President’s Message, October 2018

After recently participating in Moravian’s third annual Heritage Day, a time of service to the community, I am reminded of the value of volunteering as a way to give back and the many forms it can take.  Along with other members of the seminary community, I compiled origami kits for hospitalized children in the region and created cards to go with these packets.  The aim of Heritage Day is to convey the message that others care and that we are all on the journey of life together.  SEPTLA members share a similar mentality.

I must admit, however, that it was tempting not to participate in Heritage Day this year, especially with a busier than usual September.  Lots of us, myself included, wear many hats and may sometimes feel like we are in the circus walking the balance beam, juggling multiple responsibilities, and trying not to fall.  Fortunately, we are not alone; we can lean on our SEPTLA colleagues.

SEPTLA members serve as resources for one another, sharing their expertise in particular areas.  Moreover, SEPTLA meetings provide the perfect opportunity for learning about best practices and brainstorming how we can “be better together.”  At the fall meeting scheduled for November 8 at Missio Seminary (formerly Biblical Theological Seminary), the Resource Sharing Task Force will continue the conversation that we started at the spring meeting—how can we leverage our solidarity to get the best “bang for our buck” and move our libraries and institutions forward.

During the business meeting, we will discuss the important roles of those serving in leadership positions within SEPTLA and how the bylaws and the proposed addition of an administrative assistant can more accurately reflect these responsibilities and better serve the membership.  Serving together we can accomplish more.

In closing, consider the value of SEPTLA and how you might be able to contribute to the future of this organization in big and small ways.  There are a variety of ways to get involved.  Currently, the following positions are open:

  • Chair of the Continuing Education Committee
  • Member at large of the Continuing Education Committee
  • Newsletter Editor
  • Chair of the Research Services Interest Group

If you are willing to serve, but are concerned about the time commitment, please let me know.  Perhaps co-chairing is a solution.  How will you “pay it forward?”

Elizabeth Young Miller

SEPTLA President, 2018-2019

Proposed Amendments to the SEPTLA Bylaws, August 21, 2018

Endorsed by the Executive Committee on August 21, 2018

Section 5.3 – Terms of Office

Motion: To amend 5.3 by striking “as chair of the Executive Committee.”  This pertains to the Past President and does not reflect current practice.

5.3. The President and Secretary may stand for re-election for a consecutive second one year term. If the President is re-elected for a second term, the Past President shall serve a second term.

Section 6.1. President

Motion: To add 6.1.2. The President shall thank the host institution and speaker(s) in writing.

Motion: To add 6.1.3. The President shall call, prepare agendas for, and chair meetings of the Executive Committee.

Motion: To renumber 6.1.3 to 6.1.4. 

6.1.4. The President shall serve as a member of the Executive Committee during the time of service as president and while in the capacity of immediate past president.

Motion: To renumber 6.1.2 to 6.1.5.

6.1.5. The President shall also be responsible for preparing a column for each issue of the newsletter.

Motion: To renumber 6.1.4. to 6.1.6.

6.1.6. The President, with the assistance of the Executive Committee, shall schedule a review of all official SEPTLA documents during their first term.

Motion:  To add 6.1.7. The President, in consultation with the Executive Committee, shall determine the need for task forces.

Motion: To renumber 6.1.5 to 6.1.8.

6.1.8. The President, with his or her email address, will be listed as the official contact on the SEPTLA Website and be responsible for prompt response to inquiries made via the Website.

Motion: To add 6.1.9. The President shall send a welcome packet to new library directors, including the SEPTLA bylaws and the direct-borrowing agreement for the signature of the new director.

Section 6.2. Secretary

Motion: To strike “6.2.4. The Secretary shall send a packet of SEPTLA bylaws and direct borrowing agreement for the signature of a new library director in a Member Institution.”  These responsibilities have been added to 6.1.9.

Section 6.3. Treasurer

Motion: To add 6.3.1. The Treasurer shall serve as the primary contact for the bank.

Motion: To renumber 6.3.1 to 6.3.2 and to strike “hold” and add receive, steward and disburse and strike “and.”

6.3.2. The Treasurer shall receive, steward and disburse any moneys of the associationmaintain records of income and expense, and provide reports during each Executive Committee meeting and plenary business meeting.

Motion: To renumber 6.3.2 to 6.3.3.

6.3.3. The Treasurer shall serve as a member of the Executive Committee.

Section 6.4. Past President

Motion: To add 6.4.3. The Past President shall distribute a survey after each membership meeting, analyze the results, and share the findings with the Executive Committee.

Motion: To renumber 6.4.3 to 6.4.4.

6.4.4. The Past President shall solicit nominations for those offices to be filled in the annual elections.

Motion: To add 6.4.5. The Past President shall solicit applications for the ATLA conference first-time attendee scholarship.

President’s Message, April 2018

These are extremely challenging times, my friends. Many of our member institutions are in transition – staff transitions, facility transitions, and larger institutional transitions. In the face of so much change it is hard to know what, if anything, is stable enough to stand upon. Sometimes we might feel that if we could find a resting place, somewhere away from the change to catch our breath, it would help us recover our strength to continue moving forward.

I would like to offer that SEPTLA has the capacity to be such a resting place. As a 50+ year organization, SEPTLA remains committed to bringing our institutions together for fellowship, collaboration, and continuing education. While we are not immune to change and are experiencing our own transitions, our shared commitment to theological education and librarianship in this region provides a constancy that many of us can turn to for support and encouragement.

Serving as SEPTLA’s president for these past two years has been a rewarding experience, and I thank you for the opportunity. In that time, we received the findings and recommendations of the Future Task Force and began the work of acting upon those recommendations. Our meeting in May at Cairn University developed out of some of those suggestions. We will be exploring our capacity for resource sharing as a consortium through a dialogue facilitated by the Resource Sharing Task Force, in addition to hearing about new EBSCO products like FOLIO and ATLAS Plus.

Our Membership Task Force will also be presenting its findings and recommendations during our Business Meeting. The Executive Committee, having heard the report on March 2, is eager to hear feedback from the membership about its recommendations.

The spring meeting also brings with it officer elections. We will be electing a new secretary and a new president—I will have served the two consecutive terms allowed in the Bylaws. There are also two positions open on the Communications Committee: Archivist and Newsletter Editor. Please consider volunteering for one of these positions. SEPTLA is a friendly and supportive organization for those interested in serving.

I look forward to seeing you at Cairn in May,

Myka Kennedy Stephens

SEPTLA President, 2016-2018

SEPTLA Membership Task Force Report

February 2018


The SEPTLA Membership Task Force was established during the fall 2017 SEPTLA meeting on October 4 and comprised of James (Jim) Sauer, Samantha Rice, and Elizabeth Young Miller (serving as chair).  The Task Force met via conference call on October 25 to brainstorm.  The group decided to survey the 18 ATLA regional groups listed on ATLA’s website (, as well as the following regional professional groups:

  • ACLCP (PA)
  • New Jersey Library Association, College and University Section
  • TCLC (Tri-State College Library Cooperative)
  • VALE (Virtual Academic Library Environment of New Jersey)

The list was divided up with each member of the Task Force contacting six (6) ATLA groups and a couple of regional professional groups, encouraging the chair/president of each organization to complete a brief Google survey by the middle of December.  On January 15, 2018, the Task Force met via Zoom to discuss survey responses and draft recommendations.


Survey Findings and Recommendations

Eight (8) organizations responded to the membership survey—six (6) ATLA regional groups and two (2) other regional professional groups.  Several of the responding organizations sound like they are struggling, giving the task force the sense that SEPTLA is a healthy organization.  Only one (1) organization offers individual membership, in addition to institutional membership.

Membership criteria varies and is based on the following:

  • Geography (2)
  • ATLA membership (2)
  • Institution offering advanced study in theology/divinity
  • Librarians whose work includes religion, theology, biblical studies
  • Christian university, seminary, college
  • Organizations willing to participate in leadership

Recommendation:     Broaden SEPTLA’s membership criteria

Survey responses indicate that some ATLA organizations are not limited to institutions offering graduate degrees in religion and theology.  Currently, five (5) SEPTLA institutions (Cairn, Lancaster Bible, Moravian, Summit, and Valley Forge) offer both undergraduate and graduate programs.  Therefore, the Task Force recommends expanding membership to organizations that offer both bachelors and graduate degrees, as well as broadening the cognates of graduate degrees to include counseling and ordination.

Jim Sauer compiled a list of potential new members, which was shared with the Executive Committee.

The survey also asked about dues.  Three (3) organizations do not have dues.  Two (2) institutions base dues on a library’s total budget.  One (1) institution sets dues at $75—the same as SEPTLA—and another $100 per institution.  In comparison to TCLC and PALCI, SEPTLA’s dues are modest.

Recommendation:     Increase dues to $100.

By increasing dues, SEPTLA could explore grants, scholarships, and/or special events.  Perhaps this money could be used to sponsor a library student who would like to attend a SEPTLA meeting.  Additionally, the money could be used for stipends for members of the Executive Committee, such as the president; see below for more information.  The Task Force recommends surveying the membership to see if the proposed increase in dues would preclude any institutions from membership.

Survey responses indicate an overlap in mission and purpose of each organization, with five (5) organizations mentioning both professional development and resource sharing.  Other survey responses included collaboration (2), collection development, and community building.

In terms of programming, most organizations offer some kind of meeting.   A couple responses highlighted interest group meeting and one mentioned virtual meetings.

Recommendation:     Explore alternate approaches to programming

  • Since geography can be an issue for some SEPTLA institutions, offer virtual meetings, providing live streaming of speaker presentations, which could then be posted to SEPTLA’s website. Virtual meetings may also be a selling point for new and existing members and expand our professional development reach.
  • Consider combining meetings with different groups in the area, e.g. joint NYATLA/SEPTLA meeting.
  • Look at special interest group events planned by other organizations for ideas and inspiration.

Organizations also answered a question regarding the benefits of membership in their respective organizations.  Five (5) mentioned professional development, two (2) networking, one (1) resources, and one (1) cooperative licensing.

The survey included a question about leadership, and two (2) institutions mentioned that convening, hosting, and/or leadership rotates among institutions.

Recommendation:     Consider new leadership models

Filling leadership positions in SEPTLA can sometimes be challenging.  For this reason and based on survey responses, the Task Force suggests examining the following:

  • Offer a stipend for the president of SEPTLA
  • Alphabetically rotate leadership, with someone from each library serving one year terms, first as secretary, then president, and then past president.

SEPTLA Consortia Survey

The SEPTLA Executive Committee has created a Resource Sharing Task Force to study SEPTLA member’s current usage of consortia and buying groups for the purchase of library needs.

This survey has three focus areas: library services, e-resources, and print materials acquisition.

We would like to receive at least one response from each member institution by May 1, 2018.

Thank you for your time!

SEPTLA Resource Sharing Task Force

SEPTLA Institutional News, Spring 2017

April 21, 2017

Biblical Theological Seminary

Lydia Putnam reported that Biblical has completed visits from both ATS and Middle States. ATS granted Biblical full accreditation for seven (7) years, with a focused site visit planned post-move, which is now anticipated to occur sometime in 2018. Middle States also gave full accreditation approval and will visit the institution once they move; the library in particular was commended for demonstrating ingenuity and financial stewardship. Lydia also announced that the webmaster left and Lydia has assumed these responsibilities for the interim.

Cairn University

Laura Saloiye announced that Cairn will be offering four (4) new majors in the fall: computer science, information technology, criminal justice, and graphic design.  The library received a 1500 volume collection on Biblical archaeology from Towson University.

Lancaster Bible College

Clint Banz reported that April 21, 2017 was the final day of the Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation (ABHE) site visit.  The Middle States accreditation team is scheduled to begin their visit to Lancaster Bible College on Monday, April 24, 2017.  Beginning fall 2017 we will be offering two additional majors: Music Education  and Criminal Justice. Also our Church Ministry Leadership department is underway with a search for someone to direct our Pastoral Ministry major. Concerning the library we have created several library tutorials and look to have several additional ones completed this summer.

Lancaster Theological Seminary

In February, we implemented OpenAthens single sign-on authentication alongside Google Oauth2 authentication for our OPAC. Current students, faculty, and staff are now able to use their seminary accounts to log in to both their library accounts and all our electronic resources. Alumni/ae who do not have seminary accounts, now have OpenAthens accounts to access select electronic resources. This has streamlined and simplified access to our electronic resources and has also allowed us to offer off-campus access to many online journal subscriptions not previously accessible off campus.

This spring we completed a complete revision of the seminary’s records management manual and added provisions for managing and archiving electronic records. To help with collection and organization of born-digital records we’re using ResourceSpace, an open source digital asset management platform.

Over the summer we will be creating a makerspace with the primary objective to support students in a new required course, Christianity and the Arts. The space will include a sewing machine, easels, and additional tools for visual and fiber arts.

Seminary librarian, Myka Kennedy Stephens, is looking forward to a 6-month research and writing sabbatical beginning in July.

Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg

B. Bohleke reported that there is a new board of trustees/directors in place and that the merger of the Gettysburg and Philadelphia campuses begins July 1, 2017. During the spring academy week, library staff and an intern created a display featuring some original works of Martin Luther.

Moravian Theological Seminary

Elizabeth Young Miller reported that Moravian has been busy working on their ATS self-study.

New Brunswick Theological Seminary

Ondrea Murphy announced that New Brunswick now offers a doctorate in transformational preaching, and they are looking forward to welcoming a 2nd cohort.  The president of the Seminary is retiring in June, and there will be a new homiletics professor for the fall semester.  Based on fundraising efforts external repairs have been completed along with a dedicated brick walkway. The institution is nearing its capital campaign goal, and they have begun the Middle States accreditation process.

Palmer Theological Seminary/Eastern University

Dr. Jim Sauer announced that Dr. David Bronkema is still the interim dean of the seminary; he offers great leadership and brings a calming spirit to the Seminary which has gone through much change in the last years.  Palmer’s library is now fully merged with Eastern’s library.  Marvin Smith acts as our Theological Research Librarian.

Jim also gave an update on several programs.  While most traditional programs remain flat, the Eastern School of Christian Ministry (ESCM) program geared toward laity and continuing education is growing, as well as the Open Seminary, our international online program.  Also, a cohort based Seminary program is showing great signs of development in Mexico and other Spanish speaking areas.  To become more competitive, the requirements for the MDiv program have been adjusted; the degree can be completed in 78 credit hours instead of 120+ hours.  The 25th anniversary of the West Virginia Campus was celebrated.

Princeton Theological Seminary

Some of you may already know this but in September 2016, the Library was delighted to have Melody Mazuk serving as interim director. Her leadership has moved us forward in many important ways and we are very grateful for her talents.

This you may not know but in late February we welcomed Melvin Hartwick to the library team part-time to assist with cataloging a 42,000+ volume collection of Dutch language material, purchased by Princeton almost 20 years ago. The wonderful combination of his cataloging skills and language expertise has been a gift to Princeton, as we seek to make this material more accessible to researchers.

In June, Greg Murray, Director of Digital Initiatives, will be at ATLA to present on digitizing local collections, using our Theological Commons as a platform.

The search for a permanent James Lenox Librarian continues.

Lastly, the Library would love to be in conversation with any other SEPTLA libraries interested in the following 3 topics:

  1. Exploring models of sharing or reciprocal exchange regarding foreign language cataloging
  2. Developing library disaster recovery plans
  3. Staff and student scheduling programs.

Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Alan LaPayover announced that Reconstructionist Rabbinical College will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2018.  In this online learning world, the conference session on embedding rights in distance education was very helpful.

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary

James Humble reported that, after a year-long search, St. Charles will enter into a provisional partnership with a Philadelphia-area college, which may lead to a merging of operations down the line.  In the meantime, the Seminary is busy working on its self-study, with institutional visits planned for next year.

St. Tikon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

Sergei Arhipov announced that St. Tikon’s completed their ATS self-study and are accredited for the next seven (7) years without any stipulations.  After twenty (20) years at St. Tikon’s, Sergei will be retiring; however, he will be continuing as an adjunct.  Michael Skor will be the new head librarian.

University of Valley Forge

We are in the midst of the Self-Study for our Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) reaccreditation. The on-site visit will occur this fall. UVF has also elected a new president, Rev. David Kim and also a Chancellor, Dr. Ron McManus.

Westminster Theological Seminary

Sandy Finlayson provided an update on both the seminary and the library.  He announced that Westminster now offers an online Masters of Arts in Biblical Counseling.  In 2018, on campus housing will be added for seminary students.  The library has experienced some staffing transitions.  Karla is leaving.  On June 1, a new assistant librarian begins.  The e-book project spearheaded by Donna Campbell is thriving with thirteen (13) libraries participating and fifteen (15) publishers.  Currently 674 titles are offered with the hope of 1,000 by the fall semester.

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President’s Message, September 2017

The sun is now setting after a warm, sunny day in central Florida where I am attending a library conference. It is energizing to meet other librarians and hear about the work they are doing in their libraries. I usually return from a conference with a handful of ideas to explore, and a little sad that it may be many months before I remeet the librarians I connected with to share ideas again.

SEPTLA meetings are like other library conferences in that they are a great place to share ideas with fellow librarians, but they are also different. Unlike traveling to an exotic destination or world-class conference center, we meet regionally twice annually in one another’s libraries. We’re seeing SEPTLA libraries in action, first-hand. We’re building collaborative relationships across our libraries. We’re learning from each other and supporting one another in the work that we do as theological and religious studies librarians in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey on a regular basis.

Our upcoming Fall meeting at Lancaster Bible College continues this fifty-three-year tradition. The morning session will involve a group exercise in recognizing and sharing our wisdom and experience with one another so that we may begin building a resource network within SEPTLA. In the afternoon, both Interest Groups will be convening a joint session with Greg Murray to hear about Princeton’s digital archiving initiatives. We’ll also tour the new Teague Learning Commons at Lancaster Bible College.

As we continue exploring new ways to meet the needs of our members, SEPTLA remains committed to fostering collaboration and relationship building among theological and religious studies librarians in this region. These personal connections make SEPTLA special. You make SEPTLA unique.

We currently have several opportunities to get involved in this special and unique association. The Executive Committee is particularly looking for those interested in membership, continuing education, and archives. Are you feeling called to serve SEPTLA? If so, please reach out and let me know. There will also be an opportunity to volunteer during the business meeting.

I look forward to seeing you on October 4.

Myka Kennedy Stephens
SEPTLA President, 2016-2018

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