Last week I headed to New Orleans for the ATLA Annual Conference. I had never been to New Orleans before, so a big “thank you” to Roz, Jeff, Meghan, and Rebecca, who gave me some great recommendations!

“Common Ends: Libraries, Imagination, and the Conflict of Values in the Digital Moment”-Joe Lucia, Temple University

After the opening reception on Wednesday night, the conference started off with the plenary session on Thursday morning. Joe Lucia, dean of the Temple University Libraries (previously at Villanova/vufind, winner of the 2013 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award), spoke on the topic of “Common Ends.” He framed his discussion with the idea that we are currently in an “intertidal” period. Intertidal spaces are in-between places, where both/and is the norm and things are not black or white. While this can be frustrating for decision making or future planning, these intertidal places are also places of great creativity and fertility, and we should be capitalizing on the ideas they produce. This dichotomy is most prominent in the digital/physical transition we are currently experiencing; we all have seen the importance of ZSR as a place grow, especially over the last decade, but so many resources we provide are shifting to being digital.

At Temple, Lucia has been tasked with building a completely new library space, from the ground up (with a $200 million budget!). These are some of the ideas or principles they are using as the conceptualize what this new space will be:

  • library as commons: open space for access, meeting space, also a physical manifestation of the concepts of open access that libraries promote
  • library as catalyst: engages with change and flow, continues our cultural role of inspiration “even as the world of the book gives way to the world of the digital”
  • library as threshold: libraries are transformational spaces, should reflect the shift in what information/knowledge is, from physical to digital
  • library as exploratory space: combine scholars’ knowledge with our own technology/organizational skills to create new products (DPLA, digital humanities)

“Quest for Elusive Teaching Opportunities”-Jane Elder, Southern Methodist University, Elizabeth Leahy, Azusa Pacific University

“Librarian as Co-Teacher: Information Literacy Embedded in Theology Courses”-Martha Adkins and Mark Bilby, University of San Diego

“Preparing Librarians for Changes in Classroom Instruction”-Ken Boyd, Taylor University

I attended three sessions dealing with teaching and information literacy. Here are some of the main points/themes they touched on:

  • Survey faculty to find out what they see as consistent problems with student work, create a handout for students listing these and how to avoid them, create programming to respond to these issues
  • Short, 15-minute sessions on small topics or new products
  • Pointing out to faculty/administration that for the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), student interaction with the library is a criteria for accreditation. Need to create programming that can demonstrate this is happening!
  • Create a checklist/menu of options for what can be covered in an information literacy session, along with how long each would take to present. Offer the list to faculty so they can help create the instruction session that best fits their needs.
  • Frame sessions as timesavers: “Do you want more time to do X? We’ll help you with your citations!”
  • Quick instruction evaluation: “Tell your roommate one thing you learned about research in the class.”

A few resources mentioned:

I also attended an updated session that I attended last year, Teaching Analytical Reading Skills to Seminary Students, lead by Laura Harris from Iliff School of Theology. Here is my write-up of that session from last year. I’m planning on incorporate some of these ideas into some workshops in the Fall.

New and Forthcoming Resources on Dougherty, Baylor University, and Robert Martin, Pennsylvania State University

I encourage you all to explore the data that is presented at! The Association of Research Data Archives began in 1998, and organizes and presents the data collected by researchers who study religion. Beyond the statistical data, ARDA has collected syllabi, assignments, videos, and other classroom resources that can help instructors who are teaching about religion. All of the information on the site has been peer-reviewed (data collected for published studies, syllabi vetted for rigor), and all of the data sets are included, so if you know how to crunch the numbers, you can download them and do so!

A few points that might be of interest to those in other disciplines:

  • National constitutions and religion: From the International tab>national profiles>select country. The last tab for each country has excerpts from their constitution which delineate the religious rights granted in that country. Here’s Botswana.
  • Creating surveys, asking appropriate questions: The Measurement Wizard has 114 categories that are frequently surveyed and includes examples of questions asked in the topic. Here’s School Prayer, Attitude about. The Measurement Wizard is part of the larger Best Practices Center, which also includes useful information on surveys and understanding and interpreting data.
  • Demographic Data: The GIS Maps section allows you to enter the zipcode or city/state for a location and view demographic maps, as well as religious and congregation maps. Here’s 27103. You can select for different categories, including race, income, marital status, employment, etc… For example, when selecting income, you can then narrow to median household income, or average income by race, or households by income type.

“Part of the Furniture”: Family Bibles in Nation, Home, and Library-Bruce Eldevik, Luther Seminary

This session was a fascinating overview of the history of family bibles in the United States. As with the session on the publication history of Luther’s complete works that I attended last year, there was a lot here that I hadn’t considered or thought about. Changes in publication technology, family structure, economics, education and demographics can be traced by looking at family bibles.

The first illustrated bible in the US was published in 1791. It also included the first page dedicated to family info. Previously, this genealogical information was just recorded where there was space, like on the cover page. The illustrations in this bible were mostly of scenes or events in the text. As time went on and printing technology improved, illustrations shifted to be more “academic”, such as symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel or the parts of the tabernacle. These publications were also more academic (but not necessarily scholarly!) in the sense that they began to include concordances, histories (Egypt and Greece), scientific information (animals and plants), and timelines. In 1843, the Harper Brothers published what sounded like the most successful of these bibles, Harper’s Illuminated Bible. This bible was published by subscription and customers could select which sections they wanted to include in their individual bibles (all or portions of the “academic” content, the apocryphal books, etc…). 25,000 copies were printed in the first twelve years, at a profit of $500,000.

After 1900, the popularity of these types of bibles began to wane. Interiors were becoming more informal and these large books and the tables and stands they were usually displayed on were no longer fashionable, and they frequently ended up in closets or trunks. This made them prime fodder to be donated to libraries or special collections! There was some discussion regarding whether these types of books should be accepted as donations and what types of preservation issues they might have (flowers pressed in their pages!).

If anyone wants to talk more about this, I have more notes from the presentation, as well as a handout with a bibliography!