Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jesus Makes the Top 100

I am pleased to announce that Jesus Christ is featured prominently in the top 100 WorldCat identities. Though Marx's heading is almost as prominent as Mary's, and Faulkner is pretty big, too. (Faulkner? Really?)

If you have not investigated WorldCat's beta Identities site before, point your browser to If nothing else, this can become a new vanity search for faculty members who want to find out how widely their publications are held.

Digital Technology In Churches

My thanks to John Jaeger from Dallas Baptist University whose frequent news postings on ATLANTIS brought this item from the Barna Group to my attention:

New Research Describes Use of Technology in Churches

According to the Barna Group, the pace of adoption of technology in Protestant churches has been slowing over the past two years. The Barna Group attributes this to churches having to pause for breath while they figure out how to configure the software they already have, while other churches "attempt to get by" before bringing digital technology into traditional church ministry.

George Barna has been researching the incorporation of digital technology by churches for a decade now. He comments:

"The fact that market penetration of digital technologies seems to top out around two-thirds of the market could easily change if the digital-resistant churches conceived ways of facilitating their vision through the deployment of such tools. That is what made these tools so appealing to larger churches: being able to apply the tools to furthering their ministry goals."

From my vantage point working in a seminary, though, I am wondering if some churches are starting to have a moment of reflection about whether their ministry goals are compatible with digital technology. Technology can be a tool that allows one to do what one has always done in a better or more efficient way, but technology can also be transformational. It can change what one does in ways that are difficult to predict.

Do the ministers that we are training need new ways to network and reach out to people in cyberspace, or do they need ways to bring the Facebook-frenzied away from their blinking screens into a community of believers? Do they need the capability to do both?

I continue to think of a theological library as a place that serves both purposes. We are making good use of the best technologies to improve access to the wealth of the writings of the Church, but we are also providing physical places where scholars can interact with each other and with books in a way that cannot be done online. I hope our churches will be able to do the same.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Your Library On Steroids

This web site has been out there for awhile, but I thought it was good enough to pass on:

"Steroid" Scandal Rocks Major League Libraries

And a serious opinion offered to reward your efforts in checking out my blog posting:

Enhanced cataloging is not "enhanced" at all, but is merely doing what cataloging has always been meant to do: Provide the researcher with enough information to decide whether or not to pursue a work. Behind all the flashing ads for Web 2.0, libraries are still about the business of matching researchers with resources. (Alright, so that opinion exposes my academic library bias.)

Every book its reader. -- Ranganathan

Friday, April 18, 2008

Food in the Seminary Library

A beautiful Friday in Chicagoland with warm breezes and vigilant geese staking out their patch of library turf seems like a good day to blog about one of the lighter aspects of library life: food in the library.

The Chronicle has posted an article about the more relaxed attitude toward food that typifies the hip, turn-of-the-century academic library. "[Morningside] College has joined those that are casting aside their libraries' stuffy images by allowing students and faculty members to chow down — the "no food allowed" signs and wagging fingers are gone — amid the books and computers."

We have done the same at our library. Two years ago, We replaced our "No Food Or Drink Allowed" signs with signs that say "Please Keep Drinks In Covered Containers". We included helpful images of travel mugs lest students become confused and decide that a keg is also a covered container. (Those zany German Baptists!) Our food policy is basically a "don't ask, don't tell" policy--the sign only says to keep your drink in a covered container. A sandwich, a candy bar, a McBag supper are not uncommon sights now in a student study carrel. An entire pizza is possible, though apt to draw freeloaders. We did have a study room completely redecorated once for--I am not making this up--a marriage proposal that I believe also included celebratory snacks. (And this was before the kinder, gentler food policy.)

Students do appreciate the new policy. Previously, some students would stand out in the hallway to scarf their food before entering the library (a good sign of a future associate or executive pastor); others would stop at the desk and ask if we minded if they brought a bag of M&Ms into the library (the future senior pastors); others would just camouflage their latté and bagel underneath a folded jacket and head straight for the study carrels in the lower level (future youth pastors). Now everything is above-board, no slinking required. (Though the current issue of YouthWorker is still apt to turn up missing.)

There really hasn't been a down-side to the change in policy. Our cleaning crew sometimes has a few extra wrappers to pick up. One of our ponderous reading tables has been graced with a ghostly coffee mug ring caused evidently not by liquid but by heat. (Shroud of Turin scholars are welcome to stop by to see if they can duplicate the process.) The occasional coffee or cola splort on the carpet doesn't happen any more often now than it used to before we instituted the new policy. I haven't worried about the exposure of books to food, as that is what happens anyway when the books are checked out, though common courtesy should keep one from turning the pages with the same fingers that have been holding the Cheeto. (Sort of a Name-of-the-Rose effect in reverse.)

We have even gone so far as to offer food as a way to lure students into the library. We do not have the space or finances to set up a library café, but we do provide beverages and study snacks every quarter the week before finals. I used to have to cover over the "No Food Allowed" signs during our study break weeks, but now we can serve food out in the open without creating confusion over the library policy. Provided we don't include a keg.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Section 108 Study Group Report

I am spending a fair amount of my time these days immersed in copyright issues. While that statement is probably true for librarians in general, I have found myself particularly engaged with copyright as our seminary has begun teaching its first distance courses and, several years after initial experiments, has started offering online courses again. My primary interest is how this affects course reserves, an issue that many larger institutions have already resolved via course packs and CCC licenses. There are many other issues relevant to campus copyright policy, not the least of which are faculty rights to online course content, but coming up with a standardized, hopefully not too time-consuming, and preferably not too expensive way of managing e-reserves is my focus at present.

Thus I was disappointed to see that the 3-years-in-the-making Section 108 Study Group Report has little to say about e-reserves. From the Executive Summary:

"The Study Group discussed whether to recommend any changes to the copyright law specifically to address e-reserves and determined not to recommend any changes at the present time."

For all of its 212 pages, the Section 108 Study Group Report is disappointing in its other recommendations as well. Most of the recommendations have at least as much ambiguity as Section 108. (For some reason, this feels a lot like dealing with biblical commentary. The actual text of Section 108 is a little over 1400 words long -- around three pages. Yet the amount of falderol and legal discourse on Section 108 are seemingly endless.) I agree with Library Journal's 4/1/08 Academic Newswire, "Overall, the report reflects significant work and discussion on a range of issues relating to libraries and copyright -- but also deep, ongoing tension between publishers and libraries in the digital age."

Note that the Academic Newswire article also provides a link to the AAP's written comments on the Section 108 Study Group's report. Of making many books there is no end, nor of disputing the copyrighting thereof.