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LPTS celebrates Theological Libraries Month

by Louisville Seminary | Oct 03, 2007
Ernest Miller White Library launches month-long celebration

Today, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary launched a celebration of Theological Libraries Month, a time set aside by the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) to highlight the vital role libraries play in theological education. As a participant in this national emphasis, the Seminary’s Ernest Miller White Library will host a series of events, displays, and educational presentations throughout the month of October.

“This is a good time to assert the value of Louisville Seminary’s library not only for our students and faculty, but also for the general public,” said Head of Public Services Angela Morris, who is coordinating the month-long celebration.

The Ernest Miller White Library kicked off the month-long event with a reception, following the Wednesday morning chapel service.

“We want to introduce a greater number of individuals to the excellent theological collection held at the Ernest Miller White Library and help them recognize how accessible it is. We have a collection that begs to be used and have impact in the community and in the world,” said Morris.

The Ernest Miller White Library boasts more than 160,000 bound volumes, almost 12,000 microforms, and around 7,000 audiovisual resources. By subscribing to more than 600 current periodicals and providing access to an increasing number of electronic resources, students and the public have access to valuable sources for theological research and study. Some of the most popular electronic tools include the ATLA Religion Database, Family and Society Studies Worldwide Database, Old Testament Abstracts, New Testament Abstracts, the Institutes of John Calvin on CD-ROM, and BibleWorks©.

The wide range of resources available at the library is easily accessed using the online computer catalog, affectionately called “Morgan” after a prominent supporter of the library. This catalog also includes the holdings of the library at nearby Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, allowing one to search the holdings of both libraries simultaneously. Students have borrowing privileges at both libraries, and the online catalog can be accessed by terminals in the library or through the World Wide Web.

Accessibility, a key component of the library’s mission, is further enhanced by a knowledgeable and service-oriented staff, “whose goal is not only to collect and organize this wealth of information but also to help students and others learn how to search intelligently and strategically for the information they need, evaluate that information critically, and use it effectively and ethically,” states Library Director and Professor Douglas Gragg in a description of the facility.

The month-long event is coordinated around four weekly themes that will tempt patrons to visit the library frequently and introduce them to various components of the library’s services. The first theme is, “Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read,” which is being advertised with a poster of theologian John Calvin reading one of the Harry Potter books. Banned Books Week has been promoted by national library associations since 1982, The J.K. Rowling books have appeared on the list of banned or challenged books, which also includes To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. A list of banned books is published online.

Currently on display is a banned book of antiquity, a rare copy of Calvin’s commentary on some of the epistles (Commentaires de M. Iehan Calvin sur toutes les Epistres del’ Apostre sainct Paul, & aussi sur l’epistre aux Hebrieux : ite sur les Epistres canoniques de S. Pierre, sainct Iehan, sainct Iaques, & sainct Iude, lesquelles sont aussi appelees catholiques), published in Geneva in 1560.

Morris explains that a note laid into the book indicates that the copy “was buried in the ground until Des Voignes family of Huguenots fled France.”

“In 1548, France had attempted to halt the spread of the Protestant Reformation by banning all books printed in Geneva. This copy probably came by way of traveling peddlers known as colporteurs, itinerant preachers, or underground booksellers, who brought a constant flow of Reformed texts into France. Before this copy was buried in the ground, it was probably smuggled into France by being hidden under a layer of shoes or other goods in a crate and barrel whose real purpose was to get the books from Geneva where it was printed and into the hands of French Protestants,” said Morris.

Other themes for Theological Libraries Month will feature the library’s historical leadership, library history, and accessible resources.

The staff of the Ernest Miller White Library has developed a web page to highlight various events and offerings. In addition to the reception, patrons are invited to view a revolving display of rare items from the library’s collection, participate in several contests to challenge library knowledge, and interact with various online educational elements on the Theological Libraries Month web page.

“The Ernest Miller White Library at Louisville Seminary has enjoyed a long and rich history, so we have much to remember, much to be grateful for, and much to celebrate,” stated Gragg. “I believe this event will help us grow in our appreciation for the dedicated labors of our predecessors and for the wonderful collections of print and electronic resources to which we have such convenient access and at the same time help us recognize the important role of theological libraries around the world.”

About ATLA
Established in 1946, the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) is a professional association of more than 1,000 individual, institutional, and affiliate members providing programs, products, and services in support of theological and religious studies libraries and librarians. ATLA's ecumenical membership represents many religious traditions and denominations. ATLA also provides access to the scholarly literature of religion and preserves it for future generations. For more information visit http://www.atla.com

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