Jesus Christ as an Epistemic Focus

In an earlier blog, I asked, “what does librarianship look like with Jesus Christ as an epistemic focus?”  This idea comes from the works of Esther Meek (2011) where she states:

Most telling is the fact that ordinary Christians display a disconnect between truth as propositions and a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Christians distinguish studying information about God (sermon or seminary) as over against their personal relationship with Jesus. Christian believers know that the relationship is the most important thing. But the default prevents people from seeing how that relationship can be central to what we think knowing is – how knowing and being known by Christ could be central epistemically. Not that information about God, even mistakenly so-conceived, isn’t good for the soul, rather it is that Christians’ all-important relationship with Jesus isn’t considered knowledge, because it isn’t information. It is thus effectively left untapped for their epistemology, let alone accorded centrality (p. 62).

Perhaps before diving into this question, we need to begin with asking: “is there any connection between librarianship and epistemology?”  In other words, will how I view knowledge impact my understanding and practice of librarianship?  While there is some variance in opinions regarding specifications of their connection, there is firm agreement about their relationship (Budd, 1995; Dick, 1999; Shera, 1970).  In other words, how an individual views knowledge will impact (to various degrees) how they practice librarianship.  For example, Kuhlthau builds her work, Seeking Meaning, largely on a constructivist epistemology.  In other words, she feels (and constructivism argues) that librarians play a critical role in learning because knowledge is formed in a social context.  Through that social context, librarians can play a critical role in helping patrons make sense of all the information they are gathering (Kuhlthau, 2004, p. 89).  Kuhlthau’s (2004) work shows how a perception of knowledge can play a critical role in how librarians serve and view the profession.

I should note that while I am not in full agreement with constructivism and some of its premises, Kuhlthau (2004) provides an excellent display of how some components of constructivism (particularly the social aspects of knowledge) can impact librarianship.  Simply because I do not agree with all aspects of constructivism, does not imply that I should rejects all facets of it and subsequently also outright reject Kuhlthau’s work.  Constructivism has a very healthy emphasis on both learning as an active process through which knowledge is attained and the role of the student/learner in that process.  In other words, learning should not simply be seen in a context where the learner is a passive recipient.  In fact, seeing the learner as an active participant and not as a passive recipient aligns quite well with covenant epistemology.  Covenant epistemology argues that knowing connects truth with life, that is, it recognizes that the purpose of acquiring knowledge is to engender obedience to the covenant that binds God and His people (Naugle, n.d.).

With these connections established, what does a Christ-centered epistemology look like?  I would like to suggest that covenant epistemology may provide a biblical framework for knowledge and could provide an intriguing epistemological foundation for a faithful librarian.  Covenantal epistemology argues that an individual attains knowledge for the sake of responsible action. It connects in a radical way knowing and doing, epistemology and ethics, belief and behavior, else the consequences be hypocrisy, guilt, and personal disintegration (Naugle, n.d.).

How would this view of knowledge impact a faithful librarian?  In other words, what would librarianship look like with a Christ-centered epistemic focus?  First, if knowledge is attained for responsible action, it aligns with some facets of pragmatism, which tends to argue that common sense and experience are key instruments for epistemological production (“Pragmatism”, 2021, para. 38).  One of the challenges with this may be that there are times when knowledge pursuits may not directly link to responsible action.  For example, I have done some research on learning theories.  While I am still at the beginning stages of this research, it likely will not have much immediate or direct impact.  However, I am hopeful that a better understanding of how college students learn (part of learning theory) may help me (and our library) serve students better.  While this process of learning and growing does not have immediate impact (similar to many learning scenarios), it is being pursed with the hope to take responsible action based upon my learning.  Even studying the most obscure topics can lead to transformation (which I believe is the ultimate objective for knowledge and learning).

In this context, faithful librarians should be eager to help students learn and grow, because knowledge leads to transformation.  This understanding has a potential to pair discipleship with much of what we do as librarians.  How?  If knowledge is a key instrument in transformation, our interactions with patrons can play a key role in enabling them to develop intellectually and spiritually.  Subsequently, when provided an opportunity to assist a patron, perhaps faithful librarians should eagerly anticipate these interactions because they provide contexts (be they ever so brief) to mentor and teach, leading students to more learning and growing in all facets of life.

Thoughts?

Works Cited

Budd, J. M. (1995). An epistemological foundation for library and information science. Library Quarterly, 65(3), 295-318.

Dick, A. L. (1999). Epistemological positions and library and information science. Library Quarterly, 69(3), 305-323.

Kuhlthau, C. (2004). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services (2nd ed.). Libraries Unlimited.

Meek, E. L. (2011). Loving to Know: Introducing Covenant Epistemology. Cascade Books.

Naugle, D. (n.d.). What is Knowledge?: Biblical/Hebraic Epistemology. Summer Institute in Christian Scholarship, Dallas Baptist University. http://www3.dbu.edu/naugle/pdf/devo_7.pdf

Pragmatism (2021). In E. Zalta (Ed.) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/

Shera, J. H. (1970). Sociological foundations of librarianship. Asia Pub. House.

Leadership: Vision

This blog has begun a discussion of leadership.  It defined leadership and noted tolerance (and provided a definition of it) as a critical component of leadership (link).  This entry will discuss another critical component of leadership: vision.  I would like to suggest that vision is particularly important for faithful librarians aiming to lead.

The definition of vision in the context of leadership is fairly straightforward; it asks “where do you want to go?”  The vision of the institution for which I work is “to equip men and women who will bring character to their communities and competence to their career, all to the glory of Christ.”  This statement provides a framework through which our institution (and the library, a part of the institution) does its work.

Vision is often seen as a key component to leadership (Ammons-Stephens et al., 2009, p. 68; Baird, 2010, pp. 23–24; Duren, 2013, pp. 140–141; Hernon, 2007, p. 63; Kotter, 1996, p. 25).  But, what does it look like?  Some faithful librarians work in higher education.  In contexts such as these, many times the institutions for which we work already have a vision.  If a faithful librarian works for an institution that already has a vision, what does it mean that vision is a critical component of leadership?  Does it imply since I had no role in creating that vision that I am not a leader, even though I may be in the position of one?  I would like to suggest that this is not the case.  In a context where an institutional vision has been established, I feel it is the responsibility of all individuals who work there (but particularly those in leadership) to embrace the vision.

In an earlier blog entry, I argued that intellectual freedom should give one the ability to work where he or she pleases.  Subsequently, if an individual works for a place and they do not embrace their vision, perhaps they should not work there.  I should note that there is a notable response/disagreement to this position.  As I write this entry, I am still processing this individual’s thoughts, but for now, I still hold to this – but I do welcome discussion and I am greatly appreciative of this individual’s thoughts. After all, if one is going to invest their time and effort into a place of employment, would it not be wise to put one’s energy towards a mission and vision with which they align? I do understand that this is an idealistic context and there may be limitations keeping an individual at a place of employment with which they do not embrace the mission/vision. I hope this is not coming off as a judgmental statement (for those who may disagree with me). Please, if it is, leave a comment below and let’s chat.

The responsibility of a leader in relation to vision may not be crafting a unique vision for their library.  It may look more like understanding how the library can play a key role in manifesting the vision of the institution of which they are a part.  In my opinion, this is a key component of good leadership. 

There may be contexts where developing a vision statement for a library may be very effective.  This could be true in an institution that has an incredibly broad vision, or where the library is a separate entity.  In these contexts, the leader must cast vision.  Many of us are aware of Proverbs 29:18 (NASB), which states: “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.”  This passage is often referred to in relation to the critical nature of vision, however, the context suggests that this passage speaks of “vision” in a differing context (Koptak, 2003, p. 642).  A proper understanding of this passage is articulated by the English Standard Version, which states: “Where this is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.”  In other words, this passage suggest that “when there is no such communication from God and his prophet, the people run wild like undisciplined sons” (Koptak, 2003, p. 642). 

Perhaps there is an essence of this idea that could be applied to the context of a workplace.  If an institution lacks vision, the individuals working for that institution do whatever they want.  Now, this does not mean that if an institution lacks vision that people do not have job descriptions and they just wander about the workplace wondering what to do for the day.  However, perhaps it implies that if a workplace lacks vision, while people will still do their day-to-day tasks, they really do not understand why they do what they do, which could stir chaos and confusion.

Vision provides that framework, which is why it forms such a critical organizational component.  The critical nature of vision implies that leadership plays an important role in developing and manifesting this vision.  Leadership must be able to embrace the vision of the place for which they work.  Perhaps, lacking that embrace can make librarianship a hollow profession?

Thoughts?

Works Cited

Ammons-Stephens, S., Cole, H. J., Jenkins-Gibbs, K., Riehle, C. F., & Weare, W. H. J. (2009). Developing Core Leadership Competencies for the Library Profession. Library Leadership & Management, 23(2), 63–74.

Baird, L. N. (2010). Colliding Scopes: Seeing Academic Library Leadership through a Lens of Complexity (Ph.D., University of Idaho).

Duren, P. (2013). Leadership In Academic and Public Libraries a Time Of Change. Chandos Publishing.

Hernon, P. (2007). The LIS Leadership Literature. In P. Hernon & N. Rossiter (Eds.), Making a Difference: Leadership and Academic Libraries (pp. 61–69). Libraries Unlimited.

Koptak, P. (2003). Proverbs. Zondervan.

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Harvard Business School Press.

Relational Intelligence, part 5: Conversational Futurist

In his book, Relational Intelligence, Steve Saccone lays down some excellent leadership principles that have applications in numerous contexts. This blog aims to apply Saccone’s (2009) concepts into the context of librarianship. This blog has already taken four of these principles and aimed to apply them to being a faithful librarian: self-awareness, collecting stories, energy carrier, and compelling relator. Saccone (2009) convincingly argues that these principles are core to excellent leadership development. I fully agree with Saccone (2009) but suggest that these principles can also transform librarianship. This entry will discuss Saccone’s explanation of a conversational futurist, another key component of relational intelligence.

Saccone (2009) defines relational intelligence as “the ability to learn, understand, and comprehend knowledge as it relates to interpersonal dynamics” (p. 20). An earlier blog discussed the trinity, specifically some of the relational dynamics of the trinity. Bloesch (1995) argues that the relational dynamics of the trinity display how relationships can manifest four distinct components: authenticity, humility, joy, and authority (pp. 186-188). Saccone (2009) suggests some practical means through which these four relational dynamics of the trinity can be manifested in various relational contexts.

A conversational futurist thinks before speaking: they listen with one ear to earth and one ear to heaven. The ear towards the earth listens to the individual (cf. Katz, 2002, p. 135). The ear towards heaven subsequently listens to God, listening for God’s direction and guidance in all contexts of life (Saccone, 2009, p. 133).

As noted in an earlier blog, listening is a key element in being an energy carrier. Listening in this fashion is similar, but includes listening to God. Dual listening is critical in many professional contexts, but in a context such as a reference interview it enables the librarian, while hearing the information need of the patron, to prayerfully assess the non-verbal cues, the tone of voice, and many other elements through which the patron speaks their need. Dual listening also enables the librarian to pray in the midst of a reference interview, allowing the reference interview to take place with the best interest of the patron at the heart. Service done in this manner is humble, respectful, and honoring of God.

Service at this level, at times, requires an invitation for change. For example, a librarian in a reference interview may understand the context of the assignment for which a student is pursuing assistance. However, the initial interest of the student is too broad to fit the parameter of the assignment. Subsequently, the librarian invites the student to consider narrowing or changing their area of interest, while praying that God would enable a tone of humility, authenticity, and authority in such a request. When this is the case, a conversational futurist can invite a context where relational dialog can thrive and the ability to change is possible (Saccone, 2009, p. 143).

One of the challenges which arises in dialog is that many times it can be seen as simply an opportunity to exchange data or to acquire information. I believe that excellent leadership must see conversation as more than this. Excellent leadership sees dialog as a venue for building other people up, and the reference interview is a classic venue through which this can take place for faithful librarians. While there are many ways that faithful librarians can utilize dialog for more than a simple transfer of data, perhaps mastering Saccone’s relational intelligence is one way through which dialog can be transformed to edification, even in a reference interview.

Thoughts?

Works Cited

Bloesch, D. G. (1995). God the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness Love. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Katz, W. A. (2002). Introduction to Reference Work: Reference Services and Reference Processes (Vol. 2). McGraw-Hill.

Saccone, S. (2009). Relational Intelligence: How Leaders Can Expand Their Influence Through a New Way of Being Smart. John Wiley & Sons.

Leadership: Tolerance

This blog began a discussion of leadership with a previous entry.  It suggested that everyone has the responsibility and privilege of leading: everyone.  This is true regardless of your professional rank, responsibilities, or position.  Faithful librarians have both the duty and the opportunity to lead.

The previous entry suggested a definition of leadership from Kevin Kruse (2013): leadership is “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal” (para. 18).

As noted in the previous entry, I believe that leadership traits and skills can be developed.  While I do not deny that there are people who may have innate leadership skills, this does not imply that others cannot develop leadership abilities.  In fact, for those who may have innate talents, the fact that they are innate does not by any means imply that they do not need development.  The fact that leadership skills can be developed is my warrant for discussing them in this blog.

This leads to the question: while there are many differing proficiencies which may empower leadership development, are there any particular characteristics which leaders should develop in the context of library and information science?  This entry will address one component of leadership development which I feel faithful librarians should strive to develop: tolerance.

Now, if the mention of the word “tolerance” does not cause a little unrest, I would be surprised.  I am well aware that the idea of “tolerance” is a semantically loaded word in the 21st century.  Our culture asks individuals to be tolerant of much, while there are many scenarios where that tolerance is not reciprocal.

When looking at tolerance, I think it is important that faithful librarians do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, per se.  In other words, I would like to suggest that tolerance can be a critical component for a faithful librarian. In stating this, I am suggesting that simply because our culture has used, misused, and perhaps even abused the idea of tolerance, this does not by any means suggest that we should throw the idea of it out altogether.  However, because of this context, it might be helpful to define this term. 

I appreciate the work of John Inazu in this area.  In his work, Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference, Inazu (2016) notes that tolerance is simply an acknowledgment that people should be free to pursue their own beliefs and practices.  This acknowledgment can lead to an ability to respect people even when we may vehemently disagree with their beliefs and practices. 

I will be the first to admit that Inazu’s idea is hard to swallow.  We live in a context where people often identify themselves by their beliefs and practices.  One means by which I aim to identify myself is as a faithful librarian: a combination of my belief (being faithful to God) and my professional practice (as a librarian).  Despite our culture and the common acceptance of this ideology of defining ourselves by our vocations, I need to turn to Scripture when I look for identity.  My first and foremost identification needs to be in Christ (not in librarianship).  A key component of this identity is being made in God’s image: all humanity is made in the image of God.

I greatly appreciate Gates’ (2019) comments (referred to in an earlier entry), where he argues that as faithful librarians, we should consider ourselves first and foremost as believers in Christ and that framework should guide how we practice our profession.  I would like to suggest that through a Christian framework our first and foremost identity should be as individuals made in God’s image.  In identifying in this manner, we must acknowledge that it is true of all humanity – all people are made in the image of God.  While all humanity has been made in God’s image, a faithful librarian cannot deny the sin nature. The acknowledgment of the sin nature compels one to acknowledge that we are all sinners (including me). 

If my foremost identification is in Christ, I acknowledge a paradox: while I am confident in my faith in Jesus Christ, I also acknowledge that I am a sinner, humbly acknowledging my faults. With those faults, I must also acknowledge that I could be wrong in several areas on my beliefs and values.  The paradox of confidence and humility is hard to swallow, but I believe it is a critical component to manifesting our faith in Jesus Christ in any context, but particularly in a vocational context. I would also like to suggest that this paradox gives warrant to the value of tolerance. 

If I am going to be a librarian Christian who is striving to lead in order to make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ, this task cannot be done alone.  I would like to suggest that a temperance of tolerance must be included in order for true collaboration to take place.  After all, how can I expect people to be tolerant of my own frailties, without reciprocation?

Thoughts?

Works Cited

Gates, J. (2019). Christian Librarians or Librarian Christians? The Christian Librarian 62(1): 8-10.

Inazu, J. (2016). Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference. University of Chicago Press.

Kruse, K. (April 9, 2013). What is Leadership? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/04/09/what-is-leadership/

Where did we come from?

In Dockery’s (2007) book, Renewing Minds, he states that there are some questions which a worldview must seek to answer (p.52).  As these blog entries are aiming to provide a picture of what librarianship might look like when seen with a Christian worldview, I felt these questions would be worthwhile to address.  One of the questions which Dockery (2007) states is: where did we come from?  A second question which Dockery poses, and has deep connection to the first, is: “who are we?”  This entry will aim to provide an answer to these questions (from a Christian worldview) and then ask, “how should this impact a faithful librarian?” 

Where do we come from?  When pursuing this question, many look back to their biological families.  Everyone has a biological father and a biological mother.  While the kinds of relationships we have with these people can vary dramatically, all of us come from biological parents.  If we continue to go back to our ancestors, a Christian worldview points us back to the creation narrative of Genesis.  This narrative states very clearly that God created humanity.  A Christian worldview would argue that the place which we ultimately came from was God; God created us.

The reason that I am covering two of Dockery’s questions in this blog is because the idea that God created us is incredibly interconnected with who we are.  God did not just create us like he did the rest of creation, God created us in his image.  The idea of being created in the image of God should be a cornerstone of our identity impacting all facets of life.

In his book, David Claerbaut (2004) develops the idea of being created in the image of God and provides a contrast of what it might look like if an individual did not hold to this perspective (pp. 231-232).  Claerbaut (2004) argues that there is no warrant for treating humanity as special or unique when the idea of being created in God’s image is removed.  Many worldviews outside of the Christian faith suggest that human beings are simply intricate physical machines, with no purpose other than survival, comfort, and reproduction (Claerbaut, 2004, p. 231).  Claerbaut (2004) states, that when this perspective is fleshed out that “(o)ne human may be meaningful to another due to the human capacity for relationship, but that meaning is entirely subjective.  In objective terms, life is meaningless and ends when the body dies” (p. 231).

When faithful librarians identify that the foundation of our identity is the fact that we are created in the image of God, Claerbaut (2004) argues that it provides warrant for treating others with care, loving them, and manifesting God’s love in our interactions with others (p. 231).  Why? Because “human beings are sacred, bearing the stamps of their divine Maker” (Claerbaut, 2004, p. 231).  Claerbaut (2004) rightly states that “(h)uman relationships are sacred because they both mirror the relational nature of God and are forged in the context of love – the major attribute of God” (p. 231).

The impact of this upon librarianship is profound.  Though a faithful librarian must acknowledge that our human nature is imperfect, we also must understand that human worth is grounded in the fact that we are created in the image of God.  Faithful librarians, then, should stive to develop in students, colleagues, patrons, supervisors, everyone, a sense of worth and responsibility.  This should be done because our answers to these questions confirm the divine and eternal nature of humankind (Claerbaut, 2004, p. 232).

What does this look like fleshed out among faithful librarians?  Several entries of this blog have discussed differing levels of application of this idea.  A basic application of this is to love one’s neighbor.  I think many would confess that this is much easier said than done.  I would like to address one venue through which this can be applied: recognizing that all humanity is created in God’s image.  I think many of us will agree that the structures in many facets of American culture do not take into account the equality imposed in the fact that we are all created in God’s image.  The idea that we are all created in God’s image suggests that everyone has potential to develop, grow, and make a difference.  Creating structures that lack equality can inhibit the growth and development of some and subsequently counter this.  While the structures are not necessarily bad or evil, a recognition of them forces us to acknowledge that it may take more work for some to come to an understanding and application of the value and power of being created in God’s image than others.  Shouldn’t faithful librarians strive to empower others by bringing them to an acknowledgment that they are made in God’s image and the powerful implications of this?

Thoughts?

Works Cited

Claerbaut, D. (2004). Faith and Learning on the Edge: A Bold New Look at Religion in Higher Education. Zondervan.

Dokcery, D. (2007). Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society through Christian Higher Education. B&H Academic.

Christian Categories, part 3

In two earlier blog entries (here and here) I discussed a quotation from T. S. Eliot (1940) in his work, entitled, “The Idea of a Christian Society.”  Eliot (1940) states:

The purpose of a Christian education would not be merely to make men and women pious Christians: a system which is aimed too rigidly at this end alone would become only obscurantist. A Christian education would primarily train people to be able to think in Christian categories, though it could not compel belief and would not impose the necessity for insincere profession of belief (p. 22).

The previous entries looked at Eliot’s idea of “Christian categories.”  It is very natural for humans to categorize things.  This categorization can serve good and constructive purposes, but also harmful purposes.  As these blog entries are about faith integration, I would like to look into a common means of categorization that I believe may be more harmful than good: the classic sacred/secular dichotomy.

Many of us are familiar with the sacred/secular dichotomy, but for those who are not, the basic warrant behind this dichotomy is that some things are sacred, some things are secular and the two never cross paths.  A sacred/secular mentality would likely understand that going to church on Sunday is a sacred activity, but it has very little application in a secular context (my job, my recreation, etc.).  Somewhat needless to say, this blog (not just this entry) aims to counter this kind of thinking.

While Eliot argues that there are Christian categories, I would like to suggest that this common sacred/secular categorization is not one of those.  In fact, it is a great example of how categorization can be incredibly harmful.  For example, if my categorization of sacred/secular suggests that my job is secular, what warrant do I have for implementing the gospel in that context?  Isn’t the gospel simply spiritual and subsequently only has application in a spiritual context (which a sacred/secular dichotomy would argue is not one’s job).

While there are godly categories, I am grateful that humanity was created in the image of God and subsequently, we have a conscience. While our conscience can become comfortable with the duality of a sacred/secular dichotomy and the subsequent development of differing standards for differing contexts, these are not norms and subsequently, our conscience often feels uneasy with ungodly categories.

As noted in the previous blog, there are Christian categories, for example: sin and holiness.  Scripture is very clear that a proper understanding of this category understands that God is holy (Revelation 4:8) and that all holiness comes from God (1 Peter 5:16).  In a vast majority of contexts, holiness and the love of God (and subsequently, sin as well) can be displayed regardless of whether you are in what may be considered a sacred context (i.e. a church) or a secular context (i.e. talking with your neighbor).  The dual application of theses points (and numerous other biblical principles) suggests that the typical categorization of sacred/secular does not align with this scriptural categorization.

A second categorization discussed in the previous blog was the categorization between God and humanity.  God is God, and human beings are human beings.  If this is a categorization of Scripture, how would this impact how we see a vocation?  As argued in the previous blog entry, this suggests that all humanity is on equal grounds when it comes to God’s perception of them.  Now granted, the sin nature has created inequity in many facets of our culture, including professional domains, but the professional structures created are not God’s way of categorizing.  This does not necessarily mean that they are not useful and should be outright disregarded, but it does mean that faithful librarians should see them through the implications of the categories God created and the principles of Scripture.

Does this imply that I can ignore and disrespect my supervisor because per the categorizations of Scripture my supervisor and I are equal?  This would be a misapplication of this principle.  Scripture tells us much about how we are to interact with others.  As faithful librarians we are asked to humble ourselves (James 4:10), to respect authority (Romans 13:7), to love our neighbors – including our superiors (Matthew 22:39), to be weary of our intentions (Proverbs 16:2), and much, much more.  Eliot (1940) in his writings argues that for society to truly function when using Christian categories, that the love of Christ must be evident.  If it is lacking, these categories are often misused, misapplied, and abused. 

Faithful librarians must be aware of what Eliot refers to as “Christian categories” and be critical of categories that may not align with them (such as the sacred/secular dichotomy) while utilizing other categories (which may not be explicitly Christian) as venues to manifest the love of God.

Thoughts?

Works Cited

Eliot, T. S. (1940). “The Idea of a Christian Society.”  In Christianity and Culture. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Libraries as Shalom, Introduction

Joseph McDonald (2011), in his essay entitled “Historic Christianity and the Redevelopment of the 21st Century Academic Library” provides an intriguing analysis of 21st century Christian higher education and the role which libraries can play in educational pursuits.  To give McDonald’s work justice, this entry will provide a brief overview of his argument and there will be future discussion of McDonald’s five conditions which, McDonald argues, may enable the library to play a role in developing shalom for students.

McDonald (2011) states that the purpose of higher education (of which libraries are a part) should be to create shalom.  How does McDonald define shalom?  Shalom is a Hebrew word that is often translated as “peace.”  McDonald (2011) argues that a rejection of God’s rule on earth is displayed through the rampant injustice of the 21st century, or, in other words a lack of shalom.  McDonald (2011) claims that faithful librarians can play a critical role in reinstating shalom by administering justice.  Administration of justice, McDonald (2011) agues, enables God’s goodness to be manifested through various dimensions of creation.  This goodness is often referred to as shalom: “peace-as-flourishing, a state of being or existence where everything ‘works’ in the way the Creator established…” (McDonald, 2011, p. 220).

Can faithful librarians play a role in developing a culture of shalom?  McDonald (2011) fervently argues that “yes, we can!”: “(s)halom is established on justice and is accomplished, imperfectly but in a real way through the work of humans…”. (p. 220).

In his article, McDonald (2011) states that:

students do not attend college to gather information and become information literate. They come to learn, to make sense of their experiences, to prepare for living well, which requires knowledge and skills and insight.  And it is as learners that libraries should address them, seeking to give them the insight and skills required to learn well, a set of activities and processes the library necessarily shares with “classroom” instructors, and which is formed and guided by the institution’s curricula (p. 217).

After this statement, McDonald (2011) provides an intriguing question: “how do we get from historic Christianity to libraries established on ‘real’ student needs and the related needs of their teachers?” (p. 217).  Is it possible to utilize theological premises to create a model of academic libraries that would truly meet the needs of students and faculty?  McDonald (2011) argues that with the potential mankind has to create a culture of shalom, therein lies the possibility that education could be utilized to further manifest the Kingdom of God (of which shalom is a critical piece).  In that context, what would a library look like?

McDonald (2011) argues that there are five components that need to be in place in order for libraries to develop a culture of shalom: a place where students intersect learning and information (p. 221).  Those five components are:

  1. A library must be established on a foundation of student learning.
  2. A library’s mission should align with creating conditions and circumstaces at the intersection of learning and information.
  3. A library must address student learning needs – focusing on where students are currently, not where they could or should be.
  4. A library should envision itself as the other half of the classroom.  Specifically, the acquisitions, services, and funding allocation should be guided by curriculum and faculty pedagogy.
  5. Library assessment should be based upon how well students learn (McDonald, 2011, pp. 221-222).

These are intriguing.  As this is a blog (with an intention to be relatively short), each one of these will be discussed in a future entry.  I would encourage everyone to read McDonald’s article.  He provides some intriguing insight to how a faithful librarian might manifest their faith in and through the library.

Thoughts?

Works Cited

McDonald, J. (2011). Historic Christianity and the Redevelopment on the 21st Century Academic Library. Advances in the Study of Information and Religion1(1), 214-226.

ALA Code of Ethics

In her article, Paula Gannaway (2008) provides some analysis of the ALA Code of Ethics through a biblical lens.  This blog aims to provide a picture of what librarianship might look like through a Christian worldview.   As Gannaway (2008) takes one aspect of the profession (the ALA code of ethics) and assesses it through a Christian framework, this brief entry will synthesize and build from the excellent foundation Gannaway (2008) provides.  This blog has already touched on three of ALA’s Code of Ethics (and Gannaway’s [2008] assessment):

  1. We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies, equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.
  2. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.
  3. We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted.

This entry will look at the fourth part of the ALA Code of Ethics:

“We recognize and respect intellectual property rights” (ALA, 2021).

In her article, Gannaway (2008) argues that this idea of intellectual property rights is embedded in Scripture through Paul’s and Peter’s counsel in Romans 13:7 and 1 Peter 2:17 respectively (pp. 120-121).  While there are contexts where Scripture infers that Christians can disregard the law (for example, Acts 4:19-20), these two passages clearly state that are several contexts where faithful librarians should honor the law, including intellectual property rights (Mohrlang, 2005, p. 199).

In his comment on 1 Peter 2:23, John Calvin (1963) states that the Christian life “is a free servitude, a serving freedom” (p. 272).  This “serving freedom,” of which Jesus Christ is the ultimate example, does not involve escape from service, but in a change of masters (Selwyn, 1958, p. 174).  As the master of faithful librarians is Jesus Christ, we have an obligation to recognize and respect intellectual property rights because, in essence, these reflect many aspects of the gospel. 

In a blog entry, John Piper (2015) also addresses the issue of intellectual property.  In a response to an e-mail, Piper provides an overview of his opinion regarding intellectual property. His position aligns well with Gannaway: Christians should respect intellectual property.  In Piper’s (2015) development of his point, he argues that there are three foundations for intellectual property rights.

First, Piper (2015) argues that the commandment to not steal implies that individuals own property.  While most would infer that the context of these commandments refers to not stealing physical property, Piper (2015) argues that there is no reason this principle cannot be carried across to intellectual property.

Piper’s (2015) second point is that since Scripture prohibits lying, it is wrong for anyone to claim an intellectual piece as their own when it clearly is not.  Misusing intellectual property is, Piper (2015) argues, lying, which again Scripture clearly prohibits.

Ephesians 4:28 states: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”  Piper (2015) states that this verse argues first that a person should be working in a manner to honestly produce something of value.  Secondly, the individual working should be compensated, and last, the individual working should be inclined in freedom and love to use their resources to help others (Piper, 2015; cf. Lincoln, 1982, pp. 302-303; Snodgrass, 1996, p. 261; Thielman, 2010, p.315).  The principles which Piper (2015) brings from Ephesians 4:28 align well with Gannaway’s argument that faithful librarians should honor intellectual property, advocate for intellectual property rights, and subsequently agree (at least in principle) with this aspect of ALA’s code of ethics.

I think one way that faithful librarians aim to practice advocacy for intellectual rights is teaching others about the common sin of plagiarism.  Unfortunately, plagiarism is common in many contexts and it is frowned upon by many intellectual institutions for several reasons.  I believe that faithful librarians have excellent warrant for advocating against plagiarism.  It is not simply wrong because everyone else says that it is, but it is wrong because the individual plagiarizing is taking someone else’s voice and claiming it as their own.  Granted, that “someone else” may be an expert in the discipline, but it is critical, particularly in an age of misrepresentation that other voices be heard.  If anyone is accustomed to simply taking someone else’s voice and stating it to be their own, in many contexts, they are not learning, they are not analyzing, they are not critiquing, and they are simply accepting the norms of scholarship (and many will admit that some components of scholarship are deeply infused by the sin nature).  There is a time to learn, a time to synthesize, and a time to develop an understanding of an area of study.  However, without an ability to provide one’s own voice to the dialog (which plagiarism hinders), scholarship cannot prosper, new ideas cannot be developed, and I would even like to suggest that spiritual growth and development can be hindered with a lack of ability to reflect authenticity in scholarship.  Recognizing and respecting intellectual property rights can play a key role in developing scholarly thinking and thus it should be a key principle for which faithful librarians should advocate. 

Thoughts?

Works Cited

American Library Association. (2021). Code of Ethics. https://www.ala.org/tools/ethics

Calvin, J. (1963). The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St. Peter. Eerdmans.

Gannaway, P. (2008). “Are Ethics Scriptural? Comparing the Librarians’ Code of Ethics with Scripture.”  The Christian Librarian 51(3), 118-124. https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/tcl/vol51/iss3/3/

Lincoln, A. T. (1982). Ephesians. Word Books.

Mohrlang, R. (2007). Romans. Tyndale House Publishers.

Selwyn, E. (1958). The First Epistle of St. Peter. Macmillan.

Snodgrass, K. (1996). Ephesians. Zondervan.

Thielman, F. (2010). Ephesians. Baker Academic.

Christian Dynamics of Research: Humility

This blog has discussed four “Christian dynamics of research.”  These “dynamics” are spelled out to answer: what should be distinct when a believer in Christ is doing research?  As this blog is aiming to look at faith integration, these portions of the blog aim to address what faith may look like when integrated into research methods.

This blog has already covered four of those components: all truth is God’s truth, three entries on integrity (here, here, and here), two entries on passion (here and here), and a single entry on discipline .  This entry will briefly look at the idea of humility and its impact upon how a faithful librarian does research.

While there have been a handful of discussions in relation to humility (here, here, and here) on this blog, it has not specifically looked at its impact on research.  To begin this discussion, a definition may be helpful.  Humility is an intriguing word and has a wide variety of contexts in which it can be applied.  This variance can, at times, make humility a difficult word to define.

In his article of humility in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, White (1984) notes that humility is:

usually looked down upon in the world, being too often confused with ‘ever-so-humbleness,’ with willful self-disparagement, or with conventional descriptions of other sinners as ‘guilty, vile, and helpless worms.’ In Christian tradition humility ranked high. With Barnabas it was part of ‘inward fasting’; with Chrysostom, ‘foundation of our philosophy’; Augustine said ‘if you ask me what is the first precept of the Christian religion I will answer, first, second, and third. Humility’ (p. 537).

White (1984) moves on in his argument to note that in spite of humility often being looked down upon in our 21st century culture, many church fathers held humility in high regards (p. 537).  White (1984) moves on from Chrysostom, Barnabas, and Augustine, to Thomas a Kempis and Bernard of Clairvaux who fervently argued that humility is a critical component in order to manifest faith in any context, including librarianship (p. 537).  Martin Luther stated: “(u)nless a man is always humble, distrustful of himself, always fears his own understanding and …passions … will, he will be unable to stand for long without offence. Truth will pass him by. Humility is aptness for grace, the essence of faith” (cited by White, 1984, p. 537).

With this definition provided, how should humility apply to research?  First it is critical to acknowledge that all research builds on the works of others.  Even if someone is pursuing a novel concept in any arena, the work they are doing builds on a foundation of scholarship that was done by others (Robert and Woods, 2007, pp. 276-277).  An acknowledgement of this reality helps foster humility.

For example, as I write these blog entries, while they are my work, they are built from the work of others.  Many of my entries are simply critiques of the works of others.  This critique plays a critical role in fostering my own understanding of faith integration.  This critique (and the development of my own understanding and knowledge) would not be possible without the work of others (even if I disagree with it).

My ability to understand and interpret scripture and to work with theology is largely built from my undergrad and graduate degrees.  The understanding I have of integration derives primarily from my colleagues at my current place of work.  I have also been incredibly blessed to have good dialogs with a handful of colleagues regarding how faith integration works in librarianship.  All of these contexts serve as a foundation for my blog and there are many, many more.  In order to develop in my understanding of faith integration, I must acknowledge that the journey has by no means been solo and that all of these interactions have played critical roles in developing my own understanding of faith and learning.

As research is truly building upon the works of others, a lack of humility makes research difficult.  Part of humility entails how one accepts critique.  Humility does not necessarily entail an acceptance of anybody’s random critique of your work, but it does mean that you take critique (regardless of its source) seriously.

Looking back, I would not consider epistemic humility to be something I understood or practiced when I finished my undergraduate program.  Subsequently, I felt like if it was in the Bible (which was my major) I knew it.  I was incredibly humbled when I did my graduate program in theology though.  There were no particular events that happened, but I had instructors who practiced humility, specifically epistemic humility.  They were not afraid to say, “I don’t know.”  I was introduced to the humungous world of biblical scholarship.  One of the challenges with biblical and theological scholarship is that there are topics that have been studied for centuries, and in some cases, millenniums.  Subsequently, there is much content out there.  An individual practicing epistemic humility acknowledges this and this acknowledgement often provides a temperament that fosters growth and development.  I would even like to suggest that growth (in any area) is incredibly difficult when lacking humility.

I appreciate Vhymeister’s (2014) acknowledgement of the critical role which humility can play in developing a research mindset.  Vhymeister reminds us that when a piece of literature exudes arrogance, the reader quickly loses interest. Why? Perhaps because people who convey arrogance often lack a temperament for learning.  If this is the case, how am I supposed to learn from someone who cannot (or is not willing to) learn themselves? (Vhymeister, 2014, p. 103).

Good research requires humility.  Faithful librarians should emulate humility in all facets of service to manifest the critical nature which humility plays in research and library services.

Thoughts?

Works Cited

Roberts, R. C., & Wood, W. J. (2007). Humility and epistemic goods. In Michael. DePaul & L. Zagzebski (Eds.), Intellectual Virtue Perspectives from Ethics and Epistemology (pp. 257–289). Oxford University Press.

Vhymeister, N. J., & Robertson, T. D. (2014). Qualtiy research papers: For students of religion and theology (3rd ed.). Zondervan.

White, R. E. O. (1984). Humility. In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (p. 537). Baker Book House.

Open Science, part 4

In his article, On the Philosophy of Open Science, Peters (2010) aims to develop a philosophy of open science: some foundational principles which he feels undergird much of open access, open educational resources, and all efforts to make 21st century scholarship open.  Peters (2010) argues that this philosophy needs to be understood and implemented in order for the fruition of open science to be more than simply a scholarly trend.

I agree with Peters (2010) regarding the critical nature of open access for future educational endeavors.  This blog has already discussed three of Peters’ propositions: openness to experience (link), openness to the other (link), and openness to criticism (link). This entry will focus on another of Peters’ (2010) propositions: openness is equivalent to freedom.

We should recall that Peters advocacy for openness is not simply to make all content open access.  Peters suggests that open access is simply a fruition of openness.  In order for open access, open educational resources, and other manifestations of openness to be more than a simple trend, Peters (2010) argues that one must advocate for openness and subsequently understand what makes openness work.  Peters’ (2010) concept of openness not only applies to education, but to a variety of different contexts: government, economy, and personal rights, just to name a few.  One of those premises in that openness equals freedom.

One possible example of openness leading to freedom is Creative Commons.  Creative Commons has aimed to “help overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenge” (Creative Commons, n. d.).  In other words, Creative Commons has aimed to bring more freedom in relation to knowledge sharing.  Peters (2010) argues that Creative Commons has provided a great model for how scholarship can develop openness (p. 107).  It is freedom like this, Peters (2010) argues, that must be further developed in order for openness to truly flourish (p. 107). 

I think many librarians would adamantly agree with this expression of freedom.  We are all well aware of many obstacles in place keeping information and resources from scholars and the general populace and the subsequent impacts this has upon many facets of scholarship and life.  But, this is only one expression of Peters’ understanding that openness is equivalent to freedom.  Are there other understandings of how openness and freedom relate?  As the concept of freedom does often carry theological undertones, perhaps there is also some theological warrant undergirding open access?  

As you read this entry, you may be asking yourself “what does Peters mean by ‘freedom’?”  Is it fair to equate a theological concept of this term with Peters ideology?  Peters (2010) suggests three components which serve as a foundation for his advocacy for freedom: rights of self-expression, the constitution of the public sphere, and the connection between openness and creativity (p. 107).

I think many of these concepts have warrant when looked at through the lens of a biblical worldview.  While the concept of “the right of self-expression” is not something I often consider when I think of being a faithful librarian, I would like to suggest that it has some warrant.  Why?  Because we are made in the image of God.  Granted, we are also sinners; living in a paradox between being made in God’s image yet still having a sin nature.  I would not say that a faithful librarian has the “right” of self-expression, rather I would suggest that we have a responsibility to express ourselves as manifestations of God’s character.  If faithful librarians agree with the right of self-expression, it implies that we also have the responsibility to listen to others.

Peters’ (2010) second point states that a public sphere is critical for freedom. A context where individuals can express their beliefs, their opinions and their values makes perfect sense as a critical component of openness.  The public sphere is critical for openness, Peters and Roberts (2012) argue, because open meetings, free debate, and freely expressed opinion (in a public context) are critical to openness (p. 5).

I would like to suggest that the critical nature of the public sphere has two ends.  First, a public sphere provides a context supporting the interactions of free debate and expressed opinion.  Secondly, a public sphere must also involve active listening and reflection.  When lacking both of these component, in my opinion, the public square cannot reach the critical role it plays in open access advocacy.

As a faithful librarian, I find that I am in general agreement with this point.  I think we are all well aware of contexts in which the public sphere has been misused and/or abused.  However, the misuse of it typically does not disprove the critical role that the public sphere plays in freedom.

What about creativity?  I am in full agreement with Hughes (2005), when he states:

But the Bible is not a rulebook, a scientific manual, a legal code, or a divinely-authored constitution. Rather, the Bible is a theological text, that is, a book about God. Accordingly, the Bible invites each of us to reflect on the meaning of that which transcends our understanding: the infinite Lord of the universe. Precisely because the subject of the Bible — the living God — transcends our poor ability to understand, it calls on each of us to respond with wonder, creative imagination, and rational inquiry (pp. 5-6).

Hughes (2005) idea infers that God intends us to be creative: to use the skills, talents, and imaginations, that God has given to each of us to forward the cultural mandate of Genesis 1.  Subsequently, if creativity is a key component of openness, it would appear that it aligns well with a biblical worldview.

While I state this with some hesitancy, it appears that Peters (2010) concept of freedom, which he argues is critical for openness, aligns well with a biblical worldview.  Subsequently, should we assume that open access has a theological foundation?

Thoughts?

Works Cited

Creative Commons (n. d.). What we do. https://creativecommons.org/about/

Hughes, R. T. (2005). The vocation of a Christian scholar: How Christian faith can sustain the life of the mind (Revised Edition). Eerdmans.

Peters, M. A. (2010). On the Philosophy of Open Science. Review of Contemporary Philosophy, 9, 105–142.

Peters, M. A., & Roberts, P. (2012). The virtues of openness: Education, science, and scholarship in the digital age. Paradigm Publishers.