Theological Libraries and International Collaboration
Keynote Address
Forum of Asian Theological Librarians (ForATL) Conference
March 10-13, 2009, Trinity Theological College, Singapore
Paul F. Stuehrenberg
Yale Divinity Librarian

First, permit me to extend my thanks and appreciation for this opportunity to address you. It is a great honor for me to be invited to deliver the keynote address at this conference. Today I would like to share some thoughts with you on international collaboration between theological libraries. This is a topic that has long been of interest to me, one that I think has great promise for all of us as we move forward.

Those of you who saw the most recent issue of the ForATL Newsletter know that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Raymond Morris’ visit to Southeast Asia. Mr. Morris, Director of the Yale Divinity Library for forty years, from 1932 to 1972, was commissioned by the Board of Founders of the Nanking Theological Seminary to “assist in the improvement of the libraries of Christian theological institutions in Southeast Asia.” After five months of preparation, Mr. Morris left for Southeast Asia on December 28, 1958, returning to New York on April 22, 1959. He visited theological institutions in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and India. He led a three-week workshop on theological librarianship in the Philippines, and spent nearly every day either meeting with people (over fifty institutions and interviews with more than 400 individuals) or traveling. The only day he had off was Easter Sunday, which he spent in Athens, Greece, on his way home. His report does not indicate whether or not he went to church that day, nor does it say whether he toured Athens or rested in his hotel room. He reports, “I left the States tired and I returned even more tired.”

What he accomplished on that trip perhaps you know better than I (but more on that later). What I do know is that his report did not paint a very rosy picture. Theological libraries were not very well stocked with books and other resources, they were poorly organized, and did not adequately support either teaching or research. Many of the problems stemmed from inadequate support from mission boards, and a problematic transition in leadership from mission agencies to indigenous leadership. He also noted that theological students generally did not read books, as instruction at the time relied heavily on the lecture, with grading based on tests. Students were generally not required to write papers. He recommended that introductory texts be developed for use in the classroom using language the students could understand. He concluded his report calling for continued financial support for theological education in Southeast Asia by the West. Such support would be necessary (1) to improve the physical equipment in the institutions; (2) to provide operating budgets for instruction, library, and books; (3) to underwrite conferences and occasions when leadership in this area can be drawn together for mutual discussion and stimulation; and (4) for fellowships, grants-in-aid, etc. for the advanced training of a select few. In other words, the partnership he envisioned was pretty much a one-way street. That is not surprising, given the situation at the time. The younger churches needed friends and supporters to help them grow to maturity. That help would come from the West.

In the last paragraph of his report Mr. Morris observed that one of the terms he heard constantly from younger churchmen in his travels was reference to the “Asian revolution.” “My quick impression,” he went on observe, “is that in some respects neither we nor they fully understand what this term means.” It could mean that the future would involve far greater and more radical changes in the younger churches in their relationship with the West than was then envisaged. This could have profound influence upon the growth and development of Christianity in Southeast Asia. It could result ultimately in the growth and the development of a new kind of Christianity oriented to Asia. “To the degree that this may be so, much that we are and have been doing in our mission effort would be running against the tides of time,” Mr. Morris reported. “But such conjecture may be ill founded,” he said,” “and certainly, as it stands here, it is based on incomplete information. In a period of world revolution we must be alert lest time and opportunity pass us by because we have been too focused on salvaging something that must be shaken.”

Much has changed in the intervening fifty years. For one thing, theological libraries in Southeast Asia and the institutional programs they support are very different today than they were when Raymond Morris visited this region. I have personally visited three theological libraries in Asia that are more than equal to their task, including the library here at Trinity Theological College, and the libraries at Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Nanjing Union Theological Seminary. I am certain that there are other members of ForATL that would likewise fall into this category. And I understand that the nature of theological education has likewise changed, so much so that students no longer need to go abroad for advanced degrees. Asian institutions are teaching Asian theology at the graduate level. Again, I don’t pretend to understand how these changes came to be, but the world described by Raymond Morris report seems to be a thing of the past.

One consequence of the changes that have taken place over the past five decades is that the relationship between Western and Asian institutions has likewise changed. To be sure, there are still Western institutions like the Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia that still provide support for theological education in this region, but on a very different basis than before. It is significant, for example, that the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia recently moved its headquarters from New York to Hong Kong. The relationship that is increasingly coming to be is that of a partnership of equals, rather than that of benefactor and dependent. The focus of my talk today is to address ways in which we can collaborate together in ways that are mutually beneficial, ways in which we can support one another’s missions, ways in which we can learn from one another.

The first question one might ask is why international collaboration matters. From the perspective of institutions in the United States and Canada, the first reason is because it is something that is expected of us in order to maintain our accreditation. The current Association of Theological Schools accreditation standards mention the “global” context of theological education or “globalization” in twelve separate paragraphs. The very first paragraph, introducing the section on “purpose, planning and evaluation,” ends with the statement that the educational purpose of theological schools “should continue the heritage of theological scholarship, attend to the religious constituencies served, and respond to the global context of religious service and theological education.” Global concerns are to be included in school’s purpose statement (1.2.1). Theological scholarship is to be informed by “a global awareness” (3.2.0) in the context of “global diversities” ( Library collections should reflect the “global scope of Christian life and thought” (

There is one whole section (3.2.4) on “globalization,” by which the document understands “patterns of instructional and educational practice that contribute to an awareness and appreciation of global interconnectedness and interdependence, particularly as they relate to the mission of the church.”
The document goes on to say that the schools’ curricula need to “enable a knowledge and appreciation of the broader context of the religious tradition, including cross-cultural and global aspects” (4.2.1). Library collections need to “demonstrate sensitivity to issues of diversity, inclusiveness, and globalization” (5.1.2). Good stewardship of institutional resources requires that a school pay attention “to the context, local and global, in which it deploys its resources” (9). Even distance education programs need to provide “sufficient interaction between teachers and learners and among learners to ensure a community of learning and to promote global awareness” (

What all of this means is that theological schools in North America have a mandate to make certain that theological education be placed in a global context. The ATS does not mandate how that be done, but has provided some guidance about how this might be done. Indeed, six entire issues of the ATS journal Theological Education are devoted to globalization.

The choice of the word “globalization” is somewhat unfortunate, as for many it brings to mind globalization in the economic sphere, which, in turn, points to American hegemony. In fact, what the word means in the ATS accreditation standards is clearly the opposite: ATS would have its member institutions look beyond North America and to come to understand that Christianity is a world religion, and that North Americans would benefit from learning more about the various expressions of the common faith.

Members of the American Theological Library Association are taking the mandate to document world Christianity seriously. The World Christianity Interest Group began meeting at the 1997 annual conference. Papers have focused on such things as finding vendors for purchasing titles published outside the west, and on creative ways of building such collections. One suggestion was for denominational libraries to form partnerships with their colleagues overseas and to set up exchange agreements. For example, a Lutheran seminary in North America might form a partnership with a Lutheran seminary in Asia. The seminary in Asia would then gather documentation on Christianity in their region and send it to the seminary in North America. The seminary in North America would send something needed by the seminary in Asia, such as a subscription to the ATLA Religion Database. Such a partnership would be a win-win proposition. The North American seminary would have primary documentation about Lutheranism in Asia, and the Asian seminary would have better access to the literature of theology. I’m not certain how many institutions have established such partnerships, but it still seems to me to be a good idea.

The second thing the members of ATLA have done is to establish the Special Committee of the Association for International Collaboration, of which I am currently the chair. This Committee carries out a number of functions. It serves as host to those attending the annual conference who live outside the United States and Canada, greeting the international attendees at the opening reception and hosting them for a luncheon. It sponsors a round table discussion at the annual conference at which members discuss efforts at international collaboration. And it seeks to motivate ATLA institutions to collaborate with international partners. It does so in several ways.
• ATLA helps to support the IFLA/OCLC Early Career Development Fellowship Program which supports library and information science professionals from countries with developing economies. The Fellowship program provides advanced continuing education and exposure to a broad range of issues in information technologies, library operations and global cooperative librarianship. Since its inception in 2001, the program has welcomed 38 librarians and information science professionals from 26 countries. Because of ATLA’s support, one slot is set aside for theological librarians. Unfortunately, some years there are no qualified candidates. ForATL members are urged to apply for this Fellowship. The application form is on the OCLC website.
• For the past three years the Committee has offered an international collaboration grant. Collaboration might include, but is not limited to, improving the documentation of world Christianity (collection development, exchanges, etc.), professional development, improving the tools of scholarship, and the like. To date four grants have been awarded, one of which was based in Malaysia: “Training and Networking for Malaysian Theological Libraries,” hosted by the Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary. In order to qualify for this grant, collaborators must include at least one institutional or individual member from a North American institution.
• ATLA is a supporter of the Theological Book Network, an organization that ships books to libraries overseas. They receive books from individuals, libraries, and publishers, then ship them in bulk to institutions that need them. Often they will ship material intended for distribution to several institutions in a region. To date they have sent books to Asian institutions in Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
• The Committee has launched a theological libraries “wiki” which is intended to be a handbook for theological librarians. It was our intention that this should be an on-line version of the manual prepared by Rita and John England, Ministering Asian Faith and Wisdom: a Manual for Theological Librarians in Asia (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 2001), or The Librarian’s Manual by LeAnne Hardy, Linda Lambert, and Ferne Weimer (rev. ed.; Cedarville, OH: Association of Christian Librarians, 2008). We had hoped that theological librarians in North America would be joined by librarians around the world to create this manual, providing “best practices” for others to consult. The wiki has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, I’m afraid, partly because the software is difficult to use. But I would encourage you to look at this. ForATL might want to consider being one of the sponsors of this venture.

Within the last couple of years ATLA members also formed a World Religions Interest Group, reflecting the growing awareness that the curricula in ATLA schools increasingly put world Christianity into its broader context. It is important for ATLA libraries to have documentation to help their faculty and students understand other religions. For some, the motivation is a continuation of traditional missionary activity, while for others the motivation is to further inter-religious dialogue. In either case they need primary texts and reference works, along with selected secondary sources..

While on the topic of the American Theological Library Association, let me say a few words about the advantages of membership. ATLA draws individual memberships from around the world. All individual members, whether from North America or elsewhere, have the same membership rights and privileges. Formerly ATLA did not allow institutions outside of the United States and Canada to join. Rather than having international institutions join ATLA, ATLA wanted to encourage the development of national and regional theological library associations. But institutions from outside North America continued to apply for membership. A few years ago the Board of Directors changed ATLA’s policy and created a new category of membership—International Institutional Members. This category has all the membership rights and privileges as institutions in the United States and Canada, with the exception that they do not have the right to vote. There are three categories of rights and privileges enjoyed by International Institution Members.

Under the heading of professional collaboration and development, International Institutional Members, like members in North America:
• Can post jobs on the ATLA website
• Have access to the ATLA consultants program. ATLA maintains a list of qualified consultants whose fee for a one or two-day consultation will be paid by ATLA (other expenses would be born by the hosting institution)
• Have access to ATLA consortial benefits, such as OCLC’s FirstSearch and the ATLA Serials Exchange
In addition, registration fees for the annual conference are waived for international attendees.

Secondly, International Institutional Members receive ATLA publications at no extra cost, including the Summary of Proceedings of the Annual Conference, the ATLA Newsletter, and the Theology Cataloging Bulletin.

Thirdly, International Institutional Members receive discounts on ATLA products and services, including the ATLA Religion Database (the premier index in theology and religion), ATLAS (an on-line collection of fully digitized religion and theology journals), and ATLA’s preservation products and services.

For more on International Institutional Membership, see the ATLA website (, or contact Barbara Kemmis, Director of Member Services, at

Despite the creation of this new category of membership, ATLA remains interested in helping to foster national and regional theological library associations. One way is by sending members of the Special Committee of the Association for International Collaboration to attend conferences, which is how I came to be here. Members of this committee have attended conferences of the Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries (ABTAPL), the European Theological Libraries Association (BETH), and Red Latinoamerica de Información Teológica (RLIT). One of the primary purposes of visits such as mine is to let librarians outside of the United States and Canada learn more about ATLA and to identify ways in which we might collaborate with one another.

In addition, ATLA has a special arrangement with BETH whereby ATLA contributes to BETH a percentage of income from sales of ATLA products to BETH member institutions. That is to say, if a theological library belonging to a national theological library association in Germany purchases the ATLA Religion Database, ATLA will give a portion of the sale price to BETH. This then provides a regular source of income for BETH. While I am not authorized to speak for the business side of ATLA (as contrasted with the membership side), I understand from Dennis Norlin, the Executive Director of ATLA, that ATLA would be interested in making a similar arrangement with ForATL. Should ForATL be interested in pursuing this possibility, you should contact Margot Lyon, Director of Business Development, at

In addition, ATLA invites ForATL to recommend periodicals for indexing in the ATLA Religion Database. Again, I cannot speak for the business side of ATLA and can make no promises, but Dennis Norlin has told me that ATLA is interested in expanding its coverage of international theological literature. Of course, it does cover periodicals from around the world already. But ATLA would welcome the cooperation of regional associations like ForATL in identifying the most important journals in this region—the ones that are used regularly in teaching and research, and so, would be the most beneficial to have indexed. What they would like would be for ForATL to select the most important journals, and send one or more issues to ATLA for evaluation. If the journals are in a non-Western language, it would be useful to include English abstracts, if at all possible.

Now I would like to shift gears a bit and talk about how one specific library, Yale Divinity Library, has carried out international collaboration. While Yale might not be typical of North American theological libraries, its case is, I believe, instructive. Yale has a long history of interest in international collaboration, an interest that has changed in the ways it has been manifested over time. This interest began more than a century ago with the establishment of the Day Missions Library. This Library was begun by George Edward Day and his wife Olivia Hotchkiss Day, after he retired as a professor of Hebrew language at Yale. Initially this collection was formed to help train missionaries. The Days donated this collection to the Divinity School in 1892, with an endowment to support it. When the Divinity School moved to its present location in 1932, three collections were brought together to form the Yale Divinity Library. At that time the Day Library made up some two thirds of the Divinity Library’s 32,000 volumes.

Soon after that move, Kenneth Scott Latourette, the D. Willis James Professor of Missions, convinced Raymond Morris that the scope of the Day Library should change from a collection preparing missionaries to a collection focused on the history of Christian missions. This change in focus meant that the Library began collecting documentation of Roman Catholic and Orthodox missions in addition to the documentation of Protestant missions.

In the late 1940s John R. Mott, an ecumenical and missions leader in the first half of the twentieth century, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, donated his personal papers and the archives of several organizations with which he was involved to the Divinity Library. While these papers would not be formally organized for three more decades, they formed the core of what would become the Divinity Library’s collections of manuscripts and archives.

In 1968 the National Council of Churches of Christ established a program to encourage China missionaries to donate their personal papers to an established repository. If they did not have another repository in mind, they were encouraged to donate their papers to Yale Divinity Library. Raymond Morris spent the first years of his retirement criss-crossing the United States to publicize the China Records Project. Yale now has the personal papers of more than 350 China missionaries, which, together with the institution archives in our collection, makes the Divinity Library archives one of the best sources anywhere for the history of Christianity in China before the Communist revolution. In 1975 Stephen Peterson, Raymond Morris’ successor as Yale Divinity Librarian, hired the Library’s first archivist, Martha Smalley, who continues in that position to this day.

Since becoming Yale Divinity Librarian in 1991 we have made several changes to our program. Most of those changes were made possible by an endowment established by Kenneth Scott Latourette. Latourette left his estate to support the Day Missions Library. Mr. Latourette died in 1968, with income from his estate going to support two maiden aunts. After they had died in 1982, income from that fund started to come to the Library. The first thing we did was to expand the scope of the collection from a narrow focus on the Christian missionary movement to include documentation produced by the churches founded by missionaries; that is, the Day collection now focused on world Christianity. To collect that documentation we worked closely with the area studies curators at Yale to establish approval plans for materials in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

We further expanded our program at the beginning of this decade with the establishment of the Kenneth Scott Latourette Initiative for the Documentation of World Christianity, a proactive program through which we identify documentation that complements our collection and arrange to have it microfilmed. We have filmed material at the World Council of Churches and the University of Edinburgh. We have current projects underway at the Bible College of Victoria in Australia and at Uganda Christian University. Next week I am traveling to Ahmedabad in India to sign an agreement to microfilm the archives of the Church of North India held by the Gujarat United School of Theology. Other projects are under discussion.

In addition to building our collection, we have also attempted to encourage the building of archives around the world. Martha Smalley attended a conference sponsored by the International Association of Mission Studies held in Rome in 2002. One of the consequences of that conference was that Martha and Rosemary Seaton from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London authored a pamphlet called Rescuing the Memory of our People (New Haven, CT: Overseas Ministries Study Center [distributor], 2003), which was intended as a primer for those establishing archival collections. This pamphlet has now been translated into Chinese, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili. A Russian translation is in the works.

It was at the Rome conference that we first came into contact with Trinity Theological College. In March 2005 Trinity invited Martha Smalley to come to Singapore as a consultant on how to handle the archival resources of the churches that support Trinity. Trinity used her report in shaping its expanded library and archival collections.

Soon thereafter we approached the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia about establishing a program to improve the documentation of Christianity in Asia. They agreed to sponsor a small consultation that would carry out a feasibility study. We contacted Michael Poon to ask whether Trinity would be willing to host this consultation, and Trinity readily agreed. In the end four institutions attended this consultation, held in October 2005: Yale Divinity Library, Trinity Theological College, Hong Kong Baptist University, and Payap University. The participants in the consultation agreed that there was a need to improve documentation of Christianity in Asia. We observed that the period before ca. 1950 was pretty well documented in Western mission archives, but that since then documentation is, at best, spotty. Some churches do an admirable job of gathering their archival records, while others do less well. If one were to try to trace the growth of theological education in Southeast Asia, it might, in fact, be a daunting task. Where would one find the sources?

The participants in this consultation agreed that it was not only feasible, but would be highly desirable, to establish a program to improve the documentation of Christianity in Asia. We agreed on the following programs:
1. We would establish a collaborative web presence to facilitate communication between the partner institutions (see
2. The Consortium would focus most of its energy on collection development, both print and archival resources. The first step would be to conduct a survey of regional church bodies and other ecclesial organizations to determine what they publish and the state of their archives. The consortium would identify “at-risk” materials that might be candidates for preservation microfilming. And members of the consortium would seek to fill in gaps in their holdings about Christianity in their region, and to obtains copies of missionary archives documenting their history.
3. The Consortium would seek to build bridges with regional institutions (schools and ecclesial bodies), including holding regional consultations, to improve awareness of the need for collecting archival resources (preserving the memory of our peoples).

We submitted a proposal to the United Board for funding, but, unfortunately, our proposal was not funded. After some consideration, the four institutions decided to move forward without outside funding. Improving documentation just seemed too important not to do so. So we constituted ourselves as the Documentation of Christianity in Asia Consortium. Of course, without additional funding, the work has had to move forward more slowly than we originally intended. But move forward it has.

Both Trinity Theological College and Hong Kong Baptist University have held regional consultations that brought together representatives of churches in their areas to talk about what documentation is currently being gathered and to encourage ecclesiastical agencies to preserve their archives.

As one of the outcomes of Trinity’s consultation, three Malaysian seminaries expressed an interest in participating in the Consortium: Malaysian Theological Seminary, Sabah Theological Seminary, and the Methodist Theological School.

Our current project is to survey what resources are out there. Yale created an Access database that can be used to identify archival resources available in the region. Thousands of records have been entered into this database listing archival resources, where they are held, and who is managing them. Members of the Consortium will meet this week to discuss progress and next steps.

Another collaborative arrangement we have made is with Trinity Theological College. They have agreed to send us books and other printed material documenting Christianity in Singapore. In return, rather than sending specific titles to Trinity, we have agreed to supply photocopies of articles requested by their graduate students and faculty. In this way they have access to the breadth of our research collections, rather than just to a title or two. So far the exchange seems to be working to everyone’s satisfaction.

One final word. When I learned that ForATL is interested in producing an index of theses in the various libraries, I took the liberty of contacting Robert Jones at the Theological Research Exchange Network (TREN). For some years now TREN has been building a collection of theological theses, dissertations, and other papers. They now have a collection of more than 10,000 titles from more than seventy institutions. TREN indexes the theses and then distributes them, either in paper, or on microfiche, or, now, in digital form. Yale Divinity School has sent S.T.M. theses to TREN for more than twenty years. Doing so accomplishes several things:
1. By listing the title in their database, TREN greatly increases the visibility of the thesis.
2. TREN distributes theses to those who want to read them (for a fee); usually theses are non-circulating. Distributing them fulfills the purpose of furthering scholarship, which is the purpose of doing research in the first place.
3. The author can rightly assert that his or her work was published.
4. We never have to worry that the thesis might be lost.
5. We use the fiche as the permanent copy of the thesis, thus saving space.
If you send the theses as PDF files, there is no charge for indexing and making them available. If you send paper files, TREN charges a small fee for scanning the documents. This is just something to think about. Why reinvent the wheel, when there is such a service available. Mr. Jones is very much interested in pursuing this with people from ForATL.

In conclusion, fifty years after Raymond Morris’ visit to Southeast Asia, it’s time for a new beginning. When Mr. Morris was here, the colonial era was beginning to go away. Today, it is but a fading memory. But memory lives on, and for many of those on both sides, the memories are sometimes bitter, and sometimes bittersweet. But we must not let those memories poison the well, we must move on. It is in that spirit that I appear before you today, not denying what has gone before, but asking that we might explore and establish mutually beneficial partnerships.
Thank you for your attention.


Contact Persons *

Mrs. Elizabeth T. Pulanco, Convenor, email:
Mr. Yesan Sellan, Secretary,,

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