Expanding Your Research Materials, Part 2

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.

Rows of books on shelves with hanging lightsImage by Janko Ferlič

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.

Conclusion

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?

What other kinds of library resources have you found helpful?

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?