The Christian School Movement was instrumental in providing a model and impetus for the development of library collections in private educational institutions by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In broad strokes the usual progress of academic libraries, including those in the Bible School movement, progressed through five basic phases: The Reference Shelf, The Doctrine Center, The Warehouse, The Resource Center, and the Information Center.

In the Reference Shelf phase, the focus is on the study of the Bible as primary text and a life in pastoral, missionary, or other Christian service work. In this stage of development the institution saw themselves largely as a people of the book – one book, the Bible. Classes were often limited to the Bible text and lecture notes. The required library resources were limited to dictionaries, atlases, histories, commentaries, or language studies supporting that more narrow focus. The “library” might be a shelf in a common room, an office, or the hallway of a dorm. The chief goal of this stage was praxis oriented. Spiritual workers were crucially needed, so people must be equipped, and sent out in mission to reach the world. This was an acquisition of a minimum set of skills for one specific purpose and seldom included a broad educational experience. Most Pentecostals viewed education as too close to the ‘cold’ formalized churches out of which many early Pentecostals had come. Few Pentecostal groups, notes author Grant Wacker, even required any education for recognition as a minister until after the first twenty years.

In the next phase, Doctrine Center, the development of the library often focused on limiting materials to a particular doctrinal viewpoint, publishing house, or set of authors for the reinforcement of the guiding philosophy or theology of the school as ministry vocational centers. In this stage the school, and Its library, establishes a place in its world. Similar institutions are looked at, comparisons made, and need for higher quality education recognized to better fulfill its mission.

Many of the schools were seeking after religious, state, or national accreditation to expand or enhance their influence in the Warehouse Phase. Collection develop was ‘by the pound’ with book drives, donation emphasis, and other open door gifting policies. During this time period, for example, the North Central Accreditation process focused more on the quantity of materials in a library as opposed to the quality of the collection and this allowed growth by book counts to guide the development of some libraries. In this phase, general education courses became more important as schools broadened to include junior college offerings. The library has assumed the form of a library, sometimes with professionally trained staff, policies, and services. In this phase, non-librarians made many of the administrative decisions, with faculty or committees sometimes exercising more control as to collection development or budget than the “librarian" Lingering from the Doctrinal phase is often an emphasis on control of the information, views or ideas presented.

Expanding programs and new technologies converged to create new mediums of learning and information storage in the technology boom of the 1960’s. Nationally, this phase occurred as science-fiction became fact with the increased use of books on tape, televised instruction, films, overhead projectors, tape recorders, microfilm readers, and main frame computers such as the IBM 357 and the IBM 1401. This heady introduction of technology, where some even envisioned instruction without classrooms, created the “Resource”, “Media” or “Learning Center” phase.

Books were, it was believed ,old fashioned, outmoded, and soon to be obsolete in the bright Utopia of a technologically rich future. A “library” was musty, old books in dark gothic library ivory towers of knowledge and its tradition as a ‘book-based’ warehouse had no place in the modern age. The future was student-directed, automated, and on demand and this trend would emerge again with the rise of personal computers and forecasts of a book and paperless future. This phase did produce a false dichotomy based on format and threatened to curtail the influence of the library as a vital part of the learning environment.

Technology advanced at an accelerated pace, challenging everyone to keep up with changes in methods, philosophies, concepts, practices, and functions. The computer moved from the large storeroom where it had shuffled raw statistics and records onto the desktop. The library reasserted itself as an “information center” incorporating a variety of new and emerging formats and as much an idea as a physical place. The library was an integral part of a serious academic institution and one crucial to the primary goal of an education program. The library was a frontrunner in the access, delivery, use, and preservation of information in a world where paradigms shifted daily and innovation left educators breathless.

In this phase libraries identified the need for ‘information literacy’ to replace the old standby of ‘bibliographic instruction’. It was no longer sufficient to show students where the ‘tools’ of information were but to also instruct them in the effective and ethical use of the data once it was found. The ongoing challenges of microcomputers, instant messengers, digitization, and a myriad of emerging technologies insure the role of information managers to broker access, retrieval, organization and use of information in the future while holding to the timeless values of the written word and personal interaction.


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