Tuesday, November 16, 2004

What is a theological librarian?

Is a theological librarian just a librarian who works in a theology library?
Defining the role of a librarian by the subject matter with which she works seems problematic to me. Among other things, it says little about the role of the librarian apart from in some way helping to build and maintain the collection. That is at least in part to suggest that the role of the librarian is greater than the context in which a librarian works.

Two questions emerge. Could a librarian be a theological librarian apart from working in a theological library? And, are all librarians that work in theological libraries theological librarians?

It stretches the imagination, but I'm willing to at least entertain the possibility that the answer to the first might be yes. Beyond entertaining that notion, however, I don't know that I have a clear example of what that might be. Perhaps a religion bibliographer in a general academic library at a college or university?

And, following on that, are all librarians in theological libraries to be considered theological librarians? This really presses one to think about the limits of the role. Does working with theological literature define one's role and identify? Is a cataloger who catalogs religious and theological literature a theological librarian simply because of the nature of the materials she catalogs?

What then is a theological librarian? Perhaps the more significant question is: "What is a theological library?" Again, one should probably ask the question: "Is a library by definition a theological library simply by virtue of the subject matter that makes up it's collection? Or does it become a theological library by virtue of a role it plays in the formation of individuals for religious leadership (lay or ordained)? Or better, for a life of religious practice? It's probably clear that I lean toward the latter.

I wonder if it is possible to push a little father to distinguish between a theology library and a theological library. I recognize the distinction I'm trying to make may be more than these two terms will support, but the Oxford English Dictionary suggests the following definition for theology: "The study or science which treats of God, His nature and attributes, and His relations with man and the universe; ‘the science of things divine’ (Hooker); divinity." The adjective, theological, is defined: "Of or pertaining to the word of God, i.e. the Bible; scriptural." Or better still, the adverb theologically, is defined: "In a theological manner; from a theological point of view; according to the principles of theology." Is it too much to suggest that a theology library facilitates the study or science which treats of God... while the theological library facilitates the acting/living according to the principles of theology?