Carmelite Library, Middle Park
1. Brief Profile of the Library
The Carmelite Library is the library of the Australia-East Timor Province of the Carmelite Friars, and an affiliated library of Yarra Theological Union.
The Library was first established in Albert Park in 1928, although the core holding included books collected since the first Australian Carmelite foundation in 1881. It was originally intended to cater to the needs of the Order's novices and seminarians and their teachers. It was relocated to Kew in 1928, to Donvale in 1937, and returned to Middle Park in 2002, where it is now housed in the main part of the Carmelite Hall, a heritage building (1918).
Originally a rather modest collection, the library was considerably expanded in the 1960s and ’70s under the librarianship of Fr Brian Pitman, and developed some strengths in the areas of philosophy, scripture, systematic theology, and especially in spirituality and mariology.
From 1990 a change in policy was suggested by the changing educational strategy of the Order, a desire to avoid duplication of resources, and a recognition that specialisation would allow the Library to become a more valuable intellectual, cultural, spiritual and ecclesiastical resource in Melbourne. It was decided to concentrate in those areas most closely associated with the life and spirit of the Order, and the Library is now specialised in three areas: Carmelitana, that is all aspects of the life, history and spiritual tradition of the Order; Christian spirituality and mysticism; and Mariology, the theological study of the Virgin Mary. The owners of the library now regard it principally as a specialised research collection in these areas, and wish to make it available to a broad public. It seeks to serve the needs of researchers in its specialist areas, and in particular to support the research and teaching of Melbourne College of Divinity and the Christian Spirituality Centre.
The Library is administered by the Librarian of the Carmelite Province (Revd Dr Paul Chandler, O.Carm.), appointed by the Carmelite Provincial Council, who reports to the Council, its Finance Committee, which also functions as the Board of Governance, and the triennial Provincial Chapter. He is assisted by an Advisory Board and a part-time librarian.
2. Relationship to mission
The Library’s original principal function of supporting the Order’s work in undergraduate theological education is now shared with other libraries in Yarra Theological Union, to which the Carmelites have belonged since its inception in 1971. The Library also continues to provide a general resource for members of the local Carmelite community and the Province.
However, its present specialisations have been consciously chosen to give expression to the Order’s spiritual tradition and its commitment to work in the area of spirituality and spiritual development. The Library participates in this mission by:
- providing a comprehensive resource for the study of the history and spirituality of the Carmelite Order;
- providing a high-level resource for research on the Christian spiritual and mystical tradition;
- providing materials for research on the theology and cult of the Virgin Mary;
- supporting research and teaching by Carmelite faculty and others; and
- promoting opportunities for teaching, learning, study and conversation for people interested in the Library’s specialisations and the spiritual journey in general.
3. Purpose of the collection development statement
The purposes of this collection development statement are:
- to provide a formal statement of the collection development criteria and priorities currently in use;
- to inform members of the Provincial Council and Provincial Chapter of the principles at work in the ongoing development of the collection;
- to assist the work of the Library’s Advisory Board and Board of Governance;
- to guide present and future library staff and those who may make decisions regarding selection and deselection of holdings, and to help ensure continuity of policy when there is change of personnel;
- to assist in identifying strengths and weaknesses of the present collection and identify priorities for future development;
- to indicate the character and scope of the collection to potential users and to other libraries collecting in related areas; and
- to help create a broader public awareness of a specialised collection containing much monograph and periodical material unavailable elsewhere in Australia.
4. Clientele served
The Library is privately owned and funded by the Carmelites. Broad public access for interested users is seen as part of its mission. At present, users are diverse. The majority are faculty and postgraduate students of Melbourne College of Divinity and other universities; others are undergraduate students of MCD’s associated teaching institutions. Some are friends or associates of the Carmelite community, and others are local users or people who have learned of the collection in various ways, including through seminars and educational programs sponsored by the Library. Members of the Order and MCD faculty and students may be given reasonable priority of access to resources at the discretion of the Librarian.
5. Access to the collection
The Library is open to the public three days a week or by appointment. Particular effort is made to respond to the needs of users working on scholarly projects.
Bibliographic access is by card catalogue (now closed) for most acquisitions before 1995, and by electronic catalogue (Athena). Borrowing privileges are available to all users (30 days renewable), subject to an annual fee. We respond to ILL requests from other libraries under the arrangements of the national system.
6. Description of the collection
The Library holds about 35,000 monograph titles and 60 periodical subscriptions. Over the last decade it has generally added about 1000 titles each year.
The core of the collection was formed around the Catholic seminary curriculum and therefore encompassed a broad range of theological and related disciplines (philosophy, psychology, theology, scripture, church history, ethics, canon law, etc.). As in most monastic libraries, there was also a considerable eclectic element reflecting the varied interests of the community over the years. After the present specialisations were identified, periodical holdings outside these areas were disposed of. The development of the Library’s specialisation in spirituality initiated internal discussion about large-scale deselection of material. However, as spirituality is a broad-ranging interdisciplinary field, and as there is continued use of most areas of the Library, it was decided to retain monograph material in all areas for the time being. Systematic acquisition is now restricted, however, to the Library’s areas of specialisation.
Aside from a collection of audio-cassettes on spiritual themes and a small collection of CD recordings by Carmelite musicians, the Library has concentrated on printed materials: reference works, monographs, periodicals, pamphlets, and newsletters.
In the specialist areas Spirituality and Mariology, reference, monograph and periodical material is collected in the major European languages. In the priority area Carmelitana, there are also holdings in other languages including Portuguese, Catalan and Danish. In the case of major Carmelite spiritual authors (St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, St Thérèse of Lisieux, St Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi, St Edith Stein, among others), an effort has been made to collect significant monographs in any language as well as translations of the primary sources in the languages relevant to scholarship. A rare book collection of about 500 pre-1800 Carmelite titles includes important holdings of liturgical texts, biography, history, theology and mystical literature.
Attention has been given to the retention and collection of older devotional material which represents the history of Christian piety, including meditations and prayer-books, of hagiography and Christian biography, and of material relating to monastic and religious life.
Specialist indexes in the areas of specialisation include Archivum Bibliographicum Carmeli Teresiani, Bibliographia Carmelitana Annualis, San Juan de la Cruz, Bibilographia Intemationalis spiritualitatis, and Bibliographia Mariana. The reference collection includes the principal general theological reference works, but is focussed on the Library’s areas of specialisation.
The Dewey classification system is used, modified for theological libraries. Further adaptations have been made in call numbers 235, 247-248, and 271 to accommodate specialist holdings in Mariology, Spirituality, and Carmelitana. Books are catalogued according to AACR2 by author, title, series and subject (LCSH). Shelving is open-access.
There are electronic records for about one-third of the collection. Retrospective conversion of card records to machine-readable format will proceed slowly in the areas of specialisation and is not envisaged for the remainder of the collection, unless dedicated funding and staffing should become available.
In summary, the Library has has a well-focussed and coherent collection policy in areas which, to our knowledge, are not covered in depth elsewhere in Australia:
- the Carmelitana collection is the most significant in the region and perhaps in the top five or six in the world, including exceptional holdings on the major Carmelite mystical writers and all the relevant scholarly periodicals;
- the specialisation area of Christian spirituality and mysticism is a nationally significant holding of monographs and periodicals;
- to our knowledge the library has the largest Australian holding in the specialisation area Mariology, including all the significant periodicals;
- a high proportion of periodical holdings is unique in Victoria or Australia (almost all titles in the Carmelitana and Mariology areas, and about half in the spirituality area);
- the Library's project “Bibliographical Heritage of Religious Institutes” is establishing a research collection of specialised and older materials relating to monastic and religious life in danger of loss or dispersal because of the closure of institutional libraries;
- other strengths of the collection include holdings in related areas such as hagiography and lives of saints, Christian biography, prayer-books and devotions, retreats and meditations, history of women, popular religion, and spiritual and mystical traditions of the world religions.
The Carmelite Library’s choice for specialisation has enabled it to build a significant resource for research on a comparatively modest budget. In many sectors of its areas of specialisation, the holdings are sufficient for post-graduate work, research, and publication.
The total budget allocation in 2005 is $70,000. A major renovation of the Library premises is presently in planning stages.
There are currently no formulas governing expenditure on various categories of material. A program of collecting older material by donation or second-hand purchase has resulted in a large number of titles entering the collection annually relative to the expenditure.
8. Selection principles and procedures
The librarian is responsible for selection of all materials. Priorities are in the order: (1) Carmelitana; (2) Spirituality; (3) Mariology. The librarian is a subject specialist in the first two fields. The principal criterion is the comprehensiveness and quality of the collection and current user demand is considered secondary. Acquisitions are made in the principal European languages of scholarship relevant to each subject area. Selection procedures include review of publishers' catalogues, annual subject bibliographies, book reviews, faculty recommendations, and user requests. A particularly effective tool has been the review of bibliographies in standard monographs, which are checked against the Library's holdings. Where applicable, retrospective purchasing enables the filling in of significant gaps in the collection.
Periodical holdings in AULOTS have been reviewed and in some cases new periodical subscriptions have been entered and extensive back runs have been purchased of relevant journals not readily available elsewhere (for example, Ons Geestelijk Erf 1927- , purchased 2004).
The interdisciplinary character of spirituality as an emerging field of research and teaching presents some difficulties of field boundary definition for a library whose collecting areas have been deliberately restricted. In such cases the librarian must weigh preserving the coherence and usefulness of the specialised collection against the ease of finding related materials in other libraries. On this basis preference is often given to material not held by, or thought unlikely to be purchased by, other libraries. Budgetary constraints naturally impose restrictions on purchases: particularly expensive items (sets, some reference works) must often be foregone, especially when available elsewhere. Delayed purchase has often proved an effective strategy for acquiring expensive books at reduced prices.
9. Special collections
Carmelitana (all titles by or about Carmelites) is treated as a special collection and housed in a separate range. It includes comprehensive multilingual holdings on the major Carmelite mystical authors, and all the scholarly periodicals and specialist indexes in the area.
The Library also has a rare book collection of about 500 pre-1800 titles, mostly in the area Carmelitana. It is currently housed off-site, but is available to researchers.
In general, the library no longer acquires theological material outside its areas of specialisation, and noncollection areas are naturally going out of date. The major limitation in the specialist areas is financial. Opening hours are restricted but presently considered more than adequate, and consequent savings on staff costs have enabled increased collection intensity.
Some shortcomings in facilities (lighting, heating, office organisation, study carrels) will be addressed in the planned renovation.
11. Cooperative relationships with other libraries
The Carmelite Library is an associated library of Yarra Theological Union, one of the associated teaching institutions of Melbourne College of Divinity. Faculty and postgraduate students have reading and borrowing rights; undergraduate students have reading rights and may borrow on payment of the annual fee. The Library participates in ANZTLA and LIAM, and the International Association of Carmelite Librarians.
Our specialisation policy was decided independently based on criteria internal to the Carmelite Order, but there was a lively awareness that no other library was pursuing the same specialisations and that therefore a significant contribution could be made to the distributed theological collection in Melbourne. Our collection policy is likely to fit readily into future cooperative developments between theological libraries in Melbourne.
12. Collection evaluation
Comprehensive reviews were undertaken by Dr Ken O’Malley of Chicago Theological Union in 1993 and as part of the MCD conspectus process in 1999.
13. Preservation activity
Monographs are purchased in hardback or paperback depending on anticipated use. Repairs are carried out as needed. The library is not air-conditioned or humidity-controlled but conditions are generally good.
The main preservation concern relates to unbound periodicals. Little binding has been done over the years, and the majority of periodicals are unbound and with increased susceptibility to loss. This is of some concern, especially given the proportion of periodicals not readily available elsewhere. A limited binding program has been undertaken, but within present budgetary limitations the situation is unlikely to be significantly rectified in the near future.
The present librarian has adopted a conservative policy with regard to deselection. General theological journals outside our areas of specialisation were deselected in the mid-1980s and donated to other libraries. Pressing space considerations before relocation from Donvale required some weeding of older monographs, mainly philosophy, psychology, sociology, literature, and older seminary textbooks and manuals. Storage space will not be a consideration in the foreseeable future. Some weeding could still be done in non-active areas of the collection, but is not presently accorded a high priority.
In accordance with the practice of research collections, deselection is not generally practised in the areas of specialisation, where older materials, variant editions, translations, and so on are retained.
15. Review of the collection development policy
The Carmelite Librarian is responsible for review of the collection development policy, in consultation with the Board of Governance and the Advisory Board. It is suggested that the policy be subject to review every five years.
Revd Dr Paul Chandler, O.Carm.
Carmelite Librarian 16 May 2005