Shopping for Korean books

One of the marvelous parts of my work is developing theological collections for APU students and programs. What a number of people on the main Azusa campus may not be aware of, is that this not only involves selecting resources for the Stamps Theological Library but also the smaller theological libraries at our San Diego and Los Angeles Regional Centers.

The LA campus theological collection has been a fun challenge to develop – because more than half of the books are in the Korean language and I am the primary selector…and no, I am not fluent in Korean (therefore the challenge!). I have learned through the years ways to determine what I am looking at, and it is true that a large portion of the books I select are English or German translations into Korean – but even many of these do not include complete titles or have authors partially in Korean and partially in English, meaning I often need to make educated guesses based on my knowledge of the theological titles in their original languages.

Authors names are generally translated in Korean script for first and last name – but the middle initial is in Romanized English. For instance, the author Ralph P. Martin might show up like 랄프 P. 마틴 on the spine and cover of the book. Since I am familiar with Dr. Martin’s writings, I can often tell by the number of chapters (if nothing else) what book it is likely to be…and if I am very fortunate, the Korean publisher might include part or all of the title in English on either the title verso (the page behind the title page) or at the back of the book…but this might only happen some of the time. Sometimes all of the information is in Korean but the publishers have used essentially the same artwork on the book jacket as the English version and I am one of those people who actually remembers that a book was a certain size or color …I guess it comes with the territory!  Every book has to be considered individually and sometimes it can take some sleuthing to determine for certain what I think I have.

I have made two shopping trips to Joy Church Supply in Koreatown in the last two weeks and I asked the owner if I could take a few photos so that you might see a little bit of what I see and he was very kind to oblige.

So here is the entrance:


The Joy Church Supply is part of a small mall of other businesses – a drugstore, an exercise studio, a Verizon store, and a medical practice. It is located in the heart of Koreatown, within a few miles of our LA campus. While I think of it as a bookstore, the store carries all manner of supplies that local churches might need – choir robes, lecterns, artwork, music and of course, lots and lots of books. I have probably been shopping here for about 16 years and while I may not be able to communicate as well as I wish I could, the store staff are always very gracious to me and somehow we figure everything out! In the last two years my friend and colleague Pam Lee, who works with our Korean collections to catalog and make them more accessible to students, is sometimes able to go with me – so she is able to ask questions when I cannot figure out where something might be (because there isn’t a great deal of signage and what there is, is in Korean, of course!), order titles the store doesn’t currently have, and negotiate on our behalf (which she is great at!).

Here is a view from the front inside of the store – lots of books to look at!
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This section of the store includes bestsellers and some of the newest books. It generally has new devotional and spiritual formation titles, some of the most popular Korean pastors writings, and sometimes a bestseller or two in business (this visit there were copies of the recent Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs book translated in Korean in this section too).
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When everything was finished, I was able to find about 210 new Korean books to grow our collections – recent commentary translations, new church history and Christian education, books on the church and practical ministry, spiritual formation and biblical antiquities, books on theological research and writing, several of the IVP Dictionaries, and a variety of Greek and Hebrew translation tools (into Korean).

One of my other favorite treats when I visit Koreatown is Korean BBQ and kimchee … but I’ll save this for another post! Hoping you have enjoyed this short tour with me! I’ll be posting the new books once they are cataloged and in our collection.

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This entry was posted in Diversity, Korean language resources, Libraries, Theological Libraries. Bookmark the permalink.

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