Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Calling, Part 2

This post is dedicated to the other librarians that I have met in the American Theological Library Association.


I figure that if George Lucas can start Star Wars with Part 4, I can start this series with Part 2. In a future posting, I'll tell you about the first thing that drew me to theological librarianship as a career. In this posting, though, I want to tell you about the second thing that drew me to theological librarianship: The great company of living saints with whom I work, my colleagues in this profession.

In my first posting on this blog, I accused my colleagues of all being to some extent conservative -- ours is a profession of preservation, and we have shared interests in heritage and history that cross theological and denominational lines (more about that in a moment). In this posting, I want to accuse my colleagues of all being to some extent liberal -- there is a liberality of spirit that I believe is a shared ethos among librarians, especially among theological librarians.

This starts in our libraries--libraries are service organizations, and most librarians are able to keep that focus even in the midst of departmental reorganizations and budget cuts. It extends to our institutions--most (academic) librarians that I know serve in many different capacities within their schools, and there is a general willingness to contribute to the institutional life beyond working in the library. With theological librarians this also extends to a spirituality of service, expressed in service to others, often through the church. This can be a straightforward kind of service as when librarians volunteer time to run a local church library or contribute to the organization of denominational archives. It can be as demanding as a path of ordination--many theological librarians carry Rev. or Sr. or Dcn. in front of their names. Even when it is not as clearly defined, this spirituality of service evidences itself in open office doors even in technical services, in extra time spent tracking down a reference for another librarian, in answering yet one more reference question before heading home late for dinner (again).

Another indication of the liberality of spirit that I encounter among theological librarians is a generosity towards others of different faith backgrounds. This generosity is not because we do not value our own faith backgrounds; for many of us, our work includes a conscious association with a specific denomination and a desire to contribute to the work of that denomination. I have found, though, that in our common calling as librarians, we are quick to recognize our similarities and slower to focus on our differences. There is a pooling of resources, a sharing of expertise, and a genuine appreciation for the efforts of others that is not stifled by denominational differences or even the liberal/conservative divide. Interacting with other theological librarians, I have learned much more about the breadth of Christian experience than I have ever learned in a church setting or in a seminary class.

My early experience of these things at the start of my library career is a large part of why I am a theological librarian today. To any other theological librarians who happen to wander by this post, thank you!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Blake. Very well said. I'll check on your blog when I get time; looks very promising. Roger Loyd

Matt said...

Welcome to the blogosphere Blake! I'm very grateful to have begun my career in theological libraries under your tutelage and am looking forward to reading more of you wisdom here.

You may know but Rolfing has blog looking at the future of information and libraries at:
-- Matt Ostercamp