Dilatato Corde 5:2
July - December, 2015

Odile Dupont,editor
De Gruyter

In 2009, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) launched a special interest group called RELINDIAL (Religious Library Intercultural Dialogue), “dedicated to libraries serving as places of dialogue between cultures through a better knowledge of religions.” The present volume is the first official publication of RELINDIAL and brings together contributors from Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, writing primarily in English, but also in French.

Each of the twelve contributions explores a number of different ways that libraries can serve dialogue: by collecting the sacred scriptures of other religions; by building the technical tools to facilitate research; by supporting dialogue in theological and religious education; and by creating bonds of friendship through outreach activities.

One of the most substantial essays is that of Jesuit Father Noel Sheth of Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune, India. Among the many purposes and aims of interreligious dialogue, he notes the promotion of peace and harmony; interior dialogue and personal enrichment; and greater understanding of one’s own religion. He illustrates each of these with topics and considerations with appropriate insights from his own wealth of experience in interreligious dialogue in pluralistic India. For example, he notes the Christian belief in only one incarnation of God in contrast to the Hindu (Vaishnavism) belief in many and repeated avataras or descents of God. “When Christians encounter this different understanding and reflect over the reason for this difference, they discover that the doctrine of one incarnation makes sense within the linear worldview.” Conversely, Vashnavites realize that their doctrine makes excellent sense within their own cyclic worldview.

A number of the essays focus specifically on the history and holdings of particular libraries: the library of the Pontifical Urbaniana University (Rome), rich in material relating to Catholic missions; the Bibliothèque Nationale du Royaume du Maroc (Rabat, Morocco); the library of Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth (JDV); and Banaras Hindu University (Varanasi, India). Besides the obvious importance of collecting a wide variety of sacred scriptures and written materials pertaining to other religions, one adjunct of collection development that deserves greater consideration is donation or gift. Jesuit Father Thomas Reddy of JDV, for example, mentions a massive, multivolume edition of the Bhagavata-purana along with associated commentaries gifted to his library by a Hindu institution in Gujarat. Libraries are constantly receiving donations of books they already hold. The gifting of such duplicates could easily contribute to dialogue and build goodwill between libraries.

Perhaps the most technical essay is that of Dominican Father René-Vincent du Grandlauanay of the Institut dominicain d’études orientales in Cairo. He describes the development of the cataloging application AlKindi, which enables the full integration of the library’s mostly Arabic- and French-language materials into a single, multilingual interface. His library had to address thorny issues like transliteration, the structure of Arabic names, and the disentangling of various strands of commentary from the original texts.

Stephen Brown of the Global Digital Library on Theology and Ecumenism (GlobeTheoLib), a joint project of the World Council of Church and Globethics.net, describes how that online platform provides free access to more than 600,000 full-text articles, documents and publications. One of GlobeTheoLib’s aims is to break the near monopoly on theological and ethical scholarship of Western institutions by increasing access and fostering exchange between wealthy and developing countries to the mutual enrichment of all.

Two of the collection’s final essays describe the efforts of children’s librarians to foster dialogue, showing that dialogue, especially the broader dialogue of cultures, is not just for adults. Liz Weir, for example, used storytelling to foster peace and reconciliation among children in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Another program of IFLA is that of creating formal links between children’s libraries in different countries. These sister libraries, whether in Sweden and Singapore or Togo and France, often exchange books carefully selected by children and librarians and communicate via social media. While many monasteries have vertical affiliations through mother and daughter houses, wouldn’t it be great if they also had sister and brother houses? They wouldn’t even have to be international, but could involve neighboring monasteries of diverse traditions.

Libraries Serving Dialogue provides many interesting and fascinating examples of what libraries are already doing to foster intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Hopefully, monks and nuns from around the world can take inspiration from these efforts.

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