A Letter from Librarian CITS David Butler
Some 30 years ago, I sat on the church board of this local church and one Dr. Huang proposed before this board that he needed a library for the seminary which he was starting, which would be located in this same church campus. I was reminded (either by memory, or by the voice of God) that I had done library cataloging twenty-some years before while in high school. It would not be too difficult for me to teach someone how to catalog library books for this CITS library.
That didn’t work out. For as you can see, I am still here cataloging books for the library and others move on to other ministries or callings.
I got in touch with a woman whom I call the book lady, Joyce Berk. Her ministry was supplying Christian books to seminaries and Bible colleges around the world. And she had been doing it for many years already. Would she be willing to help us get started? She was very kind and graciously accepted the challenge to get us going.
She provided many books for the beginning and then eventually I found places and means of getting more books which were very inexpensive and yet still very useful.
It would be up to Dr. Huang to provide books in the Chinese language. And he did.
This CITS library houses about 15,000 volumes, of which about 20% are in Chinese.
We started with typed catalog cards and that continued for many years. (See illustration 2) Eventually it was possible to upgrade to a computer program, so that now all the books are represented in a computer data-base, rather than on Catalog cards. (See illustration 1) This means that you can access all the books in the CITS library by using our data-base. The information in the data-base is in English, but the book may be in Chinese.
I learned many things about Chinese throughout the years. Regardless of the verbal language of the Chinese, such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese and other various “eses”, the written language was the same for all. That was very helpful, because then we didn’t need to have the Chinese books in several variations, when one set could be read by all.
Then I found out that there were different variations, there was traditional style which used Chinese characters which were more pronounced, and the placement on the page was vertical columns beginning with the back of the book and reading forward, also reading from right to left. But for the students from mainland, this was all old fashioned, for they had simplified Chinese characters, and the placement on the page was horizontal beginning with the front of the book, and reading from left to right, which is the same style as in western (English) books.
Now comes the concept that libraries are outdated and will soon be obsolete. That would be done by converting all the books to ebooks. But not so fast, because the publisher (the one who owns the copyright) is not about to grant that to anyone, especially when it means that the publisher would make no money from the ebook. So ebooks are not likely to replace print version of books until there is some guarantee to the publisher that revenue can be had from this new venture. Technology moves very quickly but some things are slow to change. Probably print books will be here way past my lifetime.
Have you ever wondered why I am still with the CITS library after 30 years of working with it? I consider it my ministry and I have thanked God many times for the opportunity to serve this library. It provides me personally with such important benefits as working on a project which will outlast me, working on a project which is good for the Kingdom of God, and working with people who are a delight to work with (well, most of the time, anyway).
Until the day comes in which Chinese students are miraculously endowed with the ability to read English, and the English-speaking staff become endowed with the ability to read Chinese, we will continue to have a bi-lingual library, hoping to serve the most students and professors. This appears to be God’s direction for this library, and I’m happy with that.
Illustration 1 shows the library’s OPAC. Illustration 2 shows a card catalog with typed catalog cards
-- David A. Butler, CITS Librarian (12/10/2019)