Expanding Your Research Materials, Part 1

Researchers need materials. For biblical scholars, this most often means books and journals.

We’re responsible for interacting with relevant literature largely irrespective of how easy it is to access. But, of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise some research savvy to access what you need more easily and cost effectively (because we didn’t get into biblical scholarship because it has the same upside potential as something like venture capital investing).

In this series, we’ll explore some different strategies you can employ to do just this.

Library shelves with books related to biblical studiesImage by Jonathan Simcoe

Theological Libraries Near You

Even if you’re not a student, if you live near a theological library, you can almost always simply walk in and use materials in that library.

To look for what might be near you, you can start with this Google Map prepared by the American Theological Library Association that shows all their participating libraries.

Of course, you might also find a non-ATLA-member library near you with useful material. To do so, you can start by searching Google Maps for “library.”

In addition to walking in and using materials at a library, you can often apply for checkout privileges at that library. You can certainly do this if a local public library just happens to have a decent selection of relevant material. But, you can also often do the same thing at theological libraries.

For instance, if you weren’t a Faulkner student but wanted to use Faulkner’s library, you could gain check out privileges for $25 per year. Though, in our case, a number of biblical studies-related resources are also held in the Kearley special collection, which doesn’t normally circulate. So, you’d just need to learn the particular policies and processes of whatever local library you might find helpful to use.

Interlibrary Loan

If you’re in an academic environment, you’re probably familiar with “interlibrary loan” (ILL). ILL is a service in which libraries cooperate to loan resources to each other’s patrons.

Even if you don’t have a theological library near you, though, your local public library should still be able to provide some amount of ILL service. In fact, you might be quite surprised at what you can borrow through the mail via ILL from a local public library—and the public librarians might be quite interested to see your ILL requests for what are, for their normal audience, some very obscure titles.

(Continually requesting Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has to get old. Surely a good request for Richard Bauckham’s The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses would help spice things up, right? Or, maybe a good scholarly French or German title?)

In any case, if you have access to ILL services at a theological library, you can certainly use those. But, don’t discount out of hand either what you can get access to via ILL at your local public library.

Conclusion

There’s much more to be said on this topic than can be covered in one post. But, hopefully, these couple nuggets are helpful, and we’ll definitely explore more next week.

Meanwhile, take a look around you for libraries (theological and otherwise) where you might be able to find material relevant to your particular interests in biblical studies. Go by, take a look, and talk to the staff about the possibilities.

When have you used a theological library other than one at a school where you were studying or on the faculty? What were you able to find?

What’s something you’ve been able to get over ILL that you never thought you would have been able to find?