A Profile of Asian Theological Libraries

Some Important Findings from the Present Directory
Cahyana E. Purnama
Workshop ForATL, Bangkok February,16-22, 2003

Though a great of hope has been expressed for the best function of Asian Theological Libraries in each of their working area, let us examine further about their real performance in order to enhance greater and greater role of spiritual formation as well as the ever growing of contextual theology.

Scope of the Survey
Asian Theological Libraries include
A wide area of Japan in the north up to Australia in the south, as well as covering to Pakistan in the west up to furthest tip of West Guinea of Indonesia in the east. But a great hollow exists in the center of crossing lines, namely of the mainland China, though there are certainly a number of theological libraries
Profile of the oldest library of the CISRS in Sri Lanka (1823) to the youngest one of the Hanil University in South Korea (1993)
Among a total of 66 libraries and study centers, there are 28 (18.48%) of them had sent again the form of renewal and only 11 (16,7%) are new entries
With a means of holdings of 31,044 there is the smallest one of the Ecumenical Institute in Sri Lanka (2,000) and the greatest of the Chung Chi College Library in Hong Kong (179,791)

More Specific Condition
Among the 28 libraries of new entries at the DATL, with average collection of 40,713 this survey finds:
Only nine (9) of them have collections above the average
Theological libraries in area of Hong Kong & Taiwan have the highest figure (91,110) for their average of collections
For the smallest average of collections, the area of India, Pakistan & Bangladesh holds it with figure of 26,883
The highest users served per week belongs to the Chung Chi College Library in Hong Kong with a figure of 8,647 while the smallest belongs to the CISRS Library with only 35

Out of the First Edition
The average collections of books has reached 31,044 out of 35 theological libraries
There are 5 (14,3%) libraries that hold collection of books above the average
For the smallest collections in average, the Philippines holds it with a figure of 13,075
For the highest collections in average, theological libraries in Korea and Japan hold it with the figure of 30,500
Concerning to the bound periodicals, the highest figure belongs to theological libraries in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore

In Use of Multi-media
Related to the age of global information and technology, theological libraries in Asia have developed a quite distinctive progress, because:
There are 45 (68,2%) libraries that have installed the technology of advanced communication. Among them there are only 14 (31.1%) libraries that have managed the audio appliances only.
Internet facilities for e-mails have been installed by 34 (51,5%) of the whole theological libraries
Web-site (home-pages) have been developed by 18 (27.3%) of those libraries

Classification Systems in Use
It is interesting that most of theological libraries in Asia (47 or 71,2%) prefers to adopt the DDC, though with certain modification or combinational application. Other systems in use are:
LC (10 or 15,2%)
Union (3 or 4,5%)
Bliss – modified (2 or 3%)
Own System (3%)
No info. (3%)

The Oldest Five of Theological Libraries
These are those who was established in the nineteenth century:
CISRS Sri Lanka (1823)
Karnataka Theological College (1847)
Hewitson Library of Knox College (1876)
Taiwan Theological College (1882)
Bishop’s College Library & Archives, Calcutta (1883)

On Hours Open of the Libraries
The longest service to users of the library belongs to the Hewitson Library in New Zealand with 98 hours, including Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile the shortest one belongs to the CISRS in Sri Lanka with only 35 hours per week.

Theological Library & Woman
Though it is difficult to say that woman leaders in the library have significant influence for a better performance, it is interesting to note that:
There are 32 (48.5%) women hold the position of library head
Among those leaders there are 12 (37.5%) of them have the degrees of MLS or equivalent
Theological Libraries in the Philippines has become the leading country in order to hold the library head

Special Collections of the Library
Asian resources that rich in cultural heritages & missionary related activities has enhanced theological libraries to collect for:
Church History (28 or 42.4%)
Indigenous writings (19 or 28.8%)
Christian Education (16 or 18.2%)
Pastoral writings (16 or 18.2%)
Religious books (14 or 21.2%)
General literatures (13 or 19.7%)
Educational collection (12 or 18.2%)

Other Kind of Collections
In order to ignite the church for their creative presence, following collections are questionable:
Musical literatures & songs (8 or 12%)
Evangelization & Church Growth (5 or 7.6%)
Women Studies, Communication Studies & Conselling / Psychology (4 or 6% of each)
Other things - including Ecumenical Studies (less than 2%)

ForATL Who’s Who
Among 30 participants of this forum there are:
India, Philippines and Indonesia there are each represented by 7 persons
Some other countries have only one representative such as South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia.
There are 21 (70%) of them have developed the internet communication.
Only about 5 (16,67%) of them has developed the home-page.

Visionary Insight of Asian Theological Librarians
Among those who has worked in the library of Theological School in Asia seems to be insignificant, because they only expressed about:
Privilege Calling to be librarians in theological schools
Responsibility to serve the best for highly respected of educational tasks
Opportunity to grow together with theologians from all over the world through their writings

Present Satisfactory Feelings
Generally Asian librarians rely on the fundamentals of library services
They own their subject of service is a distinctive job.
They feel positive about their task.
They expressed their happiness to the users about the value of their resourceful position.

What Can We Learn?
Theological Libraries in Asia have grown up in the conditions as follows:
Establishment of missionary linkages have become the predominant factor.
Most of them has settled themselves in the most basic services.
Most of their collections has come from their theological counterparts of the west and so their systems of services.
Still need much effort to enhance a growth of contextual theology.

Several Symptoms of Institutional Paradox
Theological Libraries in Asia have also embraced:
Intensively spiritual heritages but have to live in scarcity of written contextual thoughts of theology.
In order to enhance fruitful living theology there are so many systems of foreign educational frame of work.
So many of sun set theological issues that still become core courses in their schools and churches
Technologically dependant to high prerequisite of development path
Feeling of underdog position in their own society that so dominant with other faiths.

Dreams of Ahead
Theological Libraries in Asia need to look at the followings:
Any possible distinctive position to ignite creative theological thoughts of the people where they serve.
Use much of their cultural heritages to uncover their own contextual theology.
Express their role of resourcefulness clearly and concisely.
Look for a possible net-working for a better condition of service.
Be ready for archival task in relation to history of Christian / church presence in their society.

Further Home works:
Strive for continuous improvement:
Measure the success of present actions
Identify the strengths as well as areas to improve.
Decide how Asian Theological Libraries will improve in the next decades


Contact Persons *

Mrs. Elizabeth T. Pulanco, Convenor, email: btpulanco@gmail.com
Mr. Yesan Sellan, Secretary, yesans@gmail.com, library@saiacs.org

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