Notes from the Ohio Theological Library Association (OTLA) Spring 2019 Conference
by Ken Cochrane/
May 10, 2019
Dear Atla friends,
Greetings from Ohio!
On Friday, April 5, 2019, the Ohio Theological Library Association (OTLA) met in Westerville, Ohio, for our semi-annual spring conference. In attendance were representative librarians from ten theological and academic libraries around the state, including the University of Dayton, United Theological Seminary, the Methodist Theological School of Ohio (MTSO), Ashland Theological Seminary, the Athenaeum of Ohio Library, Winebrenner Theological Seminary, Ohio Christian University, Trinity Lutheran Seminary (Capital University), and the Ohio State University’s Lima campus library.
At this particular gathering, we were honored by the attendance of special guest Mitzi Budde, head librarian of Virginia Theological Seminary, who was visiting as a representative for the ATS Task Force on the Redevelopment of Standards. With the current standards undergoing the process of review and revision, Mitzi’s goal was to collect some insight and feedback from member libraries as to our thoughts on these standards: the advantages, disadvantages, and aspects requiring change and revision. After an abbreviated business meeting where members were invited to share news and reports from their respective institutions, our discussion turned to the accreditation standards.
Redevelopment of the ATS Accreditation Standards: The first year (2018-2019) is called “a year of listening, researching, and reflecting” during which time the Task Force will intentionally engage a wide variety of audiences.Read
Some key elements of the conversation involved:
- A need for stronger, more specific wording in the standards: Vague or “soft” language allows administrative bodies of institutions to define limits as they see fit, usually well below library expectations, especially in regard to staffing and budget (e.g., definitions of “adequate” usually differ significantly between library staff and administration.)
- Standard 4.4 (Administration and leadership): a need for the standards to emphasize the imperative of the library as an integral part of theological education across all modalities; also, a needed shift in focus from resources to a focus on information literacy and the question of how to promote information literacy across the curriculum (involving faculty participation, not just the responsibility of librarians); in Standard 4.4.1, the word “should” needs to be replaced with the stronger wording “must.”
- Standard 4.2 (Contribution to learning, teaching, research): an onus on faculty to work in close partnership with librarians to ensure: (1) students engage library staff for consultation on research endeavors and (2) students becomes proficient in the use of research tools, such as electronic databases and the online catalog; also, there should be a requirement involving a library component for research in course work, especially for graduate level theological degree programs; librarians play a crucial role as agents to enhance critical thinking, especially in theological institutions where an emphasis on research as an educational priority is declining.
- Standard 4.4.4 (opportunities for professional development): How ATS-accredited schools contribute to these opportunities in light of budget curtailments? What is the future for this standard and how much is it valued, especially for smaller, independent theological libraries with limited financial support?
- The term “resources” should be expanded to include library personnel, not just traditionally defined resources (budget, office supplies, collections, electronic databases, etc.); likewise, language or terminology pertaining to the “library” as an entity in the standards should be understood to cover all aspects of the library, including staff; also, the library director should have faculty/administrative faculty status and be present on academic affairs committees; the director should have faculty privileges, participate in the curriculum review process, and have access to all course syllabi – especially as course content affects and influences collection development.
- Should budgets be percentage based on enrollment? The standards should require each theological school to identify its own local/state/provincial consortia memberships so the library can be provided with access to any necessary consortially available resources at the level that best supports their curriculum. Also for seminaries that serve as the archival depositories for confessional materials, the standards should indicate the library’s responsibility to provide for the preservation of the tradition, especially for rare books and archival materials.
Join us this Fall
Our next meeting is scheduled for Friday, October 4, 2019, at the Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati and, as always, OTLA warmly welcomes guests!
We especially like invite librarians from neighboring states (particularly Indiana and Kentucky) that live in close proximity to Ohio and presently lack a regional presence in Atla. Our spring and fall meetings typically fall on the first Fridays of April and October, so whether you are an Atla representative, member library, or local librarian interested in becoming an OTLA member, our door is always open!
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June 12, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - June 15, 2019 @ 1:00 pm
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