Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Core Virtue of Librarianship

Gregory A. Smith, "The Core Virtue of Librarianship" (2002). Faculty Publications and Presentations. Paper 1.

Gregory Smith has written extensively on the topic of Christian librarianship and I have learned much from his publications. In this paper, Smith argues that the core virtue of Christian librarianship is love. He believes this core virtue separates Christian librarianship from a secular approach to library ethics. He does think that many of the virtues of librarianship is consistent with a Christian worldview. He even thinks these virtues is not supported by secular philosophies. For example, he speaks of Michael Gormon's Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century. Smith writes, "In many ways Gormon's proposed values--stewardship, service, intellectual freedom, rationalism, literacy and learning, equity of access, privacy, and democracy--are more consistent with biblical thesism than with the humanistic worldview to which he holds" (1-2).

In the first part of the paper Smith reviews the literature of the topic. In other words, people who have studied the topic before him. Doerken (2001) states, "There is no basis [in humanistic philosophy] for saying that any value is the right value to hold, nor can one authoritatively propose a set of best values, because there is no external criterion by which to judge right or wrong, or best or worst" (2). He looks at different authors who have written of the relationship between a Christian worldview and librarianship. He then reviews some key authors who have written on the biblical concept of love. For example, Leon Morris states, "The importance of the love command cannot be overestimated. In Jesus' day the Jews discerned 613 commandments in the Law, and there were vigorous discussions about the relative importance of some of these. . . Jesus swept aside all such deliberations with his revolutionary insistence on the centrality of love. . . . It means that love is central to the whole way of life to the follower of Jesus" (3).

Smith in his article emphasizes the two commandments that Jesus said summarized the whole law. "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second commandment is that you "shall love your neighbor as yourself" (4). Smith says Jesus mentioned a third commandment, Christian believers were to love each other as Jesus loves them. Smith then applies these three commandments to librarianship.

He lists "five implications" for Christian librarianship. First, "we should acknowledge God, not professional standards, as our supreme authority" (8). Second, we "should promote the love of God as man's highest occupation" (8). Third, we "should offer information resources to provide for total personal development" (8). The reason for this is that God calls Christian believers to grow in every area of their lives. Fourth, we "should integrate scholarship and discipleship and lead others to do the same" (8). The assumption for this point would be that faith and reason are compatible. In addition, all truth is from God. Fifth, we "should affirm human freedom to love God" (9). Smith believes believers should express their faith in the "context of their daily work." This does not mean they should coerce others "in matters of belief and practice" ().

Smith states, "The second commandment demands that we treat everyone with whom we come in contact with loving respect and concern, as we ourselves would wish to be treated" (9). This would be applying the Golden Rule to library service. He lists six implications for this commandment. They concern sexual purity, violence, honest, balancing freedom and responsibility, service, and not showing partiality in our service.

The last part of the paper discusses the new commandment of love. This is the command for Christian believers to love one another. He lists two applications for this commandment. First, we "should emulate Christ's love in our dealings with other Christians at work" (11). The Bible says if we love God, we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the definitions of love is seeking the good of others. Second, we "should seek unity among genuine Christians" (11). Jesus told the disciples that all the world would know if they were His disciples by how they loved one another. Smith states, "this principle does not preclude us from disagreeing with other Christians on non-essential points; nevertheless, it does require us to avoid prideful divisions within the body of Christ. By extension, we should give a positive witness to unbelievers" (11). Being human, Christian believers will disagree with one another. There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to disagree. Christians too often tear down other believers because of their differences.

Smith has shown how love can be the core virtue of librarianship. In the beginning of the paper, Smith states, "Christian librarians should derive their professional ethics from a methodical exegesis of the Bible" (1). He has shown how the biblical teaching on love can give Christian librarians a professional ethics that is biblical. One of the things I question about this is it sounds like Christian reductionism. Can we get ethics only from the Bible? What about natural law? Is the Bible an exhaustive revelation? Can we not learn things through reason and natural revelation? These are some of the questions I have about getting our ethics only from the Bible. It seems we are going against one of Smith's assertions which is that faith and reason are compatible.

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