Collaboration Among Theological Librarians

Luba Zakharov

Theological Librarians’ Conference

Moscow, Russia, was the venue for a conference,30 April-3 May 2008, dealing with “Library Support for Educational Programs in Theological Schools. “Organizers, intent on fostering greater collaboration among theological librarians, included Alexander Popov, Head Librarian, Moscow Theological Seminary of Evangelical Christians-Baptists(; Katharina Penner, Head Librarian, International Baptist TheologicalSeminary, Prague (; and Dr. Sergei Sannikov, Director, Euro-Asian Accrediting Association (

Participants and Purpose

Conference participants came from the Russian cities of Krasnodar, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Prochladny, and St. Petersburg; the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Kremenchug, Kyiv, Odessa, and Zaporozhe; Chisinau, Moldova; and Minsk, Belarus. Others in attendance traveled from Prague, Rome, and from Holland, Michigan, and Durham, North Carolina, in the United States. Denominational affiliations included Baptist, Catholic, Christian Reformed, Orthodox, and Pentecostal.

 The purpose of the conference was to provide an opportunity for librarians from the former Soviet Union and from abroad to network, exchange ideas, and present new scholarship. A unique feature of the gathering was that not only librarians, but deans, rectors, faculty, and information professionals from universities, seminaries, Bible colleges, associations, and non-profit organizations were in attendance.  This diverse assemblage of educators gathered to collaborate on ways to strengthen theological training. St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute( enriched the conference by making available for purchase its Russian translations of Western biblical and theological texts.

Workshops and Speakers

All who presented workshops stressed the value of the library to the theological enterprise and stated the importance of the mission of the library to the larger mission of their institutions. Katharina Penne opened the conference by emphasizing this point, encouraging participants to find ways to connect the mission of the library to the larger educational mission of parent institutions. She suggested that this shared vision should be the foundation for all decisions in collection development in support of theological education. Evgeni Borisovich Rashkowski, a guest from Moscow’s Library of Foreign Literature (www/, addressed the issue of re-collecting religious materials that were destroyed after the Revolutions of 1917. His comments underscored the importance of the librarians’ role as stewards of the texts that carry the faith tradition.

 As both a faculty member and an administrator, Dr. Meri MacLeod, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan (,explored the role of the library in distance education, encouraging librarians present to be pioneers in establishing good working relationships with faculty. Her presentation gave attendees an opportunity to consider long-term strategies for distance learning, not only through the purchase of necessary software, but also through the creation of a vision for this new means of delivering theological education. Librarian Tatyana Pavlenko, from Kharkov Medical University in Ukraine (, gave a thorough and detailed presentation on cataloguing, stressing the importance of comprehensive classification system capable of opening up to students the richness of the collection. Father Marek Rostkowski from the Pontifical Institute in Rome ( introduced attendees to the library of the Pontifical Institute and its new open network. In addition, he discussed the Institute’s intention of working with the International Federation of Library Associations ( to create a uniform international scheme of cataloguing rules.

 Dr. Victor Titarchuk represented ServanTek(, a faith-based, non-profit organization, and Koha, its open source software. Dr. Titarchuk proposed that conference participants consider the integration of their library catalogs which could be accomplished with Koha software. Throughout the conference, he expressed interest in facilitating the creation of a library consortium for theological libraries in the former Soviet Union. Katharina Katharina Penne gave a second presentation at the conference on information literacy and the important function of librarians as educators. Particularly as technology changes the landscape of the library, the work of theological librarians will entail not only their personal navigation of new systems, but training faculty and students in their use.

 Luba Zakharov, reference and serials librarianat Duke University Divinity School Library, Durham, North Carolina (, gave a presentation exploring the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) and the kinds of technologies that are beginning to shape such catalogs in the United States. In addressing the growing impact of technology upon the library catalog, she described services such as and that are becoming embedded in the catalog, thus expanding its role as an inventory system to include its use as a new discovery tool. Although the role of the catalog as an inventory system will continue, it will be enhanced and reshaped to accommodate technologically savvy users and online digital repositories. Following a second session on distance learning by Dr. Meri MacLeod, Andrei Gorba chenko, also from ServanTek (, gave an overview of Moodle and Greenstone2, open source software products that facilitate distance education.

 In her second presentation, Luba Zakharov spoke to the issue of “Managing Change in a Changing Technological Profession,” encouraging librarians to give further thought to their goals for their libraries leading to the development of more comprehensive library mission statements. In closing, Alexander Popov, head librarian at Moscow Theological Seminary, gave a presentation on “Creating a Library Website,” demonstrating the types of choices required in website development and explaining the value of websites to faculty and students.

Next Steps

The conference’s final open forum addressed possible next steps for the support of collaboration among librarians at a distance. Participants agreed 1) to formalize an association of Euro-Asian librarians (yet to be named); 2) to continue discussions on a newly formed listserv; and 3) to explore the possibility of a follow-up conference in Ukraine in 2009. All in all, the collaborative work begun at this conference established a community

of theological librarians whose underlying goal is to strengthen the work of theological schools in the

former Soviet Union. F

Editor’s note: Conference presentations are available in Russian at

Luba Zakharov is the reference and serial librarian, Duke University Divinity School Library, Durham, North Carolina ( Her blog is located at http://lubasmoscow.