I recently read an opinion piece by Notre Dame Philosophy Professor Gary Gutting in The New York Times philosophy forum, The Stone, entitled “Why Do I Teach.” The following quote is particularly intriguing:
“The fruits of college teaching should be measured not by tests but by the popularity of museums, classical concerts, art film houses, book discussion, groups, and publications like Scientific American, the New York Review of Books, The Economist, and The Atlantic, to cite just a few. These are the places where our students reap the benefits of their education.”
Dr. Gutting makes an interesting point about the potential of higher education to not just instill knowledge or prepare students for employment but to excite passion and creativity, pique curiosity, develop critical thinking, cultivate aesthetic appreciation; in short, to open us to greater possibilities intellectually and emotionally.
This gave me pause to consider how the library figures in the lives of students. It goes, or should go, without saying that the library is integral to the scholarly academic experience of university students. But the library is also full of books and films which may bear little relation to a particular students coursework or major (at least explicitly) but nevertheless have the potential to inspire, bring pleasure, engender new interests, lead to reflection, or raise new questions.
For example, just a short walk from UT over the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts are currently two exhibits, Exposing the Self: Photography and Surrealism and Frida and Friends: The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo. The library also has many wonderful books and films available for those curious to learn more or who merely seek the pleasure of engaging in the works of artists and writers associated with Surrealism and Mexican Art (just search the Online Catalog) because, as Dr. Gutting puts it, even though you may never become an expert in the subject there is value in such encounters, “they make students vividly aware of new possibilities for intellectual and aesthetic fulfillment.”