Monday, July 1, 2013

American Theological Library Association Annual Conference

Two weeks ago I attended The American Theological Library Association Annual Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. I presented a paper, "Theological Librarianship as a Ministry" at the conference. My paper explored the idea of theological librarianship as a calling, a vocation, and a ministry. It sought to show that accepting this idea brings meaning and fulfillment to our work.

Two of the plenary speakers at the conference were Peter Ochs and William H. Willimon. Ocs is professor of Modern Judaic Studies at the University of Virginia. Willimon is the former Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. The presentations by these men were excellent. Ochs spoke on "Information, Reason, and Wisdom in Inter-religious Communication." He expounded on Psalm 42 and paid special attention to the phrase, "deep calls to deep." He drew on the work of Nathan Shedroff, John Dewey, and Charles Pierce. In his presentation, he distinguished between information, knowledge, and wisdom. He noted that wisdom, ultimately, "must be gained by one's self." Ochs also discussed ways to get along with others when our deepest beliefs differ.

Willimon spoke on technology and time. He asserted that technology must be viewed critically, not passively.    He insisted that instead of controlling technology, it usually controlled us. Technology speeds things up. It also "annihilates space." His paper emphasized the importance of place and the incarnation. There is the temptation to escape time. In addition, he noted the danger of speeding up seminary education. Willimon made the comment that it takes three years to complete a seminary education and a whole life to finish.

There was an interesting discussion that followed his presentation. Some of the librarians voiced opposition to his critical view of technology. It seems when individuals argue that technology needs to be critically evaluated, it is often vehemently opposed. In the opinion of this reviewer, technology is too often accepted passively. The church needs to develop a theology of technology. We must not allow ourselves to become the servants of technology.

One of my favorite workshops I attended was "Teaching Analytical Reading Skills and Reading Strategies to Seminary Students." The presenter was Laura Harriss, Reference and Instruction Librarian at Iliff School of theology. She asked the audience, how many were taught analytic reading skills in school. Very few raised their hands. She thought that most teachers assume that students already know how to read analytically. This reminds me of Mortimer Adler's book, How to Read a Book. Some of the things she said was similar. Many people do not understand there are different levels of reading. Her presentation was divided into four parts: 1. Read and Mark the article. 2. Complete an outline of the article. 3. Create an argument map. 4. Evaluate the article. The presentation was well done and I gained some important ideas from it.  

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