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Publication Date

Fall 9-13-2019


holy listening, listening, Christian librarianship, reference librarian


Along with all Christians, I live out a vocation – both a general and a missional calling. More specifically, as a Christian who is a librarian, my missional calling is to serve my patrons. In my experience, the best way that I can fulfill this service is by listening. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together, “[t]he first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them” (1954, p. 97).

Many pastors and spiritual directors write on the practice and importance of listening for the work they perform. The listening they do is shaped by their faith, as well as their professional practice. A number of librarians (Christian or not), write about the intersection of listening with their work. There is scant literature, on how a Christian librarian’s faith and calling shape our listening as librarians. In this essay I will suggest a new model for reference work with patrons at a Christian university. By examining literature from librarianship and from two Christian helping professions, I will pose a model for holy listening as a Christian librarian. I am particularly addressing librarians who are employed at Christian universities, where our faith shapes and informs the work we do as reference librarians, but the ideas presented here can also apply to the work of any librarian who is a Christian. Examples gleaned from my practice as an academic librarian are provided.

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© 2019 Garrett B. Trott. All rights reserved.


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