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Theological librarians mull over competency standards

Theological librarians mull over competency standards

Sixty-six (66) member schools from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand were represented in a web conference for theological librarians held on September 22-23, 2020. This online gathering was organized to provide a venue for sharing of standards adopted by theological libraries; develop a competency standard for theological librarians in Southeast Asia; analyze the gaps, issues, and trends in theological libraries and theological librarianship in Southeast Asia; recommend areas for integration in Accreditation Standards and Revised Theological Librarianship Program; update the participants on trends in theological librarianship; and propose strategies to strengthen/ implement harmonization of standards, competencies, and practices.

The program commenced with the sharing of experiences on Standards in Librarianship in their respective context by the following panelists, namely: Ms. Hilda Putong, Head Librarian Jakarta, Theological Seminary Jakarta, Indonesia; Ms. Ana Mae Bantad Cantel, Coordinator, Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) Program, Central Philippine University; and Ms. Rangsima Khamsan, Librarian, Dewald Memorial Library McGilvary College of Divinity, Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The discussions became a platform for knowledge-sharing as each one illustrated the respective academic and governmental milieus affecting the libraries and librarians.

Dr. Mitzi Budde, head librarian of Professor Bishop Payne Library, Virginia Theological Seminary, gave a presentation on the newly approved Association of Theological Schools (ATS)  Standards in Theological Libraries in the US and Canada. Dr. Budde was part of the committee that drafted the ATS new standard for the library.

Dr. Reysa Alenzuela, library consultant and faculty of MLIS program in CPU, and Ms. Cynthia Peleña, director of Libraries of CPU and faculty of MLIS-TL in the same university gave the summary presentation of the Survey on Competency Index for Theological Librarians in Asia. Dr. Alenzuela stated that after consolidating all the inputs the team looks forward to drafting standard competencies with the three core principles in mind “openness, diversity and inclusivity” which will be a tool for theological librarians in “creating their own specific competencies.”

In their break-out sessions in the afternoon, the librarians were grouped according to their countries and they discussed issues like the competency they recommend to add in the draft index; and the gaps, issues and trends in theological librarianship and theological libraries.

On the second day of the conference Ms. Brenda Bailey-Hainer, Executive Director of the American Theological Library Association (ATLA), was also invited to speak on the topic, Global Theological Librarianship: Partnership and Collaboration. She presented the programs of ATLA and the services it provides to the librarians. The participants inquired about the possibility for ATLA to address the high cost of subscription especially for the economically challenged seminaries in Asia.

The librarians agreed that the web conference had opened their minds to the new ways of approaching librarianship with hope and confidence amidst these uncertain times. They were all eager to have access to the links and other library databases like ATLA as they are moving towards the digitalization of their libraries. The discussions regarding the competency index also urged them to assess their individual strengths and weaknesses and move towards growth in their librarianship skills. They look forward to ATESEA’s follow-up training on the needed librarian online services.