Monday, October 17, 2011

Why Doesn't the Library Have eBooks for Biblical Research?

Along with coursework for a chosen major, every traditional undergraduate student completes a 59 unit general education Leadership and Ethics Core (LEC). The primary goal of which is for students to “articulate a Christian worldview incorporating biblical knowledge, exegetical skills, and church and community service.” (HIU Catalog, p. 111)

To get the exegetical skills, all students are required to take BIB3115 Literary Exegesis & Analysis, usually in their third year. In this class, students are “introduced to the tools, methods, and practice of biblical exegesis.” (HIU Catalog, p. 273) So, that's about the time we see a lot of these students in the library as they rely heavily on our Reserve collection.

Today, when ebooks are all the buzz, it seems a bit backwards for a forward-thinking library to force students to actually hang out in the library to use hardbound books. But that is exactly what we do.

We have several copies of Kittel's ten volume Theological dictionary of the New Testament that are in extremely high demand. To make reasonably sure that they are available at crunch time, we put them on permanent Reserve behind the Circulation Desk. They may be checked out for 2-hours but they must stay inside the library. This way, if another student is waiting for a particular volume, they usually don't have to wait very long.

Hanging out in the library isn't so bad but it is a bit of an adjustment for some students to realize that access to certain kinds of information can be tied to library hours. So much of the world of information is at their fingertips at any time they think of a question – bound only by the battery life of their favorite mobile device.

So, “Isn't it time to digitize these materials?” you ask? Well, many are available in digital format. You can get a copy of the ten volume set on CD for about $200 – but we can't. The Library used to have twenty licenses for the Logos Bible Software Scholar's Library which included the “Big Kittel's” in our Information Commons. However, when we looked into getting the Mac version, Logos informed us that they no longer granted licenses for libraries. In fact, their new terms explicitly deny libraries permission to make Logos products available to patrons and we had to uninstall what we had.

Even so, the Logos licenses did not permit remote access, so students still had to be in the library to use the digital versions of these Bible study tools.

We have over 50,000 ebooks in the Darling Library collection, but very few are useful for biblical studies. Until publishers change their policies we are left with regulating the use of bound volumes on our Reserve shelves.

However, there are some alternatives available for free on the Internet. See the following examples  with numerous tools for biblical study. (Students should clear all sources with their professors before using them in their course assignments.)
 Also, our students should check out our LibGuide on Ministry.

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