Rolfing Unshelved

Books, news, and events from TIU's Rolfing Library


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Surveying for Change

We’re humbled (and pleasantly surprised!) that a recent Scrawl article gave a welcome “shout out” to the library. The article, “Memo to the Next President,” gave recommendations about how to improve the university. The first priority considered school operations, and encouraged the administration to survey students in order to learn what they think needs to be improved. The author observed, “Here the library deserves a special shout out: they solicit input every year (and even try to beat their previous record of responses!). I suspect some suggestions are good, some have already been tried, and some are impossible. Simply having the data, however, allows them to create accurate metrics of quality, discern changing needs, and be on the lookout for industry best-practices.”

Discerning the needs of our patrons has certainly been the library’s goal in conducting its surveys. We used the results of our recent surveys to benchmark our services against other university libraries and to determine our strengths and weaknesses. These surveys were also valuable for discovering what students care about and what they want to see changed. In addition, more focused surveys allowed us to solicit specific feedback on possible projects and improvements.

The surveys have affirmed what we do well here at Rolfing, yet have also identified problems. Thanks to a recent survey, we discovered that students gave positive ratings to the service provided by librarians and staff. One patron commented, “The staff are always helpful, courteous and wonderful. Any improvement needed is more on the side of resources and services.” (Thanks, dear patron!) This and other responses suggested that resources and the library building were the greatest areas of concern. Our surveys confirmed that students want access to a greater number of books and journals, both in print and online. Patrons also desire a more pleasant study environment: better lighting, more numerous electrical outlets, a more stable temperature, comfier furniture, and an inviting yet studious atmosphere.

new-chairs

Our new study chairs!

As the Scrawl article noted, it can be difficult to make needed changes in response to feedback. One of the major limitations for the library has been budget issues — all these requests cost money (crazy, I know)! Despite our financial limitations, Rolfing staff has worked to find innovative ways to move forward and make some of the improvements you’ve requested. For example, we can’t afford to redo the lighting in the library, but we can (and do!) provide desk lamps for students to check out. Other improvements include our coffee machine, a new vending machine, and a scanner. We’ve also recently purchased new furniture: study chairs, “comfy” lounge chairs, and laptop tables. Recently, we partnered with the GSGA to purchase and install whiteboards in our study rooms. We do hear your requests, and we’re striving to make improvements — albeit small ones — whenever and wherever possible.

Your input is crucial in identifying what changes we should make. We continue to value your critiques and comments, especially as the world of libraries and higher education changes. As the Scrawl article noted, feedback is the best way for us to improve. We always appreciate your suggestions —  keep ’em coming!

Rebecca Miller is Head of Public Services at Rolfing Memorial Library. If you have any ideas to share, please post a comment below or email Rebecca.

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Guest Post: Jewish American Heritage Month

It’s amazing how our “evangelical bubble” keeps us from understanding key events in history that are important and foundational to other groups and cultures around us. I had the opportunity to be immersed in Jewish culture for 10 days while on a fellowship with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, with other seminarians from different faith traditions. It was the best and most challenging time as those of us who were not Jewish looked at history through Jewish culture; most notably, the Holocaust.

Nazi ideology reformed not only the social structure of Europe, but the Christian churches in Germany as well. After the Nuremberg Race Laws of 1933, the German churches held up the standard of Aryan blood and began to utilize the Reich’s standard of Aryan blood with the standards of religion. National Socialist racial policy was adopted by the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche (DEK). In 1936, the mayor of Breslau worked to exclude Jews from German places of culture, leading to the exclusion of Protestant and Catholic ministers of Jewish descent from interdenominational schools. Most German churches affiliated themselves with the Reich, while the Confessing Church, which represented a minority of Protestant Christians, spoke against the race laws but had little effect in forming public policy. The race laws influenced the church back in 1933, desiring to rid the church of Jewish blood as their “Christian and national task.” The official stance of the DEK was stated in 1941 that baptism did not change the biological fact of Jewish blood, declaring Jewish Christians had no part in the religious life of the German people, the church, or society. [1]

It is sobering to consider that for the most part, the German church bought into the Reich’s social and quasi-scientific policies and identified themselves with the Reich rather than Jesus Christ. The voices of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth spoke against the discrimination against the Jewish people, but even the Confessing Church granted the Reich state “the right to reorganize the position of Jews and Christians of Jewish descent in society, even the right to suppress them politically, economically and socially,” leaving the Jewish Christians and all other Jews without protection.

Catholic Bishop Von Galen boldly spoke out against the euthanasia policies of the Reich in which the mentally ill, developmentally and physically disabled were put to death as “unproductive persons.” Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke boldly that the enemies of the Jews were enemies of Jesus Christ, but the momentum against the Jews and others deemed undesirable in German society were eliminated by whatever means possible. Camps in the east such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and Chelmno were killing camps, taking the lives of over 3.5 million Jews, a large number of them Poles and Roma.

Reading the Gospels with our Jewish friends at a seminar on the role of the church in the Holocaust demonstrated how our casual use of the term “the Jews” — even as a descriptor — was hurtful. I’d never considered that just reading a Gospel passage aloud could spark an intense debate that reflected the pain still present in the people who were pursued and nearly exterminated only sixty years ago. My bubble “popped” that afternoon, as I became aware that even believing that Israel continues to be a people dear to YHWH, I could still unknowingly sound anti-Semitic in explaining a Gospel passage. This trip to New York, Berlin, Oswiecim and Krakow opened my eyes to the cultural gap we as Christians must be wiling to cross to establish conversation and trust with our Jewish friends and neighbors.


[1] Gerhard Besier, “The German Churches’ Attitud to the Race laws of the ‘Third Reich’” in Kyrkohistorisk Årsskrift 107 (207).

Guest blogger Marie Butson works in the Technical Services Department at Rolfing Library as the serials assistant and is working on her M.Div. and M.A. in Bioethics.


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Guest Post: Biblical Studies Tools

Do you have a paper to write for a biblical studies (Old or New Testament) class? Here are five sources that are often overlooked but can be very helpful.

bibtools11) Theological dictionaries. These dictionaries are outstanding sources of information. They contain, among other things, helpful introductions to the books of the Bible and topics surrounding their study. Equally important, however, are the bibliographies at the end of each article which can point you to resources for further study. Some of my favorites: The IVP Dictionaries on the various segments of the canon, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible and The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis.

2) Bibliographies in commentaries. In commentaries, authors will generally do more than offer their treatments of a passage; they will often leave you their trails of research in the form of bibliographies. Authors tend to use bibliographies to list sources that are worthwhile in doing further research, even if the author would not endorse the points of view in those sources. (By the way, if a commentary does not have a good bibliography you probably should not use it in your paper!

bibtools23) Historical theology sources. Modern advances in biblical studies have given seminary students and pastors wonderful tools to use in studying the Old and New Testaments. But it is tragic when modern interpreters forget that Christians have been reading Scripture for over two thousand years! The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament volumes) and The Reformation Commentary on Scripture are especially helpful in showing you the primary sources where you can explore how some of the brightest thinkers in Church history have understood Scripture.

4) Journals. Students tend to bury themselves in mounds of commentaries when doing exegetical work. As great as commentaries are, they can become outdated very quickly. Journals, on the other hand, are helpful in keeping you up-to-date with the most recent research. The ATLA database (available through the Rolfing homepage) can help you find articles on your topic or passage, many of which can be downloaded to your computer for free. What’s even better—the reference staff would be happy to help you learn to use the database!

bibtools35) Commentary surveys. Students occasionally approach us at the reference desk needing help finding good commentaries on a particular book. My first course of action is usually to recommend to them the commentary surveys by Tremper Longman III (Old Testament) and Trinity’s very own D. A. Carson (New Testament). These surveys give concise evaluations of the major commentaries on a given book of the Bible and tell you which commentaries are likely to be the most helpful (and which ones you should probably leave on the shelf!). You can find these surveys in print in the main and reference collections and they’re available in e-book format. The reference desk at the library also has copies that you can consult.

Guest blogger Lance Higginbotham is available at the reference desk to help you with your library needs during the following times: Mondays 6-9; Wednesdays 1-3, 6-9; Thursdays 6-9 and Fridays 11-1. Contact him at libref@tiu.edu.