Earlier this year, Dr Gareth Lloyd, curator of Christian religious archives, was honoured to accept an invitation to present a paper at the prestigious annual conference of The American Theological Library Association (ATLA), held in New Orleans, 17-21 June 2014.
The theme of the presentation was “New Audiences, Challenges and Opportunities: A Victorian library transformed”. The paper examined the response of the John Rylands Library to a rapidly changing special collections environment and how this has fundamentally transformed the institution in positive yet sometimes challenging ways. The presentation was well-received and will be published in the conference proceedings.
ATLA is a very appropriate forum for such a discussion. With over 800 members, it is the world’s largest professional association providing support to theological/religious studies libraries, including special collections. The membership is centred in North America, although there is some international participation. The focus is Christian, but there is representation from other major religious traditions, including Judaism and Islam. The association engages in a wide range of activities including provision of a wide range of electronic resources such as the ATLA Religion Database® (ATLA RDB®), ATLASerials® (ATLAS®) and ATLA Catholic Periodical and Literature Index® (ATLA CPLI®).
The John Rylands Library has world-class special collections across the field of religious studies, but it has had little previous involvement with ATLA, so this was an ideal opportunity to showcase our collections and facilities and to engage with colleagues from around the world in one of America’s most exciting and culturally diverse cities.