while being challenged to join team-based professional practice or research organizations, primarily hospitals. Continuing education must take place, as medical knowledge and research experience continues to evolve and change.  I create value in my relationships with medical students, offering training and support in a variety of formats at a moment of acute need, as well as emphasizing information techniques to stay current in their medical specialty or research area.  I also provide hope and encouragement when you can see stress on students faces.   Every student has individual needs and challenges, as well as the weight of expectations from their families that that have supported their most basic needs.  The dialogue with an information seeker clarifies the need, which may even be patient related.

The School of Osteopathic Medicine Library Orientation in the summer of 2021

All of my CEIN colleagues have physicians and other kinds of health professionals with which you develop a trusting relationship that should give you hope and confidence in making your health choices and solving your health challenges.  I want you to reflect on your care providers and think about how they were students that were motivated to become an ethical and compassionate care provider, themselves in a network of support at their medical schools and medical residencies. 

1 Comment

  1. Michele de Gastyne

    Dear Mr Greenburg, you are such a dignified, authentic successor of Value-creation education founder Mr Makiguchi ! I read your article with deep emotion. Here I’ve discovered even more elements of your thinking on how to bring this pedagogy into the future. As well as a richer understanding of what you have experienced and why you believe as you do. This article is so complementary with the wonderful presentation for your 2023 JazzDay contribution in our annual MUAC event. What a great hope for the future of our world… PS Years ago the son of my dear friend Ping Ping Chang spoke with excitement about his involvement in Librairies Without Borders. And after reading your article, I understand better why he believed so deeply in his own actions. I hope you will meet each other some day. You both represent a bigger future for us all …

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