The Interfaith Library is Open and Operating!
TIO's Library - Formatted, Catalogued, and Ready for "Check-out"
by Megan Weiss
I have always loved libraries. I worked at my hometown library for six years and at one point dreamed of becoming a librarian myself. Now this dream has come true, although in an unexpected way, since never once did I think I would be building a library from the bottom up!
The construction of TIO’s digital Library, once known as ‘the archive,’ began in conjunction with creating TIO’s new website last year. Paul Chaffee, TIO’s editor, and I surveyed the five-year-old collection of articles, divided into 81 subject “categories.” TIO needed a much more condensed, delineated system if it was to be useful in making TIO’s growing content easily accessible to our readers. I don’t think either of us fully understood the size of the project we were undertaking. In line with any good cataloging system, we decided our first task was to create a list of the most important subject categories. The task seems relatively simple, until you realize that it required reviewing over 1500 articles.
I remember long phone conversations with Paul, discussing what the major “rooms” in TIO’s new library would be; how each room would contain a number of related major subjects; and how clicking on a particular subject would connect you to several – or several dozen – linked articles on that particular subject. That was the dream. After multiple draft revisions, we hammered out an organizational structure satisfying us both.
Now it was time for the task that took me several months to complete: formatting articles from one web platform to another. In general, transferring the copy, the text that is, from the old website to a new digital version of TIO went smoothly. No surprise though – we ran into huge disconnects in how our pages were formatted as we moved from Squarespace 5 software to Squarespace 7. Picture captions now bled into the body text. Headers didn’t match. Articles were no longer linked to an author’s bio. Videos weren’t formatted correctly.
Early on I found a significant number of links needed updating; going forward I checked every link in each article. This long and sometimes tedious process has been well worth it though. The upgrade allowed us to explore all sorts of graphic possibilities that we’d never enjoyed before and a new ease of use, once you learn the simple system. The pictures, insights, and links to a myriad of compelling interfaith stories, books, organizations, events, and topics transform TIO’s articles into windows looking out into the world.
What to Find and Where to Find It
There are three ways to peruse TIO’s new digital Library. First and foremost is the ‘building’ itself, which can be accessed through the Library tab of the header bar at the top of all TIO webpages. As the “librarian” responsible for creating and updating the system, the library is my pride and joy. It offers easy access to stories related to what you are interested in and is a testament to the breadth of interfaith.
The library is divided into four sections – analogous to the different rooms of a library:
Who We Are – The subjects here include: The Interfaith Family; Inclusivity; Interfaith Culture; Leadership; History; and Traditions. (Then as you drill down … “The Interfaith Family” contains links to Children; Young Adults; Women; Family; and Marriage. Click on any of these links to go to stories about that subject.)
Interfaith Formation – The subjects here include: Education (State of Formation); Meaning Making; Prayer; Indigenous Spirituality; Spirituality/Interspirituality; and the Arts.
Relationships – The subjects here include: Food; Coexistence; Dialogue; Intrafaith; Proselytizing; Ethics; Peacebuilding; Interfaith Relationships; Interfaith Collaboration; Communication/Technology; Stakeholders; Interfaith Organizations; Global Reports; and Funding.
Special Issues – The subjects here include: Social Justice; Sustainable Development; Religious Freedom; Religious Hatred/Violence; Politics; Environment/Climate; and Science.
Our hope is that this overview of 70 subject categories ranging from Indigenous Traditions to Science and religion will allow you to survey the whole library quickly and focus in on your particular interests and needs.
But there is more than one way into this Library!
More Doors into Interfaith Issues
A second approach involves the Journal Issues tab at the top of all TIO webpages. Most issues of TIO have a particular theme running through the majority of that month’s articles. The Journal Issues tab on the top of TIO’s pages lets you survey all of TIO’s themes since the September 2011 launch. Each is dated and linked, giving you access to your choice of themes. (About a third to half of each month’s stories are not about that month’s particular theme; for instance, each month the “Interfaith News Roundup” aggregates a story-summary of important current news, and an updated Religious Calendar is posted.)
Finally, you can use the Search box in the upper right corner of the header bar on TIO’s pages. In addition to subject categories, each article has also been assigned tags corresponding to the key ideas, people, organizations, and places it mentions. Personally the search box is my least favorite method because it goes through all the content on TIO's site and brings up all the links to the word(s) you searched, connections which may or may not really be about your issue. On the upside, using the search box frees you from the limits of predefined categories, so I encourage you to use it if you want to find something specific.
Going Beyond TIO
Now that you have access to an interfaith library full of information and insight, how can you use it?
Let me share what I’m doing. As a graduate student focused on interfaith studies, I am currently taking a course with Dr. Philip Clayton called, “Seizing an Alternative: Towards an Ecological Civilization.” Climate change is a core component of this course. Thinking my classmates might appreciate additional resources on this topic, I sent Dr. Clayton a link to the June 2013 issue – largely devoted to climate change – and it is now included on the class resource page. (If you go into the Special Issues room in the TIO Library and select “Environment/Climate,” you’ll find more than 40 articles on the subject – a gold mine.) I’m confident you can find your own unique way to integrate this content into your context. Find your own ‘trigger’ issue, explore a bit, and figure out how you can learn from and share what you find in this ongoing interfaith dialogue.
Ultimately the greatest gift TIO’s library has to offer is knowledge. Knowledge not only is power, as Francis Bacon said; more importantly knowledge has power. It has the power to open minds, inspire, heal, build relationships, give hope, and most importantly, to transform into wisdom, if we allow it. Knowledge is necessary to initiate a movement, but wisdom actualizes it. I believe the broader our knowledge base is, the more compassionate and understanding we will be toward the “other.”
TIO is a wellspring of knowledge. Within it the rivers of the past, present, and future meet. It overflows with nourishing resources for interfaith activists, scholars, and for the simply curious who are attracted to the gifts of diversity and mutual respect. I highly encourage everyone to “check-out” our new Library. And thank you to all of our contributors for making it such a rich source of wisdom!
Header Photo: The Long Hall, the 18th century library at Trinity University Dublin – Photo: Wikimedia, David Iliff, Cc.3.0