Christ Seminary-Seminex Library: From Concordia Seminary in Exile Library to Seminex Legacy Collection

By Ebertz, Susan J. | Currents in Theology and Mission, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Christ Seminary-Seminex Library: From Concordia Seminary in Exile Library to Seminex Legacy Collection


Ebertz, Susan J., Currents in Theology and Mission


Today it is not unusual for a woman to be the director of a seminary library. But in 1962, when H. Lucille Hager was appointed the director of the Concordia Seminary library, there were very few female library directors and even fewer female seminary library directors. Not only was Hager the only female faculty member at Concordia, but she was also tenured. She participated fully in the life of the seminary as a faculty member and had an equal vote in faculty meetings. Her competency can be seen by her successful tenure evaluation and her appointment as the library director despite her gender in a denomination that does not ordain women. She was an extraordinary woman like the other extraordinary library staff and supporters connected to the Seminex library.

When the Concordia Seminary Board of Control voted on the faculty members in 1973, they chose not to vote on whether Hager should be commended or corrected. (1) She could have stayed at the Concordia library, but, because of her convictions, she voted with most of the faculty members to go into exile. On the day in February 1974 when the faculty marched off campus, Hager put on her academic gown and joined them. (2) She left her library, her position, and her salary, sacrificing them for what she believed was right. But she did not leave her commitment to being a librarian: to serve the academic resource needs of the students and faculty.

Hager wasn't the only librarian to leave 801 (the name given to the Concordia campus by Seminexers). Tom Rick, technical services librarian; Thelda Bertram, cataloger; Ann Constable, part-time cataloger; Ellie Sauer, reference librarian; and the secretary all left with Hager to serve the students and faculty in exile. Three of them, Bertram, Constable, and Sauer were faculty spouses whose husbands also left. Betty Danker and Mary Bischoff remained at the 801 library. (3) Danker was in charge of circulation and was a faculty spouse whose husband went into exile. Bischoff was the acquisitions librarian and cataloger. Bischoff recalls that she thought the 801 administration would soon be negotiating with those that left. She remained at the 801 library to keep it running in expectation that the others would be back shortly. (4)

Hager put together a small library in the tight quarters of the refectory at St. Louis University. The library was in the corner of what was called the Commons with a desk for circulation and reference, chairs for the staff, and book shelves containing books on loan from several faculty members. (5) The resources were meager, but Concordia Seminary in Exile had a library, a symbol of the educational mission of the exiles and of the assistance of those who saw the library's importance.

Since the Seminex library in the Commons was not adequate for all the research and study needs of the students and faculty, arrangements were made for the use of the libraries at both St. Louis University School of Divinity and Eden Seminary. Additionally, Fontbonne College helped with cataloging. The consortial and supportive relationships of these other libraries helped sustain the Seminex students and faculty enormously.

Another unexpected library resource was the 801 library. Since she remained behind, Bischoff was appointed the acting director and allowed the Seminex students to use the 801 library. (6) They were, in a way, still Concordia students--just in exile; it made sense that they should be allowed to continue to use the library. Gwen Sayler, a Seminex student in her last semester when the walkout occurred, remembers continuing to study in the 801 library. It was closer to where she was living than the Seminex library or the Eden Seminary library. (7) This library resource, however, did not last long. Less than a year after the walkout, in January 1975, the 801 administration banned Seminex students from entering the 801 library. Perhaps the administration finally realized that the Seminex students were still using it. …

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