Jun. 30, 2014
Growth has defined Candler School of Theology since its founding more than a century ago, and nothing illustrates this better than the school’s Pitts Theology Library. Since its beginnings as a small collection of books in a dark basement corner of Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, Pitts has grown exponentially in the number and quality of its holdings, forging an international reputation along the way.
That growth manifests itself in another way this summer as Pitts and its extensive collections move into Phase II of Candler’s new building, just in time for the start of the 2014-15 academic year.
“When visitors come to the new library, they will be able to benefit from all of the new spaces and new technology,” says Patrick Graham, director of the Pitts Theology Library. “It will make their time spent here much more efficient, and they are going to enjoy it much more.”
With more than 610,000 volumes, Pitts is among the top three theology librares in North America and one of the most comprehensive in the world. Its current home on Emory’s Quadrangle was built in 1916 to house the entire school of theology—classrooms, a chapel, offices, and the library—and did not offer the space or controlled environments that the library’s growing collections and rare manuscripts required. Enter Phase II.
The new Pitts Library will include more room for the stacks, a dedicated special collections area, increased space for small-group study, and breakout rooms for larger groups. It also will feature an 80-seat lecture hall and 1,000 square feet of adjacent exhibit space. Upgraded technology will abound, and staff workspace will be arranged to encourage collaboration.
“It’s a mistake to view libraries as just warehouses for books,” Graham says. “They do have lots of books and people can go there to use them, but libraries are also places where you have highly trained staff who care very much about helping students do their work. Pitts Library has developed a reputation as a great training ground for theological librarians.”
As a testament to this, Pitts will remain open during the three-week move. “Library users will still be able to use the Pitts Library Quad building and retrieve volumes that are needed during the entire period of the move,” says Graham. If a requested volume is in transit to the new building or is already there, patrons should place a request at the circulation desk, and the staff will retrieve the item, generally within 48 hours.
Pitts vaulted to world-class status in 1976 when its holdings tripled through the acquisition of Hartford Seminary’s 220,000-volume collection. This year, the library completed processing a gift of 85,000 volumes from General Theological Seminary, which added to its holdings 25,424 monographs, 428 periodicals, and 2,721 special collections titles.