Modeling the Business of Theological Libraries in the Twenty-First Century: Writing Centers and More

Elia, Anthony J.

What is the business of a theological library? That’s probably a funny-sounding question, first of all because we probably don’t think about theological libraries having “business.” Rather, I believe we like to think of them as having “purpose,” such that we can ask, “What is the purpose of a theological library?” We can still answer these questions in the same way, but it is more about how we ought to begin thinking or re-thinking the role of the theological library in the twenty-first century, and that is in terms of business. Why? Some might consider this to be a blasphemous claim or assertion, but perhaps the truth comes in advertising. In this harsh period of economic troubles that has found its way into more than a few libraries, especially seminary libraries, we find that talk often revolves around money, finances, and economic cutbacks. The question “What is a theological library?” is no longer viable, but should be reconfigured to the more sustainable “What CAN a theological library become?” The key part of this logistical and lexical shift is in the motion from stasis to action. Many of us know from experience that libraries change very slowly, and, in some cases, theological libraries may be the worst offenders. This is not the debate. What is the debate is how we can better promote our institutional libraries so that our parent institutions can understand and value both the tangibles and intangibles in a light that is a model of good business, while not compromising or dismissing the academic and scholarly rigor of our library operations. In short, the key word used time and again for the modern worker—librarian or not—is versatility.


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American Theological Library Association Summary of Proceedings

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February 21, 2013