Wednesday, July 16, 2008

To ATLA: A Modest Proposal

I had an earlier posting proposing the creation of a digital repository for theological librarians. I have now discovered another reason why we should create such a repository: It would be a great way for ATLA to make some extra money.

According to The Chronicle, the American Psychological Association is going to start charging its members $2,500 per article to be deposited in the PubMed Central depository. "“The deposit fee of $2,500 per manuscript for 2008 will be billed to the author’s university,” the policy says."

Interestingly enough, the link to the new policy now brings up only a brief notice: "This page is currently under review." Maybe charging members exorbitant fees for sharing information isn't such a great idea after all.

Monday, July 14, 2008

OPAC Disease?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the library: Many thanks to the students at Mary Gates Hall for demonstrating the presence of fecal coliform bacteria on the keyboards in the library and computer lab as reported in The Chronicle.

Yet another variant on The Name of the Rose -- don't lick that thumb after hitting the space bar!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Short, We Need More Space

One of my college professors used to use a humorous speech called "A Speech For All Occasions". It began with the phrase, "A funny thing happened to me on the way to the meeting," and built from there to make the point, "In short, we need more funding." The rest of the speech was made from clich├ęs and stock phrases cobbled together in a way that almost made sense.

I sometimes feel like my reports on the library could make use of that speech. Instead of funding in general, though, my plea usually boils down to a specific plea for space. I do not think I am the only librarian facing this issue.

I saw in the OCLC announcements that a new OCLC staff blog has been started: Metalogue. The July 2 post is titled, "Library Preservation: Managing the Collective Collection Over Time". In it, Janifer Gatenby summarizes what many of us already know -- publication of print items continues to expand at unprecedented rates. She mentions the staggering statistic that the British Library reports a growth in shelving of 12 kilometers--pardon me, make that "kilometres"--per year. As a result, more libraries are making use of off-site storage, creating a need for better metadata to assist patrons in selecting appropriate records when they cannot examine the physical items.

To put it bluntly, there has not been a "peace dividend" yet to the digital revolution, at least not for monographs. I am aware that many of our state universities have divested themselves of back runs of periodicals that are now available on JSTOR. For a theological library, there is the option of discarding back runs of journals digitized by ATLA, though there are still niggling difficulties caused by title-specific restrictions on the use of e-journal articles found in aggregator databases. Once you abandon ownership of the physical copy, you are solely dependent on the mercies of the publishers as to how your digital content may be used. For monographs, though, there is nothing in sight yet that is going to relieve us of the obligation to own paper texts that are not in the public domain. And the number of monographs to be acquired only increases each year.

In short, we need more space.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good Libraries & Good Students

Having just returned from the better part of a week in beautiful Ottawa, Ontario at the annual American Theological Library Association Conference, I find myself re-energized for the daily work of being a theological librarian, serving as a steward for the collected resources of the theological disciplines. I was interested, then, to see the following report in The Chronicle this morning: "More Top Students Answer the Ministry's Call.

According to The Chronicle, from 2000 - 2007, the Lilly Endowment's Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation gave $176.2 million to 88 church-related colleges in order "to help students explore the relationship between faith and work, to encourage talented students to consider entering Christian ministry, and to prepare the faculty and staff members to help students think about work in new ways."

While The Chronicle does not provide statistical evidence of the Program's impact, it does offer anecdotal evidence from two of the institutions who participated. Russell K. Osgood, president of Grinnell College, states, "we have seen an uplift, not a huge increase, but an uplift, both in the quality and in the quantity of students who consider ministry and do it." And Hastings College, in Nebraska reported, "In 2001, the 1,100-student college had only one undergraduate majoring in religion . . . By 2007, that number had climbed to 42. In the same time period, the college saw 12 of its students go into seminaries."

Our own seminary benefits greatly from the charitable work of The Kern Family Foundation whose Kern Scholars Initiative funds the seminary education of students 27 years of age or younger with cumulative GPAs of 3.25 or more. Initiatives like Lilly's Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation and the Kern Scholars Initiative are designed to attract top students to consider full time ministry as their first career choice.

Which brings me back to the role of theological libraries in stewarding the collected resources of the theological disciplines. I am not trying to say that older or second-career students are not excellent scholars or are not interested in a life of learning. But I am saying that if our seminaries want to see programs like the ones mentioned above bear fruit, they need to invest in top faculties and excellent libraries. Organizations like the Lilly Endowment and the Kern Family Foundation believe these goals are worth significant investment; I believe our institutions, which benefit from these investments, should follow suit.