Friday, 29 March 2013

Little Essays on the Rules (4) Cataloguing and Cataloguers

Philip Harvey

The fortunes of Cataloguing in Librarianship in the past twenty years have been mixed.  Certainly in Australia we have watched our library schools downplay Cataloguing, to the extent that there have been years when the subject seemed to have no independent existence as a dedicated object of study. Some of this now seems to be related to technological change and the corresponding assumption then by many in library schools and elsewhere that Cataloguing was an increasingly specialist area conducted by a few experts. Access to online records, the thinking seemed to be, meant that a lot of the hard yards of Cataloguing in our own libraries could now be spent on other activities, because all the real work had already been completed by someone in a citadel of Cataloguing excellence like the Library of Congress.

Unfortunately, the results of these assumptions have been a paucity of quality cataloguers, a lack of adequate knowledge and experience amongst young librarians in Cataloguing, and a loss of awareness about the basic expectations of the rules and how to apply them. This is especially unfortunate when we know that cataloguing doesn’t change or become any easier just because of technology. The work remains to be done. Downloading readymade records has speeded delivery and expanded the capacity of our databases, but the actual editing and upgrading of each record still has to be done by someone who knows what they are doing. In the Carmelite Library there are dozens of titles, new and old, for which there is no online record: the work has to be described from the ground up in the same old fashion. Who is going to do that other than a trained cataloguer?  

There are signs though of hope, with some Australian library schools finding in recent years that offering Cataloguing as a main subject is an act of necessity. The implementation of Resource Description and Access (RDA) only accentuates the need for knowledgeable and intelligent people with the requisite skills. On Tuesday the 26th of March, Jim Pakala (Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri) listed on Atlantis some useful points for consciousness-raising in RDA. These points have implications for what I am talking about. Cataloguers older and younger are required in larger numbers to deal with the changes being wrought by the new Rules.

For example, Jim Pakala asks “When do you have to begin cataloging in RDA?” and then replies, “The answer is no time soon. There is no end date for AACR2. That said, OCLC’s policy is that if a record is entered using AACR2 rules, it can be upgraded to RDA rules. However, an RDA record cannot be changed to AACR2. Also, you cannot create a duplicate AACR2 record if you find one catalogued using RDA.” From a cataloguer’s point of view, this means we now have to be au fait with two sets of rules, not just one. And he continues, “So, your cataloguers, reference librarians, etc., still need to learn to recognize and use RDA records, even if they do not create original records using RDA.” The ‘etc.’ in that sentence I take to include everyone in the profession, all librarians need to be making the time to have at least a working knowledge of RDA changes and their implications.

So, even though we continue to follow the AACR2 descriptive rules, there is after the end of March only one authority file. This means that “the RDA changes to the authority records affect us all right now, whether or not we are using RDA for descriptive cataloguing.” The rate of global changes and individual correction of individual records to reflect accurate RDA usage is going to vary from library to library. This means having trained cataloguers. It means having trained cataloguers who are adept at interpreting and applying a range of detailed information, who can correct where correction is called for, who are across the style changes that have fallen to us, thanks indirectly quite often to the technology. As Pakala puts it, with a touch of good-natured humour, “The changes in the authority file are pretty extensive, so give your cataloguers some extra TLC. They will be very, very busy.”

All of this means sending your cataloguers for training, or to special courses. It means staging training at library conferences. It means looking out for webinars, online training sites, and the essential online documents. It means increased training of new cataloguers in our library schools. As Jim Pakala puts it, “RDA will affect everyone, including those who (like my institution) are not planning on switching to cataloguing using RDA rules any time soon.” It means making sure your system is configured to handle the RDA records, that it can read the new fields and display them.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Little Essays on the Rules (3) Approximately

Philip Harvey
The musical and poetic sunburst sometimes known as Bob Dylan’s first ‘electric period’ (1965-circa 1967) is one of the seminal moments in the history of rock music. The lyrical extravagance and originality of recordings from that time extends to the titles of the songs, one of the most memorable being a ballad of emotional confrontation that goes by the name ‘Queen Jane Approximately’. This was typical of the outrageously playful titles that Dylan gave his songs through this short period of his career.

Maybe the singer is saying that this is one version of the story of Queen Jane, whoever Queen Jane may be. Maybe the adverb says that he can never describe fully the person who is Queen Jane. Maybe Queen Jane is but one aspect of something more complex. Dylanologists would greet these conjectures with interest but also justifiable amusement, because trying to say exactly what the title means is not the main idea. We are dealing in poetry, where the title will mean whatever the individual brings to it. I myself sometimes think the song is about Joan Baez, or marijuana, but its strongest meaning is the memories it conjures of my own late teens and certain friends of that time.

But still, what precisely is ‘approximately’? This question has been taking up my thinking this week after RDA officially announced the word will replace ‘circa’ in author name authorities. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary says ‘circa’ is a preposition from the Latin, “About, approximately in or at (with dates etc.),” first introduced into English in the mid-19th century. A reason for replacing ‘circa’ is that it’s a Latinism, which is odd when you consider that ‘circa’ has been a common English loanword since the time of Queen Victoria (no relation to Queen Jane, at least not in the genealogical sense, or that we are aware of). Odd too, because ‘approximately’ is a Latin root word via Middle English, very Latin indeed. ‘Approximately’ though seems to be less Latin than ‘circa’ in the mind of RDA, even if almost three times the length.

For me, an issue here is that despite the dictionary definition of ‘circa’, ‘approximately’ is not a very precise synonym. The Shorter Oxford defines ‘approximately’ as “nearly, with near approach to accuracy.”  While we may say that ‘circa’ qualifies a date with a near approach to accuracy, it does something more: it circumscribes the date itself. Whenever a date has ‘circa’ against it we know that date to be accurate within the terms of the available information about that person’s life. ‘Approximately’ does not always have this relationship to the date it qualifies, its meaning in English can be read to mean “anytime around this time”, or even “not exactly this date, at least that we are aware of.” In other words, in usage the two words can have slightly different meanings, which is why both words are in use in the first place.

If ‘approximately’ or even its abbreviated form ‘approx.’ could make ‘circa’ redundant, it would. But it won’t. When we google the search ‘dylan circa’ we get “About 3,250,000 results (0.28 seconds)”. Notice that Google doesn’t say “Approximately 3,250,000 results”, but uses the very Anglo-Saxon, very very English word ‘about’. Why didn’t RDA use ‘about’ if it wanted to replace Latinisms like ‘circa’? ‘About’ is much more common, and shorter, than ‘approximately’. A browse of page one of the Google ‘dylan circa’ display confirms that ‘circa’ is a common English word. Abandonment of ‘circa’ just in order to follow a policy decision at RDA is a victory for ideological correctness over common sense and common usage.

The example we have been given in the document ‘Changes to Headings in the LC Catalog to Accommodate RDA’ is this:

Under RDA
: Backus, Yvonne, approximately 1910-2001
Backus, Yvonne, ca. 1910-2001

Does this mean Yvonne Backus lived approximately from 1910 to 2001? Does it mean that 1910 is a date “with a near approach to accuracy’? Does it mean she was born sometime either side of 1910? These are questions we would not ask if ‘ca.1910-2001’ were employed as her name authority. This is why many bloggers, e-listers, and commentators have responded to the introduction of ‘approximately’ by saying it’s silly. Cataloguers will be typing out ‘approximately’ forever more, which is creating work, not saving time. Yvonne Backus is only one example of the confusions that are going to arise because of the change. Instead of having Yvonne’s birth date fixed with a fair measure of certainty, we have Yvonne Approximately.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Little Essays on the Rules (2) Bibles and Testaments

Philip Harvey

Torah Scroll
Vellum scroll of the Pentateuch
Acquired by the Duke University Libraries in 1942

The division of Bible into Old and New Testaments is a Christian construct, as we know. Its purpose was to express the overwhelming revelation of Jesus Christ in time. ‘Old’ has always seemed an unfortunate adjective to describe the wisdom of God brought to Israel. Even words like Former or First do not do much justice to a set of books that Jews themselves treat as orthodox and, in fact, the Bible, or Tanakh. Jews sometimes use the word Mikra, “that which is read”, for the same writings. Jesus and his followers would not have thought of the Jewish Scripture as Old, though many of his followers came to see that scripture as coming from former times and former ways, in the light of Christ. ‘New’ has to do with Jesus himself, his followers seeing in him the fulfilment and example of that revealed in the ‘Old’. Any truthful and real understanding of the ‘New’ necessarily relates to the ‘Old’ in Christian tradition, which is why the Bible is two large literatures bound in one. The Bible itself is an enormous cross-reference service, with our understanding of things said in the ‘New’ being enlarged by words, passages and whole books in the ‘Old’. History and tradition are fixed with this canonical concept of the early church. Efforts to call the ‘Old’ the Hebrew Bible go some way towards clarifying the distinction and respecting the differences, but within Christianity there is always a before and after the Epiphany of Christ.

The abbreviations ‘O.T.’ and ‘N.T.’ were convenient means of demarcation in card catalogues. Arrangement of print versions of individual books by uniform title and subject access to the Bible by the same meant it was (and still is in some libraries) easy to find the original books and the critical biblical works. On a computer no one searches for these works by entering ‘O.T.’ and ‘N.T.’ because they are abbreviations and not keywords that any one searches by. This, I would suggest, rather than any purported Christian bias with the headings, is the main reason why Resource Description & Access (RDA) has done away with ‘O.T.’ and ‘N.T.’.  Changes to Bible uniform and subject headings are just one of the momentous alterations to decades of practice, practice that has been custom for cataloguers. Books of the Bible as uniform titles or subjects will not include ‘O.T.’ or ‘N.T.’.  So after Sunday we will have this:

Bible – O.T. – Genesis – Commentaries. 
will become
Bible – Genesis – Commentaries. 

And that’s only the beginning. For books about the entire Old Testament or New Testament, the abbreviation will be spelled out.  For example:

Bible – O.T. – Theology.
will become
Bible – Old Testament – Theology.

While changes to the old card arrangement style, like this one, do away with abbreviations that no one uses in a search, as well as correcting what some like to call the Christian bias of the division of the Bible into Old and New Testaments, the changes themselves have many implications for cataloguing. Catalogues may now have two styles of presentation until such time as the cataloguer will, or can, change them. The altered forms will enter into our catalogues slowly, we are advised, as new records are created that follow the new rules. Little is being said about how to manage these changes to the Bible uniform and subject headings on our catalogues, but knowing that teams of cataloguers have been busy at Library of Congress making these changes in recent times, it seems obvious that this is the model for the rest of us. Global changes and an infinite attention to detail in Bible headings could be absorbing much of our time in the next few years.

What is the Bible? One of the fascinating interests of religious history is that period of the two or three centuries of the Common Era during which the Christians and the Jews, simultaneously but separately, finalized their canons. The Jewish rabbis divided their Bible into three large sections: Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim (i.e. what Christians  would roughly call Pentateuch, Prophets, and Hagiographa or Writings). The order of the actual books was arranged into these three large entities. The Christian bishops arranged the canon of the Hebrew Bible differently, but it was all still kosher, very precisely canonical. How could it be otherwise? Their Testament was the less, and even incomprehensible in parts, without the Jewish Scripture. Both major religious traditions treat their canonical writings as Mikra, by which I mean simply that these are the Writings that are central, indispensable. Both traditions have a wealth of other literature, which we as theological librarians are responsible for collecting and protecting and making available and loaning, but there is not an expectation that we must read all of that literature. The Writings are central because they are “that which is read”. They are the words we must read. Hence the inescapable fact that catalogues treat the Writings as Bible in headings. This is straightforward enough. But we wait to see, after Easter, how RDA and the LC authorities decide to treat the divisions, whether of the Hebrew or the Christian Bible. Is a book on Torah the same as a book on Pentateuch?

Monday, 25 March 2013

Little Essays on the Rules (1) Style and Abbreviations

Philip Harvey 
This Sunday is Easter Day. The libraries will be closed. It is also the Day of Implementation of Resource Description & Access (RDA). Some have waited for years for this day, as if for a miracle. What we are sure to get is not a miracle, but something more rational and prosaic. RDA is the successor to the Anglo-American Cataloging (my spell checker still converts that word to ‘Cataloguing’) Rules, which have been the Bible for this kind of work since the 1950s. Every ten years there was an update to AACR2, the last real update being 1998. That is a long time between thinks, and for good reason. The vast and rapid transformation of our information world since the early nineties has made it impossible to maintain the delicate reforms of the Rules that we had become used to.

Many of these changes are not about technology, but style and even intellectual fashion. Ever since RDA changes were first floated for discussion they have been met with caution or feigned hope, with scepticism or even hostility. There has been an online war of words going on between cataloguing boffins about the proposals. Some of us have deliberately avoided this conflict like mad, especially on AutoCat. What is the point of arguing about changes that may happen and which we have no power to veto? Whether in the small details or the big picture, can we expect common sense? Cataloguers everywhere have been waiting for the Day of Reckoning and now here it is. It's interesting to hear that changed headings are already seeping through this week into our catalogues.  Now that change is here we have time to think about it seriously, even if it's all too little too late.

The Americans have led the field in constructing the Rules. They have led by example in keeping most strictly to AAC2, to judge by the thousands of records we have downloaded and edited over the years, especially from the Library of Congress. And the changes we expect to find in RDA records are informed by the same American style. It is a style that can be traced to 19th century Pragmatism and the thinking behind the spelling reforms of Noah Webster, Melvill Dewey and others. Dewey’s first name is a demonstration of his own theories: spell it the way it’s said, so no –le at the end of Melville. Students of etymology and grammar know that this refreshing approach to spelling and sound was promoted without much regard for the complexities of actual English usage through time. They colored the world in their own ways, indifferent to traditional colourings of centuries. They would have their catalogues be catalogs.

This thinking informs RDA’s changes in the example I choose for this Little Essay, those to abbreviations. We are instructed that “some abbreviations will be replaced by spelled-out words, but the words will be different: ‘ca.’ will be replaced with ‘approximately’; “fl.” will be replaced with the word “active”. Some dates for persons that represent the period of time they were active rather than a birth or death date will be labeled more clearly.”

Examples follow:

Under RDA

: Bacon, John, active 17th century


: Bacon, John, 17th cent.

Under RDA

: Backus, Yvonne, approximately 1910-2001


Backus, Yvonne, ca. 1910-2001

Under RDA

: Bukhari, of Johore, active 1603


Bukhari, of Johore, fl. 1603

The removal of ‘circa’ is typical of the wholesale conversion of Latinisms into common English terms being implemented by RDA. Latin abbreviations are out, so classic terms that we anyway treat as English like 'e.g.' (exempli gratia) and 'i.e.' (id est) are replaced by real English words with real solid English meanings. Some of us wait to see what creative variations will start emerging. It is possible that cataloguers will come up with even longer explanations for 'e.g.' and 'i.e.' than RDA has with ‘approximately’ for ‘ca.’. No doubt Autocatters have for years been disputing and deriding this blithe misunderstanding of the purpose of long-established abbreviations, but now that March 31st approaches we can all join in the chorus. Too little, too late.

Sentiment has no place in cataloguing, so one of my favourite shortenings, ‘fl.’ for ‘floruit’ or as we have it in English ‘flourished’, has been replaced by the unpoetic ‘active’. When my colleague Pamela Carswell and I ran Cataloguing at the Dalton McCaughey Library we used to joke about how to employ ‘fl.’, which usually was added to a date when it was the sole year or years when a person could be established as having actually been alive to do something. ‘Active’ serves the same purpose, though Pam would invent other terms to describe the career of a less known author, with ‘growth spurt 1652’, ‘blossomed 1660’, ‘flourished 1661’, ‘wilted 1665’ etc. Even ‘etc.’ is out, I guess, replaced by ‘and so on’ or ‘all the rest of it’ or ‘whatever comes into your head next’.

Happy days are ahead as cataloguers come to terms with the habits of a lifetime, learnt day after day in the pages of AACR2, and through common literary use. No doubt AutoCat and other library lists are going to go ballistic once the changes sink into the collective consciousness. But we will just have to knuckle down and follow the Rules. And so on and so forth and all the rest of it.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Pope Francis, not Pope Francis the First

Philip Harvey
Initial reaction to the new pope’s name included conjecture as to whether he was identifying his pontificate with St Francis of Assisi, or the Jesuit saint Francis Xavier. Statements from the pope himself confirmed that he had Assisi in mind, with emphasis on Francis’s commitment to a life of poverty and also to church reform.

Many English speakers got into a flurry of F’s, saying Francis the First. That he may never be Francis the First did not occur to them, not even the editors of that standard of all things Roman Catholic in England, The Tablet, who proudly announced the naming of Francis I on their website banner. Really, they ought to have known better. There is a simple reason why he is not Francis the First: there may never be another Pope Francis.

There have been many singular popes. There is Pope Formosus (tenure 891-896), who is famous in medieval history for his remains being exhumed and put on trial in the incredible Cadaver Synod. It would be more appropriate to call him Formosus the Last. Dead men tell no lies, and such is the notoriety of this legal farce that the election of any Formosus II would have been creepily ominous. Personal interest causes me to ponder the only Pope Philip, who was in fact an antipope and the Bishop of Rome for one day: July 31st in 768. Philip is the Apostle who is always asking questions, like what can we do with these barley loaves, and may have been judged too indecisive for a pope. Or maybe asked too many of the right questions. There is no Pope Philip II, nor do we talk about Peter I, despite the superstitious Malachite prophecy that the last pope will be named Peter II.

Queen Elizabeth was Queen Elizabeth for 350 years, only becoming the First in 1953. On the Ides of March this year the Vatican itself went to the trouble of clarifying this verbal stumbling block: “The new pope should be called Francis, not Francis I.” Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s savvy media person, remarked that the new pontiff was presented to the world with these Latin words: Cardinalem Bergoglio, qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum (i.e., Cardinal Bergoglio, who takes for himself the name of Francis). The word “Primum” (the first) wasn’t added. “It will remain Francis until a successor calls himself Francis II,” Lombardi said.

So why all the flurry of F’s? Modern memory is till close to the John Pauls, able to recall just how peculiar it was to be presented with a double-barrelled pope. When the Patriarch of Venice with the lovely name of Albino Luciani was elected pope in 1978 he took the names of his two immediate predecessors as his style. No one in September 1978 would have dreamt of calling him John Paul I, just calling him John Paul was a novelty in itself. His death 33 days later caused a second conclave, with the election of a Polish pope who picked up on the Venetian's name idea. John Paul I’s sudden death has been an interest of conspiracy theorists ever since, such that even today one friend of mine wondered how long Pope Francis had to go. Perhaps it is the memory of John Paul I that has people talking of Francis I, as though it won’t be long before Francis II, Francis III, and further flurries of F.

Fortunately some people still know how it’s done. Here is the Library of Congress Name Authority, just created, and which I leave you to enjoy. It will only require a global change if my friend’s expectations are unhappily fulfilled.

LC control no.:
no 99003356
LCCN permalink:
Francis, Pope, 1936-
02889cz a2200433n 450
990118n| azannaabn |b aaa c
__ |a no 99003356
__ |a (OCoLC)oca04899313
__ |a ICU |b eng |e rda |c ICU |d DLC
__ |f 19361217 |v Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, viewed Mar. 13, 2013
0_ |a Francis, |c Pope, |d 1936-
__ |a Buenos Aires, Argentina |v Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, viewed Mar. 13, 2013
__ |a Catholic Church. Archdiocese of Buenos Aires (Argentina) |2 naf |s 1992 |t 2013 |v Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, viewed Mar. 13, 2013
__ |a Jesuits |2 naf |s 1958 |v Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, viewed Mar. 13, 2013
__ |a Pope |s 2013
__ |a Cardinal |s 2001 |t 2013 |v Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, viewed Mar. 13, 2013
__ |a Bishop |s 1992 |v Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, viewed Mar. 13, 2013
__ |a male
__ |a spa
1_ |w nne |a Bergoglio, Jorge Mario, |d 1936-
1_ |a Bergoglio, Georgius Marius, |d 1936-
0_ |w nne |a Francis |b I, |c Pope, |d 1936-
0_ |a Franciscus, |c Pope, |d 1936-
0_ |a Francesco, |c Pope, |d 1936-
0_ |a François, |c Pope, |d 1936-
0_ |a Francisco, |c Pope, |d 1936-
0_ |a Frant︠s︡isk, |c Pope, |d 1936-
0_ |a Франциск, |c Pope, |d 1936-
2_ |a Catholic Church. |b Pope (2013- : Francis)
__ |a Non-Latin script reference not evaluated.
__ |a Diálogos entre Juan Pablo II y Fidel Castro, 1998: |b t.p. (Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Arzobispo de Buenos Aires) p. 7 (b. 1936)
__ |a Vatican: the Holy See, viewed Mar. 13, 2013 |b (in live video: "habemus Papam ... Georgium Marium ... Cardinalem Bergoglio, qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum"); Mar. 14, 2013 (habemus Papam Franciscum)
__ |a NEWS.VA, viewed Mar. 13, 2013 |b (Francesco I; François 1er; Francisco I; Francis I); Mar. 14, 2013 (Francis; Francesco; François; Francisco; Francis I)
__ |a LENTA.RU, viewed Mar. 13, 2013 |b (Новый папа Римский Франциск I = Novyĭ papa Rimskiĭ Frant︠s︡isk I)
__ |a Catholic News Service, viewed Mar. 14, 2013 |b (Mar. 13, 2013, Vatican City: Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, was elected the 266th pope and took the name Francis I)
__ |a Los Angeles times (online), viewed Mar. 14, 2013 |b (The Vatican clarified Wednesday that the new pope, the first to take the name Francis, will be known as Pope Francis, not Pope Francis I. The Wednesday bulletin issued by the Vatican announcing his selection as pope called him simply Francis, as did the cardinal who announced his name from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. "It will become Francis I after we have a Francis II," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi quipped to the Associated Press)
__ |c OCLC |e LSPC

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Opening of the Carmelite Library -- PROGRAM

The Re-opening of the Carmelite Library in May 2007 followed this Program. And here is the Librarian's speech at that event.



Works by Corelli, Vivaldi, Albinoni, Pleyel and others
Performed by Martin Welch, violin, and Tim Hennessy, cello

Two Plainchant Introits from the Carmelite Missal
Quam pulchri sunt
For the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (16th July)
Zelo zelatus sum
For the Feast of the Prophet Elijah (20th July)
Ave verum corpus, composed by Firmin LeBel, d. 1573
Performed by the Choir of St. Peter’s Church
Eastern Hill, Melbourne
Under the Direction of Grantley McDonald


Wayne Stanhope O.Carm.
Philip Harvey
Austin Cooper OMI


From the Chalice to the Chamber
An Exhibition of original works from the Artists of J Studios in North Fitzroy: Nick Chlebnikowsky, Michael Needham
Lindy Patterson, Deborah Sullivan, James Waller

An Exhibition of works by Carmelite Authors
From the Rare Books Collection of the Carmelite Library


Food and Drinks provided throughout the Evening

Opening Night Speech for the Carmelite Library

Philip Harvey
In sorting through some computer files I stumbled over my Opening Night Speech for the Re-opening of the Carmelite Library, after the renovations to the building done through most of 2006. This speech was given to a large audience of Library well-wishers on Thursday evening the 10th of May 2007.

  When I worked at the theology library at Ormond College there was an older lady on the staff who wanted borrowers banned from the Library because they only interfered with the work of the librarians. Her name was Pamela Carswell and some of you will remember her from the old days when she helped run the Catholic Library Bookshop Library in Elizabeth Street. Early in the morning, as the first people entered the Library, she would say, “Oh look! More of them!” or “Who forgot to lock the door?” She regarded the users as a nuisance, an interruption to the agreeable silence and the steady tap of the keyboard.

 Fortunately hers is a minority opinion. It is certainly not the case at the Carmelite Library, where everyone is welcome. Indeed, hospitality in this place is not only a value but a practice.

Most of us don’t need reminding either, that the Library is not the librarian’s possession. This is the Library of the Carmelite Province and the librarian is entrusted with a duty of care for the collection, the staff, and the users. The librarian is given the serious job of building up what is a very special collection. The needs of the Library are those of the members of the Order and of those who use the Library. Perhaps primary amongst those users are those aware that they are on the spiritual journey and those for whom the collection meets their sometimes specialised research interests.

For me personally though, making this Library run is not just a duty, it’s a pleasure. Take the building, for example. Those of you who remember how the ceiling used to look will appreciate Fr Paul Chandler’s remark that butterscotch and dove-grey were not his favourite colour combination. In the daytime this room is filled with natural light and we now have a lustrous space brought about by the design arrangement and the good use of white walls and large windows. I know that those who use the Library are going to find it likewise – a place of reflection, of learning, of retreat and refreshment.

Although the Library has always been in a sense a public library, when it was at Donvale Monastery there weren’t many who knew of its existence or would use it constantly. Now that the Library is situated in Middle Park, with a street frontage, we suddenly have a theology library that has a real public presence. It can be said that the Library is open to everyone. That said, I would like to identify four groups that the Library caters for primarily.

(1)Carmelites and the Carmelite family. With the best collection of Carmelite writings in Australia and one of the best in the world, this Library is the source for those following the Carmelite way of spiritual growth and mysticism.

(2)Researchers and students. An essential policy is that we are buying for the study needs of those at a tertiary and post-graduate level. Access via the Library website to the catalogue has improved awareness of these rich holdings, and MCDcat, the MCD’s online union list, is also solving search questions.

(3)Parishioners and the local community. It has been commented that Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish now has the largest parish library in the Archdiocese. Whatever you make of that, the Library is certainly now a book service to all of those in Middle Park and nearby neighbourhoods. Churchgoers are especially invited to be part of the new arrangement and to feel comfortable here. It has become a kind of public access that turns the Library into a feature of local life.

(4)Those on the spiritual journey. The word ‘Spirituality’ is in the Library’s name. The collection has been built up with this as its main buying area. So spiritual groups and all individuals who know themselves to be on the journey may seek out this place, knowing they will have questions answered and needs supported. Let it also be known, the Library is aware of all the great spiritual traditions, meaning its represents the writings of the several great Christian traditions, as well as representing those of other faith traditions: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and so forth. The interfaith dialogue is an essential part of any contemporary learning.

The poet W. H. Auden once put it pithily, “may all my last thinks be thanks.”

I wish to thank the architects, builders and planners who have left this Library much improved on how they found it.

I wish to thank Fr Paul Chandler for his incredible job of forming this Library as we now have it and for his grounding the staff in the true nature of its operations and future.

This evening it is a great pleasure to thank the musicians: Marty Welch and Tim Hennessy on strings, and the choir of St Peter’s Eastern Hill.

The artists of J-Studio in North Fitzroy are long-time friends of the Carmelite Library and it is great to see them and their work tonight.

This evening would not have happened without the work of Anna Welch and our team of volunteers, some of them parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Lastly, I would like to thank Fr Austin Cooper, who has kindly agreed to officially open the renovated and refurbished Library. And I now invite Austin to do just that.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The New Puritans of Sydney

Philip Harvey
From the archive comes this book review, which I rediscovered today in an old computer file. It is a nine hundred word response to Muriel Porter’s work ‘The New Puritans : the Rise of Fundamentalism in the Anglican Church’. The book was published in 2006 by Melbourne University Press (ISBN 0 522 85184 3) and this review first appeared in the Australian Book Review in the same year. The descriptive passages of the review remain quite familiar to those who take an interest in the subject.

A couple of years ago I attended the patronal festival at St James’, King Street, Sydney. The preacher was the Dean of Newcastle who, after the blessing, opened with ‘Greetings from across the Chasuble Belt!’ The large congregation erupted into laughter, then settled in for twelve minutes of civil gospel. This is because Sydney Diocese, alone in the Anglican Communion, requires its clergy to sign an understanding that they will not wear Eucharistic vestments, including the chasuble. The ban is but one outward and visible control mechanism of an inward and enclosed evangelical attitude that typifies the power play within the Diocese.

This timely book, written by a self-confessed Anglican ‘insider’, explains not only the seemingly quaint issue of chasubles, but the very much more serious issue of an entrenched sect-like fundamentalism that has taken control of Sydney (‘this most complex and secretive of dioceses’) and its cathedral, after years of nasty politicking and stubborn intolerance of others. The rise of the Jensen brothers, Peter the Archbishop and Phillip the Dean, signals a dramatic change in Sydney’s relationship with the rest of the Australian church, and gives new meaning to Trollope’s ‘creeping nepotism’.

Muriel Porter makes no bones of the fact that her book is polemical. The targets are those in the Sydney church who threaten the very diversity of Anglicanism, seen as its genius ever since the Elizabethan Settlement – Catholic and Reformed living together in relative harmony. For Porter, the polemic is based on personal frustration and anger.

She is angry at the loss of the broad Anglican practice of her own upbringing and the gradual takeover of a narrow, prescriptive religion, unrecognisable as Anglicanism. Angry at Sydney’s harsh opposition to feminism and homosexuality. She is frustrated at how Sydney’s fundamentalist tendencies have turned into ‘Bible-believing’ tenets that threaten the Communion at large. Frustrated at what she sees as the introduction of lay presidency as payback for the victory of women’s ordination. She writes, ‘the conservative evangelical attitude to women … would shock most thinking Australians if they understood its full significance.’

Moore Theological College is the sole training school for ordinands in Sydney, a fact that limits diversity of tradition and open discussion. Sydney will not ordain women. Porter tracks Moore’s huge influence on Sydney thinking, especially through its two patriarchs, T.C. Hammond and Broughton Knox. ‘Scripture alone’ is a first principle, a Reformation position more familiar among Calvinists and Baptists. Indeed, ‘Sydney’ is facetiously tagged Anglo-Baptist by some observers, perhaps to contrast it with the readily identifiable Anglo-Catholicism. In the Jensens’ version of ‘Scripture alone’, ‘anyone who does not accept the Christian Gospel on their very specific terms is not really Christian.’

This is arrived at by Knox’s theory known as ‘propositional revelation’. Theologian Duncan Reid defines this: “Revelation is fundamentally propositional, and the proper attitude of the Christian believer is obedience to revelation.” This approach to the Bible disallows variant readings and is potentially Gnostic, a form of Protestant scholasticism that closes down discussion. What follows is biblical inerrancy. We have the right version, we’re right, everyone else is wrong.

Sydney is putting itself most at odds with the rest of the church though, not so much by its rejection of ritual or its anti-feminist stances or questionable channelling of money, as by a doctrinal teaching known as subordinationism. This was used during the debates over the ordination of women, asserting that the woman is subordinate to the man in the same way that the Son is subordinate to the Father. This is very poor theology. It is also a replay of the 4th century heresy known as Arianism. Porter’s dry humour comes to the fore when she remarks, “to call someone an Arian is a term of significant abuse in theological circles.” As anyone knows who has the slightest encounter with Christian belief, the persons of the Trinity are co-equal and co-eternal, not subordinated. This makes for interesting times ahead, which is an undeclared purpose of the book, not only to explain but to warn. Not all readers will be persuaded that there is a clear and present danger, but we have here a clear diagnosis of causes and effects.

For Anglicans, the book condenses essential knowledge about the ‘Sydney’ problem and its anomalous existence in the Communion. Sydney is overtly the wealthiest diocese in Australia, grows at quite a rate compared to the rest of the country, and is seen as a threat to the sovereignty of the other dioceses. Non-Anglicans can read it as a remarkable case study of what happens inside even a mainstream church when an inward-looking section of its membership gains and abuses power for its own ends. When was the last time you heard of an Archbishop who doesn’t believe in archbishops? The general reader is provided with a central reality of Sydney history, one rarely spoken of. The very extremism of this hardcore ultra-conservative movement is of a piece with the image of Sin City, where diehard ‘puritans’, hedonists and libertarians co-exist.

Porter combines the skills of a journalist with the scholarship of an historian. Polemic is by definition short and sharp with, sometimes, more heat than light, but I would have preferred a longer book. It shows the need for a comprehensive, non-partisan history of Sydney theology. It is great social history, mainly because Porter trusts her own memory and has a fine grasp of how 17th century Christian radicalism can be alive and well in 21st century New South Wales, but I wanted more on the historic changes. Like the present volume, such books would have to be published in Melbourne.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

What is a Journal?

Philip Harvey
From the French ‘jour’ for day, a journal has traditionally been a diary, or a sequential magazine, or some record of events and thoughts through time. In library terms, journal has been a subset of the broad and not always precise term serial. Wynar and Taylor provide the conventional wisdom about a serial as close ago in time as 1992: “A serial is a publication in any medium issued in successive parts at regular or irregular intervals and intended to continue indefinitely. Serials include both periodicals and non-periodicals.” (p. 162)

The serial, or rather its bugbear companion term seriality, has been a permanent challenge to the composure of cataloguers, bibliographers  and others ever since rules had to be invented to describe serials. This is because seriality can include almost any kind of publication that is published in a manner that is judged seriatum, i.e. in some serial order, whether by date, number, letter, or by that imponderable of modern English usage, whatever. 

For if a serial can be a journal and a periodical and a monographic series and an encyclopedic set, what is an online journal, or a personal blog (like what you are reading this second), or an online newspaper blog, or any of the digital variants that appear hydra-like on our computer screens each day? Indeed, these all fit our standard definition of a serial. For academic and bibliographical purposes, they are already all serials anyway.

Recently on Atlantis, the list of the American Theological Library Association, Kevin Compton of Rolfing Library in Bannockburn, Illinois let fly with this unhappy emotion: “I wish print was dead and I wish we could cut our print subscriptions by 100%, just as I wish we could buy all of our books as ebooks, but we can't, because …  many theological journals and book publishers are very slowly moving into the digital world. We don't cut those subscriptions, some are just too important, but I'm convinced they get used much less than they would if they were available online.” This, it has to be said, is so two thousand and thirteen! That a librarian would wish print were dead only shows what a strange universe we are now living in. But Kevin’s outburst comes in the context of increasing online serials and  (so it is claimed) dwindling demand for print serials, a world in which two-stop shopping is seen as a waste of a librarian’s time.

Many libraries today are faced with decisions about which serials to subscribe to online and which print journals to delete. This has to be another reason for Kevin’s caustic outburst: surely if everything was online we wouldn’t have to worry about all these fiddly decisions. Then there is the question of whether we keep backruns of serials in print form even after we have started an online subscription, against the day when something might go astray, we are the only place in the free world with a set, or someone needs to check against the paper version. As if life wasn’t already complicated enough, there is then the realist’s conundrum which says that no matter how many serials go online, they will never all be online, and the ones that are may be out of our price range, or simply not within the serials budget for that year. They may vanish next year, or get superseded and their titles changed in the never-ending process of rebranding.
Then we have to factor in usage. If students are not interested in print and we cannot encourage that interest, then the print serials remain stationary and in fact could be converted into stationery.  Users accustomed to online searching and reading have to be educated anew in how to approach that daunting 70 page object on the display stand, open it, and read it. As with so much else in our world now, reading habits are driving usage and it is up to the librarians to gauge what those reading habits might be.

As William Badke of North Western University in Langley, British Columbia says in his email to Atlantis, “Browsing journals, indeed, is one of those academic luxuries that professors have long enjoyed.  The issue arrives in the mail, and you spend a leisurely hour or two dipping into articles and reading book reviews.  But I know of no seminary students who aspire to the same.  Nor do I hear any of them seeking RSS feeds of new journal issue contents, though we can help them with this if they ever wanted it.”

Opinion seems to be divided as to whether browsing still happens, or is a nostalgic memory. Something that shouldn’t be nostalgia is self-awareness, and it is for some librarians a constant call to make users aware of what is in a library in all forms, and of the need for users to become aware of being aware.

Meanwhile some see the advent of online open access as the inevitable result of impossible serial prices, inaccessibility on the internet, the abandonment of the print option, and the need to meet a serial’s primary goal, which is presentation of current thinking in the here and now of research. This introduces whole new worlds of seriality, even as we speak. Just as we thought a decade ago that online was a serial killer, we now know it has in fact allowed a thousand flowers to bloom and a million schools of thought to contend out there on the web. We bookmark our favourites, little thinking that this action is itself the start of a new way of cataloguing and listing serials. In fact, the cataloguer’s baleful glare at the Rules concerning Serials has just got a whole lot more glary. Compilers and editors of serial indexes must wonder if they have reached a complete impasse.


Badke, William. From his posting to Atlantis on Wed 20/02/2013 8:09 AM.

Compton, Kevin.  From his posting to Atlantis on Wed 20/02/2013 5:37 AM.

Wynar, Bohdan S. and Arlene G. Taylor. Introduction to cataloging and classification. 8th ed. Libraries Unlimited, 1992.