Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Incredible Shrinking Library!

Beginnings of the New JKM Library

"Ex nihilo biblioteca fit!" This should be our new motto: "From nothing comes a library!" In today's images, you will see the beginning stages of a renovation project, which will temporarily reduce the usable space of the JKM Library--the theological library of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and McCormick Theological Seminary. Let us just say that the confluent universe that created the ponzi of Bernie Madoff, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, and the BP Oil Spill, among other things, was the universe that has forced the enterprise of the JKM Library and its step-parents to go into redux mode, and move its operations to a highly condensed space. The move, taking place this coming August, will save a vast number of resources, while making the library more intimate and interactive with the seminary's departments.

The library presently resides in the west wing of the LSTC building, and occupies all 3-floors of that wing. The new library, which is part of a "modernization" project, will take up its functioning in the east wing of the LSTC building, on the north half of the 3rd floor, effectively reducing the operating portion of the library by 80-83.4% (if this calculation is correct: 3 full floors down to just over 1/2 of one floor of functionality). But this is not permanent. The move will both save money and afford us the opportunity to actually renovate the full library space in the west wing. The present move will keep us in this space for ~3 years. In keeping with the tradition of LSTC, some have called it JKMINEX (JKM in Exile), as with the term "SEMINEX" (or, Seminary in Exile), which was a mid-1970s break with Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where one faction of that seminary ended up being blended into LSTC.

But this is not so much an exile, because we are neither breaking with our seminary, nor our community, but will likely be serving them more efficiently and closely, especially since our work will be more interwoven with our Language Resource and Writing Center (LRWC). The new JKM library will now be located right next to the LRWC and our services will be much more collaborative. There is a great amount of foot-traffic in the LRWC and many more student activities there, which often focus on international affairs, including the wonderfully crafted "Global Conversations" series, designed and conducted by the LRWC's director, Rob Worley. This series focuses on a broad range of global issues, which are relevant to the lives of many of the international students, but also to other students, who participate in ministry, social action, and vocational development, among other areas of interest.

In some of these photos, it may look like wholesale destruction, but the forthcoming construction, paint-jobs, and re-modeling of individual spaces should make it all look a lot better. The first photo in this essay shows the now de-constructed "Smart Classroom," which shared a common wall with another "no-so-smart" classroom. The so-called Smart Classrooms were to be the future of technology in a past generation, and served as a multi-purpose media center of sorts. And though it is sad to see it go, the next generation of technology and pedagogy has moved into the realm of mobility and mobile technologies. So, with the dismantling of this space, the question of re-conceiving of pedagogical space and techniques becomes all the more important. "Where do we put chairs, tables, and desks?" or "What color should the north and south walls be painted?" These are not just valid questions, but important ones. Because studying and learning are influenced by spaces and color schemes, just as much as sound and time of day. (Above is a photo of a cross made out of two rulers, then "painted" with markers--it had stood over the white-board in the old classroom).

More from the construction space, above and below. The former "Smart" table, which served as the focal point of that learning space, will soon be gone. These two former rooms, now one, will become the reference room (or "center"). It is the reference collection and serials ONLY, which will be moved to this new space...

Now lest we fear that reference books will not suffice..., fear not! Because the fact is that the library is technically NOT CLOSING! The wing that houses the some 400,000+ books, which most of you like to peruse and occasionally borrow, will still be open, but for a far less limited time period: something like 6 hours a week for entry and borrowing. The rest of the week, the library staff will monitor online requests for books through its online systems (OPAC) and retrieve books for patrons. Now the little detail that most of you might not know is that, as we are moving for a renovation and cost savings, the wing holding those 400,000+ books will be neither lit nor heated/cooled. This means that those of us library explorers (on staff) will be most likely searching in a dark library (this sounds like a book of some sort!)... "Adventures in a Dark Library!" As a result, our staff has been actively searching for the best head-lamp equipment (see image below). God forbid we misread a book spine and pick up the wrong book for a patron! I can just see one of us returning from a "book run" and realizing that we retrieved the wrong volume... "but I thought it said 'Martin Luther'...!?" only to discover it should have been "Martin Luther King, Jr.!" Or instead of getting the right commentary on The Book of Job, selecting a copy of The Gospel According to Steve Jobs (Apple Computer's CEO). And that's why we need the head-lamps. Yes, folks, this is a true story. I can't make this stuff up. It's like the literary critic Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007) once wrote: "Reading is...a moral illumination." Well, something like that.


  1. Thanks - for the information, and for the "optimistic realism". Linda.

  2. Yes, I agree with Linda. Thank you so much for this well written account of the JKM Library - you account is optimistic in face of the cold, hard reality of it all.

  3. I was up on the third floor, and though to myself "wow -- the last time I sat in those classrooms was really the last time I'd sit in those classrooms!" But I'm really looking forward to the new space, and having you all in the same wing with the classes. Maybe it'll be easier to get students to read current periodicals!