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May  2011 18
On Being a Theological Librarian

There was a run of books in the library field not too many years ago that started with “The Accidental…” and finished with such roles as “Library Manager,” or “Systems Librarian.” What about the accidental theological librarian? This seems to best describe my path from walking the frantic spaces of public librarianship to directing the many functions of a seminary library: it seemed to me to be by accident. Some might detect the intervention on an invisible hand in the journey – perhaps. After working in the public library as a reference librarian for many years a series of events, some unfortunate, some amazing, I found the doors of Phillips opening to me as if I were meant to be here all along. I am a Unitarian, and don’t lean towards fatalistic thought, so the fact that I can perceive my experience this way is somewhat unsettling to me.

When I worked with the public, I spent my days assisting countless individuals with varieties of problems and queries; there was no way to know the impact a reference librarian could have on any one patron. I spent years looking up out recipes and representatives’ phone numbers, relaying stock quotes, or digging out target maps of the range of damage to communities if the New Madrid fault goes. But as a theological librarian I realize that the assistance I give to students, faculty, alums, and our larger community will have a ripple effect of a nature I could never be assured of in the public sector. In order to acknowledge the grace of added worth I have needed to be convinced of the value of what Phillips Theological Seminary stands for. This position has become abundantly clear as I progress through an MTS degree program and am also daily affected by the reflective philosophy, work ethic, and way of being of the entire community that makes this remarkable institution.

One former boss of mine told me he was a librarian in order to sleep well at night. Theological librarians have an added sense of contentment wherever we rest. That is a blessing indeed.

Browse more posts by: Sandy Shapoval, Phillips Admin/Staff
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