Staff Spotlight: Seth Kasten

WHO HE IS: Kasten, a native New Yorker, is head of Reference and Collection Development at Burke Library.

YEARS AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: This October marks his 35th year at Columbia.

WHAT HE DOES: Kasten specializes in the subjects of Liturgy and Sacred Music.

BEFORE THIS: Kasten pursued simultaneous degrees at the Columbia University School of Library Service and the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary. As a student, he worked at the Manhattan School of Music Library. “So I suppose you could say that I have been here longer than 35 years.”

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: After the major renovation of Burke Library in the 80’s, the Pastor of Corpus Christi Church, the late Myles Bourke, attended the dedication ceremony of the new reading room. “He went around the room and blessed the books with a branch dipped in holy water.”

BEST PART OF THE JOB: Experiencing the satisfaction of the patrons and working with the largest collection in its field in the Western Hemisphere. Kasten enjoys the fact that the small Burke community allows him to get to know students on a first-name basis. “Of course, being part of the larger Columbia Libraries community allows me access to the wider world of all subjects beyond theology. I enjoy getting to know the other Columbia librarians.”

IN HIS SPARE TIME: Kasten leads the Men’s Schola Cantorum, a small group that sings Gregorian chants that he founded fifteen years ago. He also sings with two church choirs and is studying the clavichord. Kasten’s interests have extended to the culture of India, and he has visited the subcontinent seven times.

9 thoughts on “Staff Spotlight: Seth Kasten

  1. Having been a student at Union Theological Seminary, as well as a member of the Schola Cantorum, I can attest first-hand to Seth’s dedication to his work and his thoughtful demeanor in helping both students and scholars from every corner of the world with their research. Thanks for all of your hard work, Seth!

  2. Seth is truly dedicated to Columbia and Union Theological Seminary. As education professionals we know how hard he works . Yet, he finds time to demonstrate his love and appreciation of “ancient” music. It is our pleasure and privilege to know Seth and learn from him. He has widened the scope of the music we love.

  3. It’s an honor and a privilege to be connected with Seth and his work through Union Theological Seminary. Seth is an example of what a reference librarian is about, who knows his subject and is always ready to help everybody. Besides, Union Seminary, I have also studied in other schools, in Atlanta, GA, and now am studying in the west coast. But I have never met a reference librarian as knowledgeable and helpful as Seth. If there was a survey to vote for the best reference librarian, I know there is one person- I would vote for Seth. And therefore, it is only fitting to learn that Columbia University is honoring Seth’s 35 years of service in helping make many scholars from all around the globe. On a personal note, outside the library, I and my family have been privileged and blessed to have enjoyed his concern, love and caring. Thank you Seth, for your wonderful works.

  4. Seth,

    Congratulations on this great milestone. You are the best Reference Librarian.

    You have helped so many people with your wealth of knowledge, your dedication your thoughtfulness and hard work.

    I am happy to have had the pleasure of working with you twenty three years ago and I am thankful for your care and concern especially since the recent crisis in my life.

    Thank you.


  5. Having known Seth since before Columbia, I can attest to his love of music. In our years together as undergraduates, I knew he sought out and played organs wherever he could. What a thrill to have a friend who has remained a stable part of my life and to learn that he has touched so many through his love of music and liturgy. He is a consumate teacher. Congratulations, Seth. Kay Kosinski-Duren

  6. What this beautiful tribute does not mention is Seth’s contributions to the American Theological Library Association (ATLA), of which he’s a long-time member. Among the many offices and positions he’s held in ATLA is that of conductor of the ATLA choir, which meets and performs at the annual conferences. I’ve sung in numerous choruses and choirs over the years, under many talented conductors, but Seth is at the top of my list of “favorites”. He’s a consummate musician and artist, as well as a highly-skilled librarian.
    Congratulations, Seth!!!
    Judy Clarence

  7. Seth is always a great help in my studies. When I get anxious about being unable to find enough sources on obscure subjects he gives me such a relief, saying “Hold on”. Then, hundreds of articles pop up immediately on his screen.
    Moreover, he has an expertise in French as well as in other languages that allows him to browse articles written in French, German, Spanish, and so on. Under certain circumstances (when the English sources are insufficient) these might be the only sources for a particular subject.
    Finally, he communicates himself with such an exquisite sense of humor which is helpful to my research frame-of-mind.

    This is an ideal combination for at list one doctoral student of UTS. Thank you so much, Seth!

  8. I was blessed to have worked for Union Theological Seminary for forty years before retiring in 2002. I knew Seth well and always cherished his friendship and wise wisdom. He is still a blessing and a friend.

    Congratulations, Seth. Well deserved.

    Phyllis Conley

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