Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Confessions of a (Reforming) Bookaholic: Books Get a Second Life in a Global Library

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Confessions of a (Reforming) Bookaholic: Books Get a Second Life in a Global Library

Article excerpt

It's possible that we finally get it. We live in the land of excess, consuming more than we possibly need. But having confessed our sins, how do we atone for our transgressions? Or simply put, now what do we do with all our stuff?

Clothes, shoes, dishes are easy. But if you love books, as I do, you find yourself contemplating a process that has far more emotion attached. It's not good enough to just give books away. You have to find a worthy home for your volumes, especially the long-treasured ones.

And that's where the Theological Book Network comes in. The network will gratefully accept your books and then find homes for them overseas where they are not only desperately needed but will make all the difference in the lives of students and scholars.

True, they are not looking for just any old books. They are helping build libraries, especially in developing world seminaries. (Think Ellul, not Ludlum.) But the staff members of the network are certified bibliophiles who would never consider sending a book to a home where it was not going to be treasured.

I have had the pleasure of walking through their warehouse with Kurt Berends, the executive director. Berends spends more time in the ware house than behind a desk because that's where the books are. Like a kid in a candy store, he loves to show where the volumes are thoughtfully sorted, how they are matched with requests from overseas, even how the boxes for overseas shipments are packed by him and the other members of the staff, most more qualified to be professors than packing clerks.

THERE IS SOMETHING almost sacred about the process. Berends and his staff love books, get excited to open boxes and find theology texts, are even more thrilled to get requests from poor countries where books are rare and students are desperate to learn.

Having been a professor at both Calvin College and the University of Notre Dame, Berends understands the importance of textbooks. So when he first visited a school in Africa i where his father was working and discovered that many classes shared only one book and the libraries were "pathetic" by Western standards or simply nonexistent, he knew he had to find i a way to help. …

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