About the discipline
Some would argue that religion created the information revolution. The desire to have and to understand the record of religious thought and theology helped create what is now a mass market for information.
Early Christian records moved from verbal memorization to papyrus scroll to parchment codex or book, which was portable and easily referenced. Moveable type meant books such as Bibles were no longer prohibitively expensive, didn’t take a long time to produce and were available in vernacular translations outside Latin. This 16th-century revolution could be compared to today’s Internet, allowing easy access to a multitude of information with no “gatekeeper.”
Historically, religion has been one of the first elements of society to embrace technological advances, from the printing press to radio to the Internet. Though some religions have been criticized at various points in their history for controlling and censoring information, historically religiously affiliated institutions such as Christian monasteries and Islamic libraries have preserved important religious, philosophical and scientific texts across the ages. This archiving not only preserved information but encouraged the ideology of placing value on information.
Modern information technology and library science – with its focus on improving learning, information organization and retrieval, human invention and innovation, and dissemination of new technologies and processes – could look to religion as a model of how information and technology have been used over the centuries and today.
Religion and technology: Religions aim to meet human spiritual, social and community needs. As technology has changed – changing both how people communicate and how communities are structured – religions have adapted to and used these new ways to communicate thoughts and ideas. Information and communities available on the Internet have taken religion to a place begun with the Protestant Reformation and printing of vernacular Bibles – it allows people to develop spirituality outside of the traditional power structures such as churches or religious leaders. Advances in technology have also been useful in preserving and disseminating religious texts. Today, people can read the entire Bible, Koran and other texts on-line, and many sites are searchable by chapter, phrase or keyword.
Houses of worship, denominations and faiths have Web sites where you can find everything from what time services are, to the address, to basic beliefs and pro- and con- arguments about the faith. Virtual seminaries are changing religious education, and digitized resources are available for schools and churches. Hundreds – possibly thousands – of texts, from journals to literature and primary sources – are available digitized and for free over the Internet. The Virtual Vatican site allows researchers to access the Vatican library and virtually examine objects such as 15th-century manuscripts. The Holy Land Satellite Atlas with a CD-ROM contains satellite maps of the Middle East and software permitting students to “fly” over the terrain of biblical sites.
Issues today: Advances in technology bring with them new ethical debates. One could examine whether online religious communities provide the same connection as “real” ones, and whether the Internet functions to bind a real-world community together or disconnect members from each other. The Internet has made pornography, infidelity, child crimes and identity crimes more accessible, which poses new challenges for a community as a whole and ethical dilemmas for some in the religious community who believe the Internet can be used for good, but has great propensity for evil.
While some would deem exposure to other belief systems found through the Internet an enhancement to their spirituality, some religious leaders are concerned exposure to other religions or criticism about their religion could weaken believers’ adherence or cause spiritual ruin. Still, the field of religion and technology poses many opportunities for those in the information technology or library profession. Cataloguing and making available the thousands of religious documents that exist can inform us about the past and our views of religion today. With the expanding global marketplace, they could make digital texts accessible in previously unavailable languages and allow access to documents previously unseen in nations around the world. Having these resources available opens the global public to information that previously may have been unavailable, in some countries even suppressed, possibly for religious reasons.
There is increased interest in religion, with discovery of texts such as the Gospel of Judas, and Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code. Having access to information digitally and easily can put “primary documents” into people’s hands as they explore questions about faith. Maintaining the religious record in new ways also makes them accessible for younger generations who grew up with this technology and will naturally use it in years to come.
- “A new classification for the literature of religion” by Vanda Broughton, University College London, London, UK, 66th IFLA Council and General Conference. Jerusalem, Israel, Aug. 13-18, 2000
- “English Library Seeks Globalization of Buddhism” by Han Sang-hee. Korea Times, Apr. 29, 2009.
- “Plan Would Limit Prison Chapel Books” by Solomon Moore. The New York Times, March 18, 2009.
- “Fighting fear with knowledge” by Matt Gunderson. The Boston Globe, Oct. 11, 2007.
- Yang, Shirley Ou and Carol Hsu. “The Power of Networks and Information Flows–In Circuits of Power Perspective in Online Religion.” PACIS Proceedings, 2011.
- TechGnosis: Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information. Erik Davis. Gale Group, 2004.
- Painting Religion in Public: John Singer Sargent’s Triumph of Religion at the Boston Public Library. Sally M. Promey. Princeton University Press, 1999.
- Library Research Guide to Religion and Theology: Illustrated Search Strategy and Sources. James R. Kennedy. Pierian, 1984.
- The ancient library of Alexandria and early Christian theological development. J. Harold Ellens. Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, 1993.
- The Library of Alexandria: Centre of Learning in the Ancient World. Roy MacLeod. I. B. Tauris, 2004.
- Case Studies in Library and Information Science Ethics. Elizabeth A. Buchanan and Kathrine Andrews Henderson. McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers, 2008.
- Library and Information Services to Social Science Researchers: A Case Study from India(.pdf)
- Montiel-Overall, Patricia and Sandra Littletree. “Knowledge River: A Case Study of a Library and Information Science Program Focusing on Latino and Native American Perspectives.” Library Trends. Vol. 59, Nos. 1 and 2 (Summer/Fall 2010).
Codes of ethics
- American Library Association – Code of Ethics
- International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions – Strategic Plan
- Medical Library Association – Code of Ethics
- Journal of Information Science
- Library Journal
- School Library Journal
- Law Library Journal
- Urban Library Journal
- Information Sciences
- Open Information Science Journal
- Most Controversial Books Ever Banned by Libraries
- Counterbalance Interactive Library
- The International Society for Science & Religion Library Project
- Religious information and data
- Association of Religion Data Archives
Professional associations and faith groups
- Association of Christian Librarians
- Association of Jewish Libraries
- Catholic Library Association
- Church and Synagogue Library Association
- Fellowship of Christian Librarians and Information Specialists
- American Academy of Religion Syllabi Search
- Banned Books and Novel Ideas. Ty Alyea. University of Texas at Austin.