A Pietist vision for libraries and librarians?

Now that I’m officially graduated from GSLIS, I am ready to take up a new project to keep me thinking and developing as a professional. One topic that I’ve been interested in exploring is how Pietism relates to the practice of libraries and librarians.

  • What would it mean to call myself a “Pietist Librarian” in the same vein as others identify themselves as “Pietist Schoolman” (like Chris Gehrz).
  • Do libraries associated with Pietist universities have distinctive collections? Do they offer different services? Is their outlook and role on campus different that Evangelical schools?
  • How have libraries evolved/developed alongside the educational institutions associated with Spener and Francke? Borrowing categories from Gehrz, this could explore the intersection of Pietism and Libraries within the movement itself (as opposed to the ethos that, quite frankly, I’m more interested in!).
  • What lines can be traced within my own context – North Park University – between people like Nyvall, Olsson, Hawkinson, Anderson, Weborg, Clifton-Soderstrom? What (if anything!) does this have to do with libraries and library services?

Personal Motivation

Those are the broad questions that I’m grappling with and want to address somehow. When I think about starting this – I feel a strange mix of fear and pride. I think I am afraid because the topic seems looming and largely unexplored. But I also feel pride and excitement – perhaps for a number of different reasons. Doing some soul-searching, here are some reasons for excitement:

  • In the broader theological landscape, I think Pietism adds a unique and distinctive flavor that serves as a corrective or encouragement for Christianity in general. Therefore, it would not be surprising if a Pietism librarian could offer correction or encouragement within the realm of theological libraries.
  • If libraries have a role in forming “Whole and Holy Persons” (borrowing the subtitle of Chris Gehrz’s book) certainly that is my story. So I think any exploration of libraries and Pietism would be deeply personal and enriching.

Next Steps

I like to chart out next steps in public for accountability and transparency. Here’s my plan:

  • Continue reading the book “The Pietist Vision of Higher Education” and related podcast.
  • Read more about theological librarianship generally – especially the stuff produced by the ATLA.
  • Start thinking about a particular focus or perspective to motive and guide this work.