"Missional" Librarianship

For the last several years, many evangelical seminaries (Fuller and NTS come immediately to mind) and their professors have been pumping out books and courses related to the mission of God, the mission  of church, missional  ministry, etc. etc. The idea that instead of sitting in churches waiting for people to come in, Christians should go out into the world and engage it in love. 

While a good enough idea I guess (I won't discuss the many reasons it can be problematic here), it's been repeated ad nauseam, and so it's what I couldn't help but think of when I was listening to a lecture in the New Librarianship MOOC, and Lankes was talking about getting out from behind the reference desk and into the community.

I tweeted a paraphrase of what he said: 


I got a bit of pushback, asking for some examples of what that looks like. And I was pleased that what I came up with was basically my professional life. I'm not just  a librarian. My network is not just librarians.  I do my best to actively engage in the community I endeavor to serve--that of theologians and clergy. I try to go where the conversations are--on Twitter, at conferences--participate in them, and offer my expertise as appropriate. I try to get my name out there, not as a grab for prestige, but to help facilitate knowledge-sharing, and so that when people need help finding some information (or someone else to work out ideas with) they know who to ask and where to find me.

It's in this way I can appreciate a kind of "missional" librarianship--one that's based more on relational learning-together than a capitalistic transaction of information. I love this idea of embedded librarianship, where I can really get to know my community (and they get to know me) and we can expand intellectual horizons together.


The Church (and the Library): It's Not Dead Yet!

A couple weeks ago, a few of us Twitter folk (including Carol Howard Merritt, Ben Howard--no not that Ben Howard--and others) met at Michael's cafe, which is home to some amazing cake, and talked about the state of the Church.

We tried to focus on that big-C Church, and we talked about its overall decline in membership and incline in the membership's age, the rise of the nones, and the pesky problem of exclusionary theology. But as we talked in these generalizations, I kept hearing the same refrain--"That's not my experience."

For as many stories as we had about seminary degrees gathering dust and bigoted Christians, we had just the same stories of growth and love and rebirth in what we still could only call the Church, or perhaps more accurately churches.

It reminded me of Monty Python.

Then it reminded me of libraries. Every single stinkin time I tell someone I work in a library and I'm getting my degree in library science, they always want to challenge me about "The Future of Libraries," and "Aren't they all going to be extinct anyway?" Anyone can Google anything they want; we don't need libraries.

That's not my experience.

People still need libraries, just like people still need churches. They both foster the love of truth that is not going extinct, and a place for shared experience that you can't replicate by pointing and clicking. 

Churches and libraries are not dying. They might not look the way they used to, but they are still here, and they're sticking around.

TTLA + Finding my Place

Today I got to hang out at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society for the meeting of the Tennessee Theological Library Association. It was so, so much fun being surrounded by people who have, more or less, my same professional interests.

Theological librarianship is a pretty narrow field, so it's always been kind of a novelty to find people who were part of it. But since working in the Divinity Library it's become an everyday thing! I am so thrilled to be working here with such interesting and intelligent people who geek out over the same things I do. I keep saying how wonderful it's been to feel like I'm among "my people."

So as much as I miss San Diego (although I still don't think it's really sunk in yet), I am really overjoyed to be here learning and experiencing this new and exciting environment. It's so certainly where I belong.

My First Library

My last day of work at Point Loma is in three weeks, and three weeks sounds like so much less than four weeks (especially since I'll only be working two days, three days, and three days of those weeks), which means it's officially kind of scary and sad.

This is the library where I found my path. I remember that day my sophomore year, when I was sitting at the circ desk and thought, "Hey, I like working in a library. Maybe I could do this for real," and proceeded to Google "How do you become a librarian?" (Answer: a master's degree. Yay.)

Like everyone, I did so much growing as a college student, and so much of my college career was spent in this library--either working 9 hour days, 25-hour weeks (Shhh, don't tell. Students are only supposed to work 20 hours per week) or studying, reading, writing. And that one nap that one time during my last finals week.

I've gotten up at 6am countless times to open, and left at midnight to close. I've watched sunsets over the Pacific from the front desk and my office. I've told probably thousands of people where the bathroom is.

Honestly, I don't think I can properly put into words what a perfect environment this library has been for me. It's one of those things that makes me worry about the future because there's no way somewhere else could be as good. But my time here has prepared me for what's next, and I feel so well equipped.

Sorry for getting mushy on you, but I get really sentimental about things.

I have a feeling I'll be in ultra-mushy mode for the next month.

Libraries and Pinterest

My library does not currently use Pinterest. I know lots of libraries do, especially larger and public libraries (like NYPL), and it's been a really great way to interact with patrons and get information out about programs and resources. Check out this article to see a bunch of neat applications.

NYPL's Pinterest boards include photos from their archives, infographics about the library, current reading lists, and, of course, pictures of cats.

It seems obvious that such a large and well-endowed library would have plenty to post about. They have such an interesting and extensive collection that having a glimpse into it, even virtually over social media, is exciting. Just check out their "Collections" board.

But I'm skeptical as to what value Pinterest would have for a small academic library such as my own.

The best ideas I can come up with are more for novelty's sake than anything--linking our catalog holdings with displays, or holidays, or current events. And even then it would require hunting for photos of book covers. Plus something like that might be interesting to look at, but has no viral value--not many people would be "repinning" such things. Unless perhaps they had a "To Read" type of board.

Or maybe it could be an interesting way to display books on Reserve--have a board for each course with pins for each text?

In any case, it seems like more work for little return on investment.

Have you seen valuable ways for libraries to use Pinterest? Does your library pin?

Do You Want to be a Librarian?

A librarian friend posted this video on her Facebook this week, and it is awesome. It was shot in 1947, and besides a couple points of blatant sexism is still a pretty good representation of the heart of librarianship. Love!

My favorite part is the guy at 3:09 who's like "I don't know the author or the title, but it's a blue book," and the librarian says, "I think we can help you," instead of punching him in the face, which is what I would have done. OK, not really. But geez. Actually, that's something I've brought up in my metadata class--that the physical description, while not super helpful for organizing, is more important for recall than you might imagine. I've seen more than enough people asking for a certain color book or book with certain cover art to know that sometimes that's really all a person knows, so we should be able to work with that to help them out.

Cool Card Catalog

This is too cool--had to share it.

Plus, a confession: I've never actually used a card catalog! I don't think I even really know how. I think I'm just young enough that computers were the norm in libraries, even the public library I went to as a child.

Does your library have a card catalog? Or is it simply a fond memory/legend?

P.S. Theologian Thursday should be forthcoming...