Moments from life at IBTS,  Theological musings/personal reflections

Thoughts in the Library

Hello to our readers, with special thanks to those who have encouraged our blogging efforts over the last several days with their words of appreciation. This can mean a lot at this point of the Intensives when the programme is still continuing ‘relentlessly,’ as Keith likes to say, but the energy levels are evaporating. And while we’re on the subject of the intensiveness of the Intensives programme, here’s a reflection from Katharina, our Head Librarian:

As I spent another Saturday afternoon at the wonderfully cool IBTS library while Prague bestowed a hot early autumn day on its inhabitants and visitors, my thoughts kept reverting to the theme that has been important to me since I became involved with library work in addition to teaching.  A library, by definition, has to provide equal and sufficient services to all students of the institution, independently of whether they study full-time and on-site or part-time and at a great geographical distance.  How can we at IBTS meet this challenge?  While students are enjoying the benefits of a huge theological library during these few weeks at the beginnings of their studies, how will each of them cope with finding relevant quality materials while back home in their individual countries?  For some, it will simply be the matter to find good theological or academic libraries in their neighbourhood and arrange for rights to use them (if necessary, with our help).  Others, however – and this concerns most of our Eastern European and Middle Eastern students – will need to develop the discipline of “creative hunting“: seek out materials in various formats (print, electronic, multi-media, microfilm) and through libraries in various geographical places, arrange for found materials to reach them as scan, copy, gift or purchase, or to enlist an informal network (friends, colleagues, librarians, spouses) to hunt for materials on their behalf.

While listening to the “blissful silence interrupted only by the turning of the pages,” I kept hearing the clicks of a digital camera, the buzzing of the scanners and the scribbling of pens taking notes from the required reading books – the latter, admittedly, less prominent than the former.  Students have become very proficient with technology when it comes to meeting their research needs and supplying themselves with materials needed to answer the essay question before them.  Yes, sometimes they panick and copy or scan everything that seems to relate to their topic (and who can condemn such “survival mode“ of a have-not?). But often they develop into multi-channel persons who with any means anywhere are able to listen/search for anything that possibly relates to their topic of study. (Such discipline, I believe, helps to make them more sensitive to the needs of others (of whatever kind) and become spiritually and emotionally alert persons who notice and take seriously needs of those marginalised from the usual benefits of society.)

For the library, it means that our mission is not only to fulfill the function of the “memory“ in the church as the body of Christ, being responsible for the collection and preservation of the body’s resources, maintaining in the library the collected works of the “clouds of witnesses” who have gone before us. The mission is also to act as a pointer finger to helpful resources in the aftermath of the information explosion as well as the hand that gets resources on behalf of remote students from anywhere in the world and hands these to them in a manageable format.

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