New Books Widget
Our new books are now on display on the library webpage. Take a look at the bottom right of the screen, and you will see a revolving display of the covers of many of the new books that have come in. This display is courtesy of a widget from LibraryThing, and we found it thanks to our electronic services librarian Jennie. I like it in particular because, while we have a tab in our catalog, MARTIN, which allows you to see the lists of recent acquisitions, this widget's graphical display of the book's cover evokes the book as an object. While we all have heard the maxim, "don't judge a book by its cover," I think that seeing a representation of the book itself is more likely to make us think of coming in and browsing the new books display in the library, of holding the object and examining it, and eventually perhaps of reading it.
"The Hermeneutics of Reading"
This idea of the importance of the book as an object in our process of relating to and understanding the text of the book was addressed in a presentation at the recent American Theological Library Association conference by Anthony Elia. His suggestion was that, for students of theology whom he interviewed, the physical book was important to their experience of coming to the text to find meaning, or, to use his phrase, the hermeneutics of reading. For instance, students who picked up a work printed in the 1800's might consider the contents to be a bit stodgy because of the appearance of the book, or, as one student suggested, because old books smell funny; on the other hand, more positively, some students considered the process of approaching a book to be related to their concept of approaching theology in a creative and physical way, so that the moment of encounter with the text became a theological encounter as well, even at times imbued with a certain holiness. Implicit in this presentation was the idea that this encounter could not occur in the same way in an electronic environment.
Whether this distinction holds or not, using the digital world to aid us in more meaningful encounters with the physical world is, I think, an important aspect of theological librarianship and something which even a simple LibraryThing widget can be a small part of.
Will Keillor, Acquisitions