I have mentioned in earlier posts that I have just returned from the annual conference for the American Theological Library Association (ATLA). These days we seem to have theological librarians participating from many parts of the world, so “American”, while once meaning US and then North American and now North and South Americas, has librarians participating from other parts of the world as well.
You might ask, “What do theological librarians talk about when they get together?”
If you were to take a sneak peek into our gatherings you would find a very diverse group
of fascinating people with all kinds of professional backgrounds that have led them to their work in theological libraries or collections or graduate programs of religion. About 400 theological librarians, book sellers and antiquities professionals came to our Chicago meeting. Programs range from the practical – with updates on changes to standardized cataloging practice and programs to train MDiv students on the use of research materials for their ministry studies, to issues in theological publishing and to training programs for students who are studying at a distance from our libraries, to thinking outside of the box and attempting to think about what the future of libraries and library services will look like in the years to come.
My colleagues Michelle Spomer and Roger White both gave well-regarded presentations this year and I’m working on plans for a panel presentation for next year even now (most presentations are submitted for consideration in the early fall).
And so, what do theological librarians talk about? Well, there is lots of catching up among friends who only see each other at this time each year (like my wonderful friend Mariel who lives in Buenos Aires and my new friend Ruth who is currently living in Cambridge and my friend Carrie in Washington DC …I love seeing friends at these gatherings!), and of course planning for visits to local restaurants for dinner, visiting museums and local music gatherings, visiting theological library collections in the area, we talk about new technology and social networking and software we have found helpful, and then hear how each library is fairing in times of budgetary uncertainties and of course, we talk about books…books we are reading, books we are reviewing, and new ones we have seen at the conference and would like to buy for our collections. There is a birder’s group that submit the most amazing reports of birds seen while visiting the conference city, an ATLA choir that leads in morning worship services and for the annual memorial service we hold on the last day of the conerence and we even occasionally receive wry reports of a gathering of the (fictional – I think!) Introverts interest group.
Sara Corkery on the ATLA staff spends much of the conference taking great photos of everyone. Here are a few snapshots from our 2010 conference to give you an idea (the photos from our current conference have yet to be posted):