05 August 2010
Spent the past few evenings hanging out at the local Catholic university library doing a project for my homeschool group. Although the library has been remodeled quite a bit since my days there, the distinctive smell of the book stacks takes me back to the days when I used to eat my lunch in the poorly lighted corridors. Decades ago we used text books, library books and had no computers, save an old VAX account that went no where.
Another thing hasn't changed, but I didn't know it back then. It appears to be true until this day. College students at a private Catholic university aren't checking out good Catholic authors.
I've checked out a few "standard fare" Catholic authors from the library in the past several months. The library still uses the little slip in the back of the book with a date stamp -- they've obviously been using this method for generations. I checked out "How the Reformation Happened" by Hilaire Belloc only to find in the last 60 years that this book has sat on the shelf, it's been checked out about a dozen times (the scant dates go back that far). That means the university librarians have probably handled the book more often to move it during construction and renovation than a new freshman has reached for this book as a source for a history paper.
It wasn't just this book. There were shelves of Belloc's works that stood taller than me. Multiple copies of nearly everything. Multiple copies that have sat neglected on the shelves.
I dug out a smattering of others in a fairly wide spectrum that you'd expect a better showing from: Christopher Dawson, G.K. Chesterton, Fr. Stanley Jaki, Joseph Pearce, Scott Hahn, etc. The book of Father Jaki's that I checked out had been sitting on the shelf for 10 years, brand new, never having been used until I checked it out.
And, sadly, some of the "Catholic" books I've searched for aren't even found at this library. One in particular I had to get through InterLibrary Loan from the University of Minnesota. Some others were at Macalester, the liberal school just down the road; and some were at Concordia and St. Kate's.
Although in the library's defense, their search engine sometimes does not show books that the library does have (try searching under Crusades and Belloc and you won't get any listings, although, if I remember correctly, the library has several copies).
I don't know what's worse, that students aren't aware of these books or their authors and aren't using them, or that the tools to search for the books don't "find" them.