October 22, 2015 | Written by Matt Carter
When students walk into our library, one of the first things they see is a table for New Books. Without question, more books get checked out from here than from any other shelf. But you might wonder how they got there. What is the process for adding books to the library? Who decides what to buy?
It might be argued that average libraries build collections, good libraries offer services, and great libraries create community. While the aim of a library is to create community, there must be some sort of content that draws that community together. That is the role of a library collection.
The selection of books is essential to the life of the library and the institution. At HST, Head Librarian Don Meredith oversees collection development. Our specialized collection focuses on works in the fields of study of our students and faculty. We also collect items related to our church heritage.
Meredith builds his orders through a number of strategies, including the more common (publisher’s catalogs, used book lists, and faculty/student recommendations), in addition to the rewarding, but less common (browsing the footnotes of every journal and major reference work that comes into the library). This is a significant process, which ensures that every title has been hand-selected for the way that it fits into the larger mission of serving students, faculty, and researchers.
Last year we accessioned (librarian-speak for added to our collection) nearly 2,000 new books. And by books, we mean the kind with a front and back with pages made of paper (“It’s not all online” – Don Meredith). That number includes 193 books that were donated by friends of the library. We also checked out over 7,500 books, and scanned/emailed 13,000 pages of material from them to distance education students.
Unlike many other disciplines of study, theological and biblical studies rely on many works that are decades or even centuries old. I wouldn’t want a doctor to take out my gall bladder relying on a textbook that was fifty years old! But you can’t study theology without reading the ancient writers. In fact, our primary book is two thousand years old!
– Don Meredith