In the previous post, we began discussing how to expand your access to research materials as a biblical scholar.
We focused on two library-related tips, and this post offers two more.
Use Your School’s Library
If you’re already a student or faculty member, this suggestion might seem overly obvious. You’re likely familiar with your school’s library and, at least generally, its holdings.
As the saying goes though, sometimes “familiarity breeds contempt.” That’s not to say you don’t like your library. But you might not think to look there for a given resource because “of course, we wouldn’t have something like that.”
Still, you should check. You might be surprised by what you have access to either by searching the catalog or browsing the stacks.
This has happened to me more than once, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what we just happened to have.
For instance, in working on a recent project on the land promise to Abraham, I almost requested via ILL a chapter from W. D. Davies’s The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974). But thankfully I looked first in the catalog and happily found that it was actually already in Faulkner’s main library’s stacks.
Use Your School’s Ebook Collection
Similar to the prior point, be sure to search your school’s ebook collection.
Gone are the days when ebooks were plaintext files that lack page numbering and so prove barely usable for serious research.
Instead, your library may have purchased rights to provide you access to high quality scans of many technical titles that you might find useful. These will allow you to look at the same pages as you’d find in a print version of the book, except that you’re looking at the book on a screen rather than in your hands.
Of course, onscreen reading has its downsides. But, stocking ebooks is a good way for libraries with limited shelving space to add useful resources to their collections. And if it comes down to submitting another ILL request or using an ebook to which you have instant access, you might well find that you often prefer to use the ebook format, all things considered.
Your library’s ebook collection may also well surprise you with what it contains. For instance, for the same project I mentioned earlier, I needed to get a copy of Jacques T. A. G. M. van Ruiten, “Land and Covenant in Jubilees 14,” in The Land of Israel in Bible, History, and Theology: Studies in Honour of Ed Noort, ed. Jacques T. A. G. M. van Ruiten and J. Cornelis de Vos, VTSup 124 (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 259–76.
Besides me for this project, interest in this title might be quite low among current Faulkner library users, so for all its wonderful scholarship, it might not be the best use of limited shelving space. Even so, our library was able to provide access to it in an ebook format that proved entirely adequate for what I needed from that essay for the project I was working on.
So, for students and faculty, the moral of the story is: Your library is a gem for you—don’t let it be a hidden one. Even if you doubt there is anything helpful, still look.
If you’re new to your institution and still getting familiar with how to search all of your library’s holdings, ask one of the librarians for help to make sure you’re not overlooking a bank of helpful resources just because you need to do your searching or looking a bit differently. Doing so can save you valuable time and effort in the research process, as well as expand the range of materials you have readily at your disposal.
What research material have you been pleasantly surprised to find that your library has on its shelves?
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