For this blogging task I considered the three resources below and how their ideas and the resources themselves could be used in library practice.
(I mainly concentrated on the sections ‘Multiculturalism’, ‘Religion and dissent in universities’ and ‘Religion and knowledge of religion in UK universities’.)
Supporting enquiries on faith in the library
I occasionally receive enquiries from students relating to religion and I am always aware of asking for more details from them in a sensitive way so that I can help them appropriately. In the UAL Case Studies on the ‘Religion, Belief and Faith Identities in Learning and Teaching’ website, I agree with Angela Drisdale Gordon’s comments on approaching discussion on religion “from a perspective of curiosity”. Being curious and asking open questions is a good approach.
This resource shows how important faith is to many students and that this is something they wish to explore in their work. As well as supporting study needs, I believe that the library can play an important pastoral role. It should provide resources to support well-being, explore aspects of their own identity and come across unfamiliar beliefs too. As Modood and Calhoun also make clear, faith is inevitably a part of public society, not just a private matter and can’t be ignored as an aspect of class, community, economics, public policy and geopolitics. Therefore, it is a subject on which the library should hold a good selection of resources.
Calhoun mentions librarians as playing a key role in supporting knowledge of religion, along with other university staff, and that it would be beneficial if staff could improve their knowledge. Recently a subject guide on ‘Faith and Belief’ has been created by staff at LCF. This lists books on different faiths and themes and although it may need further development, it could be a good starting point for librarians and students alike. As Angela Drisdale Gordon mentions, it is also beneficial to do our own research into subjects the students want to explore but with which we are unfamiliar. This could be partly achieved by the many online courses in religious literacy such as this one from Harvard: Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures
At CSM Library we recently allocated some extra funds to buy books on faith and spirituality as it was felt that our resources were not adequate to support student’s research. However, I have been unsure how to go about deciding what to purchase but having read these resources I would like to ask the UAL SU faith societies, such as the UAL Christian Union and the UAL Islamic Society, the UAL Religion, Belief and Faith Identities in Learning and Teaching Community of Practice, and staff and students more widely.
Library displays on faith
It would be interesting to do a project with students where groups of students or individuals could create library displays relating to their faith, using items from the collections and/or their own work. The displays might show to other students who have a faith that it is something that the library embraces. All these resources could be used to start discussions about faith in universities, and what the displays could contain and how they could be presented. For example, it might appear divisive if each display cabinet contained items from one religion. On listening to Kwame Anthony Appiah’s ideas about faith not being just about beliefs but also about practices and community, I thought perhaps it would be interesting to theme each cabinet on a practice or community event e.g. prayer, festivals and celebrations, art, dress, mourning. This might highlight similarities as well as variance between and within faiths.
Here are some images of previous library displays as an example
One of the main messages in the Modoon & Calhoun paper is that secularism is also a complex ideology rather than the absence of ideology, so the displays would need to include secularism, humanism and atheism too. Kwame Anthony Appiah noted in his lecture on ‘Creed’ there is much diversity within religions, so it would be important to respect that. This could be addressed by ensuring as many students as possible are aware and able to take part if they wish, and by adding a notice to the displays inviting students to add further content to make it an ongoing process.