In Awe of Librarians

Seek and ye shall find, say the scriptures. They’re not talking about libraries, but I remain in awe of the knowledge of librarians. One of the target audiences for my book Sowing the Seed of Truth is libraries of colleges and universities with religious studies programs, as well as seminary libraries. So how shall I find and reach out to them?

Well, I started by posing that question to one of the librarians at the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library. (Fun fact: the Cincinnati Public Library is second only to the New York Public Library in the size of its total circulation.) The librarian there sent me a link to the US News & World Report list of the top 500 institutions in that category. So it became a matter of working through that list, searching for the acquisitions librarian at each school and adding that person to a contact group in Outlook so that I can send out a mass emailing when the book is available.

For some schools, it’s not always easy to find the right person. So if a particular library website had a chat feature, I would use it to ask for the name and email address of the acquisitions librarian. I had to do that with Rutgers, and ended up having a delightful conversation with one of the staff members there.

She asked what the book was about, and I told her it was a collection of sermons by the 19th-century Orthodox Quaker minister Murray Shipley. I watched as the animated dots indicated that she was typing a reply. Did I know that Murray Shipley was related to the Howlands, she asked. Why yes, I did. I’ve been working on his biography for years, so I knew that his daughter Mary had married Charles Howland. But how the Rutgers librarian knew this in a matter of moments was amazing to me. She then informed me that a member of the Howland family was a genealogy enthusiast who was starting a Howland family farm museum in New York, and sent me the URL in case I might be interested in reaching out to them as well. She also told me that if the New Brunswick Theological Seminary wasn’t already on my list, it should be, because they have a nice library and are open to works from other denominations.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Librarians rock!

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