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Celebrating Theological Libraries Month

October is Theological Libraries Month and at the University of Divinity we think Theological Libraries are worth celebrating!

The theme for this year’s Theological Libraries Month is Legacy: Celebrating the Past and Looking to the Future. In keeping with this theme, the Mannix Library team want to highlight some library achievements from 2020 and announce some new library initiatives that are in the pipeline.

2020 was the year of COVID-19, when the academic world pivoted in a matter of weeks from a predominantly face-to-face to an almost entirely online learning environment. Libraries were part of this rapid transition. The success of this process at the University of Divinity, was largely dependent on the existence of the University’s Library Hub, which provides access to hundreds of thousands of eBooks, eJournals, specialist databases and other online guides and resources.

Librarians negotiated with vendors to provide access to an increased range of online resources. Additional eBooks were ordered and guides developed to assist all staff and students, including tips for accessing library resources remotely. Many libraries introduced new Click and Collect services and collaborated to provide scanning and document delivery services across the University. Support for students also transitioned online, with assistance being provided via phone, email, Zoom and Ask-a-Librarian chat sessions.

But responding to COVID-19 was not the only thing that librarians were working on this year.

In 2020 successful negotiations with Sage and Atla (American Theological Library Association) by the manager of Mannix Library resulted in the full archive of the University’s journal Pacifica being made available online through the Library Hub. Pacifica was published by the University for over 30 years. Having the full text now available through the world’s leading religion database also means that the significant scholarly legacy of Pacifica is now available to thousands of additional scholars around the world.

As part of Atla’s Theological Libraries Month activities, Mannix Library’s Technical Services Librarian, Huw Sandaver will participate in an Atla-hosted event, “Celebrating and Preserving the Past through Digitization and the Atla Digital Library”. The University of Divinity was the first library outside of North America to contribute to Atla Digital Library. During this webinar, three contributors to the Atla Digital Library will showcase current interesting and unique digitization projects at their institutions. These projects aim to preserve content in theology and religion and offer Atla constituents opportunities to interact and utilize legacy content. Huw will be speaking about the Goold Collection Digitization Project.

The collections identified and described as part of the Goold Project are now available via the University of Divinity Digital Collections website. The Australian Research Council Discovery Project, i.e. the “Goold Project” was recently chosen by the ARC as one of the best 100 research projects in Australia in a book they published online titled Making a difference. See item 61 (p. 66-67) in the flipbook. The article specifically mentions Mannix Library and the rare books room created to showcase Archbishop Goold’s collection and the exhibition at Melbourne’s Old Treasury Building The Invention of Melbourne: A Baroque Archbishop and a Gothic Architect. Mannix Library’s team members Huw Sandaver and Kerrie Burn were members of the Goold Project team and their research has contributed to multiple presentations and publications.

Huw and Kerrie also presented recently at a virtual conference hosted by the Australian and New Zealand Theological Library Association (ANZTLA). Huw presented on CONTENTdm, the software used to host the University’s Digital Collections website, and Kerrie spoke about the Australian Women in Religion Project. Kerrie is co-ordinating this project at the University of Divinity. The University is taking a lead role in Australia’s contribution to the international 1000 Women in Religion Project, which aims to raise up the unrecognised work of important women in religion and help address the gender bias on platforms like Wikipedia. Kerrie was also elected to the Atla Board of Directors in 2020 and looks forward to providing an international perspective and contributing to the future work of the Association. A previous role on Atla’s International Theological Librarianship Education Task Force lead to a 2020 publication and contributing a chapter on Theological libraries in Australia and New Zealand.

Closer to home, in 2020 Mannix Library staff facilitated the introduction of Lean Library, a browser extension that allows users to access full-text content, regardless of where they start their initial search. Library staff also created the online version of the new University of Divinity Style Guide and continued to manage the EndNote LibGuide. These guides complement a number of existing LibGuides designed to support the work of strategic initiatives of the University of Divinity. This includes the Alumni Services LibGuide which was created to coincide with the launch of the University’s Alumni network in 2020. Alumni of the University are now also able to access over 500 full-text journals via AtlasPLUS for Alum, a new Library Hub subscription in 2020. This is just one of over 40 database subscriptions that are managed by Library Hub staff at Mannix Library.

Looking to the future, there are a number of other library initiatives on the horizon. A new Diversity and Inclusion LibGuide is in development, as is a Theologians LibGuide, which will provide a central access point to resources related to over 30 prominent theologians.

In a significant recent initiative, four libraries have also made a commitment to move to a shared Library Management System. Those participating include Stirling Theological College, St Athanasius College, Mannix and St Paschal Libraries. The implementation process has commenced and the new system, which will integrate with the University’s combined library catalogue via the Library Hub’s Books & eBooks (UDCat) search, is expected to go live before the start of first semester 2021.

Around the world, theological librarians curate collections and organise access to the resources that inform teaching, learning and research. They instruct staff and students in the use of the tools that will equip them to be effective life-long learners. At the University of Divinity, libraries and librarians partner with academics and other staff in student learning and formation, as together we seek to serve the University’s vision and mission.

The initiatives noted in this article highlight some of the valuable contributions of libraries and librarians to the University, as well as the broader library profession and theological library community. During Theological Libraries Month we hope that the entire University of Divinity community can join with libraries and librarians to celebrate their many and varied contributions.

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