Religion and Public Libraries: Do You Do Dewey 200?
(An Infopeople Online Learning Course)
March 6, 2007 - April 2, 2007
- How confident do you feel when taking on a reference question that relies on research through specific religious texts or information about religious practices?
- Are you aware of how religious organizations in your community are addressing the secular needs of some of your joint users?
- Do you train volunteers to leave their religious beliefs aside when helping with the library's agenda?
- Which translations of the Bible are available to your public in your reference, circulating, and children's collections?
Public libraries should address the information and interest concerns of their communities, but those who provide collections, reference help, programming, and other services are not always certain about how to cope with matters of religion. This course offers students the opportunity to learn how to distinguish between supporting religious beliefs-inappropriate in a government agency-and providing access to ideas that those with religious concerns might need or want. We will examine collection needs; how to train both staff and volunteers to be religion-neutral rather than excluding religious inquiry from the public's access to ideas; how to respond helpfully to reference questions that evolve from religious practices, tenets, or texts; how to work with religious organizations on nonsectarian projects; and how to create adult programming that acknowledges interest in spiritual ideas.
This course will assist you in evaluating your library's adherence to the law while also responding to the public's right to have adequate materials and information assistance in the 200's, just as they expect and should have it in the ranges of human knowledge parceled into the social sciences, applied sciences, literature, and history.
Workshop Description: This four-week online learning course will provide information about the do's and don'ts of responding to users' religion-based inquiries. Through individual and group exercises you will learn how to evaluate your current collections in the Dewey 200 range, appropriate materials to add to them, and methods for responding to reference inquiries arising from religious concerns. You will learn how to work with local religious agencies without falling into the trap of being a proponent of any religion, as well as how to design adult programming that speaks to members of the public who are curious about religious ideas and experiences. The instructor will provide bibliographies and a webliography, as well as practical, useful tips that can be applied immediately.
During the course you will be doing exercises and taking quizzes. You will also participate in online discussion forums as part of the online learning process.
Preliminary Course Outline: Using your web browser and your Internet connection, you will log in to the Infopeople online learning site and complete the following learning modules:
- Module One: What Is the Role of the Public Library in Matters of the Community's Religious Interests?
- Distinguishing between the secular community roles and faith areas addressed by local organized religious groups
- Training library staff and volunteers to leave their religious beliefs outside
- Recognizing the need to provide access to religious ideas without becoming a proponent of any of them
- Module Two: Building and Maintaining Dewey 200 Collections
- Reference collections
- Adult circulating collections, both materials and online
- Juvenile collections
- Module Three: Responding to Reference Questions
- Interviewing when the question involves sectarian concerns
- Familiarity with religious reference tools
- Readers advisory work and matters of faith
- Module Four: Programming and Religious Issues
- The intellectual side of religions
- Religions and current events
- Secular partnerships with religious institutions
Online Learning Details:
This four-week course will be taught online using the web. When you register, you will receive a registration confirmation that will include the URL to get to the course, as well as a username and password.
Every student proceeds through the online learning modules at his or her own pace. Students should expect to commit to spending a minimum of 2 to 2½ hours per week on this course in order to be successful. You can work on each module at your own pace, at any hour of the day or night. However, you will be expected to log in to the course each week to do that week's assignment. We ask that you log in sometime during the first week of the course to begin the course work.
Your instructor will be available for limited consultation support for two weeks after the official end date of a course, and the course material will stay up for an additional two weeks after that, to give those who have fallen behind time to work independently on the course. However, you will be expected to accomplish the majority of the course in synchronization with your peers during the first four weeks.
Who Should Take This Course: Those who work in public libraries as reference staff, collection developers, outreach and community relations staff, or volunteer coordinators.
This course is taught over the web. You must:
- Have an Internet connection.
- Be able to save Microsoft Word .doc or Adobe .pdf files to your computer and print them out. (For .doc files, a free Word Viewer is available at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/search.aspx?displaylang=en. Search for "Word Viewer." For .pdf files, a free Adobe Acrobat Reader is available at http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/main.html).
- Be comfortable navigating on the web and navigating back and forward on a website that uses frames.
System Requirements: The online learning product that Infopeople uses is called Angel. The following are minimum system requirements for using Angel. You will need access to a computer that has at least these specifications to participate in an online course:
- Internet Explorer 6.0 and above, Netscape 7.1 and above, or Firefox 1.5 and above
- Mozilla 1.4 and above (which is the same engine as Netscape 7.1), Safari 2.0 and above, or Firefox 1.5 and above
- OS X and above (OS 9 will NOT work with our online learning product)
If you are not comfortable with any of the above, please consider taking this course with a colleague who does meet these requirements.
Course Start: This four-week-long online learning course starts on March 6, 2007.