Monthly Archives: May 2014

Reflecting Back…

Having just graduated last week from my Masters program at Union Theological Seminary, I am finding myself in a reflective mode. I am reflecting back on the challenging classes I took, the professors who inspired me, the deep relationships I formed with my fellow students, and my work at the library. So much of what I encountered here at Union was unexpected and exciting, and working at the Burke Theological Library was no exception.

I didn’t expect to work in the library before I came here, but I was lucky enough during my first semester to get a work-study position as a circulation assistant. This was my first library job, and I was surprised to find how much I loved shelving books—I found peace and calm in the quiet stacks. I could lose myself in the rows of 19th century hymnals or the seemingly never ending shelves of liberation theologies. I loved the smell of the stacks and the feeling of being surrounded by so much deep wisdom.

Working with Eun Ja behind the circulation desk, I found joy in helping patrons find what they needed. It was remarkably satisfying to be able to direct students, professors, and researchers to the correct section of the stacks or to help them locate a particular periodical or journal article. There is a profound sense of discovery in the Burke Library, a hunger for knowledge that can be contagious. My own academic pursuits were inspired and expanded by interactions with library patrons. Being able to assist people for just a moment on their particular intellectual journey—even if it was simply by checking books out for them—greatly enriched my own studies here. More than once when someone returned a book I thought looked particularly interesting, I wrote down the title and checked it out later! I was exposed to several new authors that way.

I also had the privilege of working with Liz in the periodical collection for a summer, and later working with both Brigette and Ruth in the archives. Behind the scenes on the fourth and fifth floors, I got to see a completely different side to the Burke Library. A whole new world became available to me as I got to look through 200 year-old handwritten lecture notes from famous professors or barcode periodicals from the 1920s. I remember the excitement of discovering an article in a publication from the 1960s about a wilderness camp in Northern Minnesota that my father and his brothers used to go to as teenagers. I remember the time I was cataloguing and I found a book published in El Salvador in the midst of the civil war there about the church’s role in the political situation. Having worked in El Salvador and studied this period in the country’s history, I was amazed to be holding something that had been created in this context of conflict and survived.

Perhaps my most thrilling Burke moment was when I was going through the original manuscript and annotations for the Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament,by Brown, Driver, and Briggs (a.k.a. the “BDB”). This is the most widely used (and revered) lexicon in all of my Biblical Hebrew classes, and here I was touching with my own hands the original notes of one of the scholars who helped compile this amazing resource over 100 years ago. Looking at the beautiful penmanship and the edits done by hand, I suddenly had a sense of the sheer magnitude of this monumental linguistic project that allows biblical scholars today to do the work that they do.

More than anything, my time at the Burke Library has made history and theological scholarship come alive for me in a way I could have never anticipated before I started seminary. I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I have had here, and I will miss this place very much.



My Last Day at the Burke

The following is a final entry post by Juanita James.

I want to thank Dr. Bidlack and the Burke Library staff for giving me this opportunity to serve as an intern. I gained valuable knowledge about academic library management and about preservation of archival materials. I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to work on various projects, increasing my interest in management and academic libraries.

This internship has taught me a lot about myself, what I’m capable of, what I’m lacking, and what I need to improve on as a person and worker. I learned that I can make decisions in a managerial environment with confidence and ease and have knowledge in all aspects of the organization under my supervision.

I would like to thank you once again for this wonderful experience. I hope to keep in touch and perhaps to discuss with you steps I should take in the future to pursue a career in library and information center management. Once again, thank you for a terrific four months.

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

This week is the last week of my Spring Internship at the Burke Library. It has been such a great experience! I’ve received hands-on training on the entire archival experience: the initial processing, creating the finding aid, managing it in its digital form, and broadcasting it for all the world to see. In addition, I have seen the ins and outs of running an academic library, including the not-so-glamorous sides, like vermin patrol and how to Macgyver a situation where you must move 80 boxes with only a silver cart, one narrow elevator  that can’t fit you AND boxes, and several mini-stairways (answer: through teamwork and running). The Burke Library has provided me a valuable internship where I was part of the team, given creative freedom, and trained from day 1 on what archiving is and why it matters. Brigette, Liz, Beth, and Matthew have been great coworkers, and I have enjoyed working with them all.

What I've been looking at all semester

What I’ve been looking at all semester

However, it’s not the end! The semester is wrapping up, but I will be staying on during the summer as well, interning for credit from my graduate program at Pratt. I will be doing more archival work, but in a much different capacity. As I referenced in my last blog post, we are wrapping up a 3 year archiving project. My work this summer will be to help finish this project, updating finding aids, more DAM and EAD training, and contributing to evaluation summaries as well. I will also be doing more work with Burke Director Beth Bidlack, learning more about what goes into running a library. Finally, I am attending the American Theological Library Association Annual Conference next month, to see how theological and academic libraries are run across the country, and learn best practices across a wide array of topics.

I’m looking forward to continuing my work at Burke, and know that I will continue to gain valuable skills and connections. Thanks for reading this semester, and I’ll see you in the summer!