Saturday, December 12, 2009

CATLA Fall 2009: Moody Bible Institute, Library, and Archives

The Beauty of Moody

It's not every day that you have the opportunity to begin a piece with the death mask of an important American evangelist. In fact, I'm not sure many of us have the opportunity to start our days with any sort of death mask, especially if we haven't been sufficiently caffeinated first! But let me introduce you to this remarkable (and perhaps gruesome, for some readers) image of the very late Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), founder of the famed Moody Church and Moody Bible Institute, here in Chicago. Now that our attentions are focused on this rather curious object, let us visit the Institute and its bibliographic treasures. This past Fall I had yet another opportunity for bibliotourism, when the Chicago Area Theological Library Association (CATLA) had its Fall meeting at Moody Bible Institute.

It was a crisp autumn morning, sunny with a slight chance of rain, which came later in the day. I drove up to Moody, which is located centrally in downtown Chicago (or uptown, whichever way you're coming from!) I'd never been to Moody, but had driven by it many times. It seems to own a sizable portion of real estate, and is spread over several blocks, just near Chicago Avenue.
I drove up to the CATLA conference and found my way to registration, where they gave me directions on where to park and where to meet up for refreshments and early morning discussions. After parking a block away in a Moody parking lot, I walked back observing the various Moody buildings and signs, such as this one above: the Sweeting Center for World Evangelization. It turns out that the Sweeting Center is the main classroom building, and where students spend a great deal of time throughout the school day. It's also where we had some of our meetings that day.

Inside again, we theological librarians began to mass around the conference registration table, slowly making our ways to the fine offerings of our Moody hosts: coffee, juices, bagels, bananas, and danishes abounded for our grazing pleasure. The morning started off quite well; colleagues from various libraries getting a chance to greet one another after many months of not seeing one another, or meeting new faces in the theological library realm. It's always a good time to re-connect and get the scoop on news and events at our regional seminary and theological school libraries. Our first sessions, as is usual, dealt with housekeeping and other items of CATLA interest, including next year's ATLA conference, which will be held in Chicago. The specific schedule (which I've borrowed from the CATLA blog-site) can be seen here.

9:00-9:30 Registration & Refreshments
9:30-10:00 Business meeting & ATLA report
10:00-10:15 Introduction & overview of roundtables
10:30-11:45 Roundtable #1 (choose from Copyright or Current issues with Yana)
11:45-1:30 Lunch (your choice...recommendations forthcoming...)
1:30-2:45 Roundtable #2 (choose from Google books or E-resources)
2:45-3:00 Closure & Recap
3:15 Optional tour @ Moody

Roundtable topics:
Kate Ganski: Copyright guidelines & e-reserves
Amy Koehler: Issues related to managing e-resources
Lugene Schemper: Creative use of Google books for religion & theology
Yana Serdyuk: Distance learning, library & IT relationships, & financial hardships

This image is of one of the early sessions. Kate Ganski, current President of CATLA, is speaking at the front of the room.

During lunch and breaks, conference attendees had time to visit the small museum near the commons, located about a minute's walk from our main conference room. Below is a life time-line of Dwight L. Moody.

In the museum itself, one could find a vast array of biblio-splendrous materials: from the hand written notes of the American evangelist Cyrus Scofield (1843-1921) of Scofield Bible fame; to hymn book inking plates; a continuous role of paper signed by followers of Moody; Moody's birth entry; to life-size mannequins portraying characters like Moody.

After the conference, we were given a tour of the library. Below you may see signs for the "Book Sale" and "Free Shelves" (though, presumably, the shelves are not for the taking, instead, the books on those shelves!)

More useful "signage" above and below.

And now to the Archives!

One of the highlights, at least for me, was the visit to the Moody Archives. Like many archival collections in theological or religious institutions, there is not much money provided for constant care or full time archivist. But the Moody archival collection is quite impressive. Pictured below is my CATLA colleague, Amy Koehler, the Public Services Librarian at Moody Bible Institute, who does some work with the archives. Amy gave a wonderfully informative tour of the library and archives. In this photo she is displaying some of the manuscript documents from the Moody archival collection. The following photographs are images from the archival processing office and the archival room, adjacent to the office.

Above is one of the Bible collections in the archives. Below we find the main display case, with images from the mid-20th century...and a miner's hat!

Outside of the library, there was a very interesting sculpture: a globe with an open book sculpture below it. Matthew 24:35 is represented on the right page; and the ever-present John 3:16 is on the left page. One of the interesting facts I learned from a former student of Moody on this trip, is that students who choose to come here are for the most part entirely funded. Imagine a college education such as this--what a deal! I'm sure many Americans who've come out into the world, and who are now in their thirties are wondering: "do I want to be paying off college still when I'm 50!?" Well, if you're inclined to Moody theology and philosophy, then this may be your choice. Otherwise, get out your pocketbook!

And then there was this little sign, which I noticed on my way out, at the end of the I was heading home: "Are you man enough to be Mr. (or Ms.?) Moody?" Hmmmm..., well, I don't want to get into any politics here. But one message may be equally sufficient for this visit: "Are you bold be a Moody visitor?" It's a pretty interesting place...library, archives, museum, death masks, and of course, the friendly people. I highly recommend it. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Moody don't bite.


  1. Enjoyed the article, brother~!

  2. what was the miners hat used for?

  3. I always learn something from your wonderfully written entries. Keep up the great work.

  4. Enjoyed the article. Thanks!

  5. Nice Job Amy. Very professionally done.