Rerum Novarum Scientia
Story and Photo by Bruce Flath
This week the Mount Angel Abbey Library kicked off a new season of Rerum Novarum Scientia, the Library's program to bring library and research skills to seminarians and other scholars. Librarians Victoria Ertelt and Bruce Flath are presenting the program for the new academic year on Wednesdays at 12:15 in the Aquinas Student Lounge near the dining room.
Ertelt got the idea of bringing tailored library instruction sessions to seminarians in the summer of 2011 after reading about the best practices of bibliographic instruction in academic libraries. The literature suggested that, rather than passively waiting for patrons to approach reference librarians in the library, librarians should go to those places where it is convenient for patrons.
Ertelt explained that although she also provides bibliographic instruction for specific classes and is usually available in her office if people have research questions, Rerum Novarum Scientia gives the library staff an opportunity to bring that same instruction to a wider group of people. Since the sessions are only a half an hour long, attendees are not overwhelmed with a lot of new knowledge. Because Ertelt loves to bake, she brings fresh-baked treats to sessions as an added incentive to attend.
The name of the program means "Knowledge of New Things" in Latin. The name was inspired by the title of the encyclical on social justice, De Rerum Novarum. "We wanted to talk about 'new things' that were available through the library which the hilltop community could use to do research," said Ertelt. The phrase res nova also means "revolution" in classical Latin, so the program name reflects the revolution in technology that libraries have experienced in the past few decades.
When asked if she felt the program was successful, Ertelt said, "Yes, I've had a lot of positive feedback from students, instructors, and monks. Our online databases are great resources that are underutilized, and the program teaches researchers how to use the online databases more efficiently. Also, those who attend the session on Internet searching will discover how to use Google in a way that is more efficient and that gets them the most valuable resources."
The next session will be on Wednesday, October 3, at 12:15 p.m., and it will cover the use of the online databases. A summary of the first session covering the library's online catalog is available on the library website. Notices of future dates and topics will appear on the seminary listserv.