Robert J. Mayer is retiring from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, effective June 30, 2021.
Bob began work as the Charlotte Campus Library Director of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in July of 1997. He became the Senior Librarian and Director of the Gordon-Conwell Libraries in July of 2006. He has also been active in the Carolinas Theological Library Consortium (CTLC).
Bob attended his first Atla Annual Conference in 2008 in Ottowa, Ontario, Canada. He served on the Annual Conference Committee in 2010 and was co-chair of the 2013 Atla Annual local host committee in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Annual Conference and Education Committees were merged in July of 2013 and became the Conference Committee.Read
We asked Bob a few questions about his experience with Atla and as a theological librarian.
What was it like to serve on the Annual Conference Committee in 2010?
“I thoroughly enjoyed that experience, especially because the annual conference is the heart of Atla. Being on that committee gave me more insight into Atla as I worked with Atla staff and interacted with a broad cross-section of theological librarians.”
How has Atla and the theological librarianship community affected your work over the years?
“One of the things I love about Atla is the collegial relationships you form with theological librarians who work in different contexts. The school where I work identifies with Protestant evangelicalism, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and forming friendships with Catholic librarians and with librarians who work in Protestant contexts different from mine.”
One of the things I love about Atla is the collegial relationships you form with theological librarians who work in different contexts.
What advice do you have for new and future theological librarians?
“First, recognize how technology is impacting the work we do. For the last twenty-four years, one important question has stuck with me. ‘What is the best balance between print and electronic resources for our library and for our school?’ The answer to that question constantly changes. I answer that question for our school far differently than when I began in 1997. And my successor will answer that question differently ten years from now.
Second, if you are in library school or have the opportunity to work on a degree at a library school — make sure that you focus on understanding and using library technology. While the field expands and contracts over time, there will always be a great need for librarians who can use and manage library technology.
Third, forge good relationships with faculty when you have the opportunity. This takes time, so don’t feel like you can accomplish this in a few weeks. Moreover, the larger the faculty, the longer it takes. Start with two or three faculty in areas where you already have some knowledge and where you can provide constructive support. Learn about their research interests. One thing that I have enjoyed doing is keeping track of publishers’ catalogs (print and online). When I see a title that relates to a particular research or subject interest of a particular faculty member, I shoot them an email with information about the book and its upcoming release. ( I did this last week by sending a shortlist of new titles from Baylor University to our campus faculty and inviting them to let me know if there is a book that they would like to see when it came into the library. Within an hour, our campus dean/New Testament professor emailed me back asking about a specific title.)
In my view, librarians (and theological librarians) are the last generalists in the world of higher education. We are expected to know something about all of the disciplines that our schools engage. And our libraries are often too small to employ subject specialists for the areas in which we teach. When I first started working at GCTS in the late 1990s, we had just instituted a counseling program. So, one of the first things I had to do was teach myself social-science references and learn how to use the APA publication manual. Since my expertise was in the humanities, that meant that I had never used anything but the Chicago Manual of Style. New theological librarians will come across similar situations, and when you do, treat those as opportunities for your own professional development.”
While the field expands and contracts over time, there will always be a great need for librarians who can use and manage library technology.
With which Atla benefits or groups do you recommend new members get involved?
“Start by reading Theological Librarianship when a new issue is posted online. This will help new members keep abreast of our profession. Then, if there is a regional theological library consortium like ours in the Carolinas, get involved. Attend their meetings, get to know the librarians in the schools who are part of your regional consortium, especially those with similar responsibilities as yours. Finally, attend an Atla conference when you first have an opportunity to do so. Even though I began in 1997, my first conference was Ottawa in 2008. I wish I would have started attending several years earlier.”
Do you plan to stay active with Atla? In what way?
“Indeed. I will maintain individual membership as I have done for many years. And, I envision that Theological Librarianship will be part of my regular reading.”
Bob plans to spend his retirement teaching at Gordon-Conwell, use the next few years to concentrate on research and writing projects, and, as soon as the pandemic ends, travel with his wife Renee.
Please join us in congratulating Bob on his retirement.
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