Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Books and Gargoyles!

Who Knew They Could Read!?

Not too long ago, I was walking down 110th Street here in Manhattan, just east of Broadway, and I looked up to discover that there was a sequence of gargoyles carved into the stone edifice of an apartment building. Of course, what really caught my attention was that one of them was reading. Or more accurately, one of them was holding a book and contemplating over its contents. According to one website, these sculptures are "the hungry gargoyles of 110th Street." More photographs can be found on the site: http://www.buildingmagazine.net/2009/09/the-hungry-gargoyles-of-110th-street/ The building was completed in 1909, and has a number of these grotesque characters, including the one above, which is actually a man pondering his ledger book! I wonder what stone carvers will be doing in the future...a ponderous and creepy old man with his Kindle? Hmmmmmm, now that would be something.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Welcome to the Burke Library!

A Pretty Big Theological Library

So if there is anyone wondering why I've been such a slacker with this blog, I'll give you one word: Burke. This September I began a new job at a library in New York City: Public Services Librarian at the Burke Theological Library of Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. A wonderful job at a wonderful library. So you ask then, "why blame the Burke!?" Ah, I'm not blaming! It all comes to the daily economy of time. In my last job in Chicago, I lived only a few blocks from work. I could get up early or not and work on the blog before work, which was my custom, but now, I live more than 30 miles away from work and commute more than 65 miles round trip each day. So I end up spending a good portion of my prior blogging time on a train! Plus, I have to get up much earlier than before, not by choice, but necessity--so I'm not late for work! So the decreased frequency is the result. I apologize. I need to get the show back on the road! Nonetheless, it has been an interesting transition. Some might say "trial by fire," though I must admit that that is a rather silly expression, even if apropos. Getting acquainted with the entire Columbia University Library system of 20+ institutional libraries, and its more than 100 librarians, support staff, and library student workers was overwhelming at first, but now has become a pleasant part of the job. Columbia University is the 5th largest academic library in North America, according to ARL statistics for 2007-2008, with combined volumes counting 10,296,816 (10.2 million). The Burke Library, one of the ~23 libraries in the Columbia system, has more than 700,000 volumes, including circulating books, rare books (~150,000-200,000), magazines and journals, and more. It also has a magnificent archival collection (or more specifically, collections--plural). Interestingly, if one does an online search for "largest theological libraries," there seems to be some rivalry'd statement about schools like Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS), for example, who claim the title of "largest." But statistically, this is not accurate. But if we want to be diplomatic, PTS can have the largest theological library "in the US," just as long as we still hold the title of largest theological library "in the western hemisphere." It's only fair.

Of course, there's so much more to tell: about our wonderful staff, our magnificent Friends of the Library group, our lectures, a more. So come on by, if you're in the neighborhood, and we'll give you a tour!