Church House library winding down operations

Library services at General Synod are beginning to wind down in anticipation of full closure on December 31, 2011. The first step will be on June 1, 2011, when Librarian Karen Evans will end her research and reference services. The General Synod Archives will now handle these queries.

General Synod's library will end its reference services June 1, 2011, and close completely on Dec. 31, 2011.
General Synod’s library will end its reference services June 1, 2011, and close completely on Dec. 31, 2011.

The library closure is part of wider General Synod cutbacks and layoffs announced in fall 2010. These decisions are in line with General Synod’s 2009 commitment to eliminate deficit budgeting by 2012 and to establish a budget that is sustainable.

Bev Murphy, senior manager of communications, leads a staff team that is overseeing the library transition over 2011.

“We’re trying to make the library system as accessible as possible and to try to maintain as much as we can of the collections,” she said.

The General Synod library collection has close to 7,000 books, as well as periodicals, vertical files, and five online databases, including a database of more than 34,000 news articles.

The library’s mandate was to provide reference and information services for material by and about the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion. As well, the library gathered material of interest to General Synod staff and committees.

“One thing we’re trying to do is ensure that the collections stay together as valid collections and not be parceled in separate pieces,” said Ms. Murphy. “Unfortunately, it won’t be as convenient. People will have to do their own research, but the information will be kept integral.”

Most of the General Synod collection will be divided between two recipients. The Graham Library at Trinity College, University of Toronto, will accept the book collection, including primarily Anglican Communion materials. General Synod staff will be granted some access and borrowing privileges at this site.

Other material will be housed at the General Synod Archives, including unique Canadian Anglican publications and biography files. This material will match the archives’ mandate: to acquire, preserve, and provide access to records of enduring value created by the Anglican Church of Canada.

Over the next few months, Ms. Murphy and her team will continue the work of relocating the library’s collection. The destination of some material, including the online databases, has yet to be determined.

The General Synod library, officially known as the Chancellor R. V. Harris Memorial Library, has fielded requests by post, phone, personal visits, and email since its founding in 1965.

Ms. Evans said she has answered more than 46,000 reference requests since she started work at Church House in 1988. She has helped people embark on complex research projects, track down old friends, or find specific articles. She has received phone calls from Romania, Rwanda, and around the Anglican Communion.

Ms. Evans said that the library’s strengths were its specialized nature and accessibility as a first point of contact.

Another vital strength was Ms. Evans herself, whose personality, zeal and dedication to the church and to service made accessing the library a distinct pleasure, said Vianney (Sam) Carriere, director of communications and information resources. “For many people of many faiths, Karen Evans was the voice of the Anglican Church of Canada,” he said, “and our reputation throughout the Communion is without a doubt substantially enhanced because of her approach to doing her job.”

“I enjoyed being the reception point,” said Ms. Evans. “I think it was an important pastoral service to be a face to the church, to be a good listener, and to be respectful.”

In a May 30 email to General Synod staff, Ms. Murphy requested “patience and understanding” as library services ended. She noted that General Synod staff members are “working to ensure a smooth and professional transition to a new way of working.”

For information about the General Synod collection, contact Laurel Parson, assistant archivist, by email or phone: (416) 924-9199 ext. 278.

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