More than “just” about TRS: undergraduate dissertations at the Divinity Faculty

Image of dissertations at DivLib

Just two of a couple of undergraduate and MPhil dissertations recently added to stock.

Sometimes, people ask me at which subject/specialist library I work, and I almost always say “Divinity”, then followed by “Theology and Religious Studies”. Almost always people assume that this must mean that students here “only” study the holy scriptures, and when we catalogued and processed recent undergraduate and MPhil dissertations, I was struck by the diversity. I’ll give you the benefit of a very small “guided tour” of these dissertations, to show what I mean (the following are only two of the undergraduate dissertations, from the highest-marked dissertations given to us – many thanks to our colleagues in the Faculty Office, and the students for letting us have these):

The Old Nichol : religion and irrelgion in a late Victorian Slum, a study of rhetoric and reality (Part IIB, 2015), investigates Slums in England, or rather more specifically it gives an insight into the 19th century history of London, the religious life and customs of its time. How often have I heard people respond to me telling them that I am a librarian with something along the lines that this must be such a good job: with all the exciting stuff to read; alas, this dissertation would need to be added to a long list of things to read, maybe for a day after my retirement. Yes, obviously, this dissertations considers the religious believes at the time, but goes way beyond this. The nearly 40 illustrations in this text show not only churches, and portraits of victorian men (looking pensive), but also street scenes, signficiant squares, and street plans. This might also be of interest to anyone keen to know more about Victorian London.

It is maybe not very surprising that ‘Spiritual Communion’ and the search for a ‘higher inward life’ in George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch’ (Part IIB, 2016) focuses on Dorothea, her hopes before marriage, the experience of the marriage, and ultimately the status and struggle of women in the first part of the C19. However, to combine this approach of looking at the Feminist themes of the novel with Eliot’s philosophical ideas of self and religion, makes for (maybe) a far more philosophical reading than might have been expected from a TRS dissertation.

I will continue to highlight a couple more dissertations in the coming months – also of the MPhil dissertations; if you cannot wait that long, please check out the catalogue records for the other sample dissertations we have:

Oh, and read the guidelines at if you would like to consult these dissertations at the Divinity Library.


Outstanding e-resources for Theology and Religious studies: the Digital Karl Barth Library


dkbl-opening[Digital Karl Barth Library, front page; accessed 10 November 2016]


The Digital Karl Barth library provides comprehensive electronic access to Karl Barth’s works in both English and German, and, with a sophisticated search facility, is a powerful tool to support research.

A collaboration between the Theologischer Verlag Zürich (TVZ), the Princeton Theological Seminary and Alexander Street Press,  it provides the complete English translation of the Church Dogmatics, together with the German original, Die Kirchliche Dogmatik, and the definitive German edition of Barth’s works published by TVZ, the Gesamtausgabe, which includes his letters, sermons, lectures, conversations and academic writings.

Also present are many important individual volumes in English translation, such as ‘The Göttingen Dogmatics’, ‘The Theology of John Calvin’, ‘The Theology of Schleiermacher’ and ‘Karl Barth – Rudolf Bultmann: Letters 1922-1966’.

The resource has been produced to a high standard with the texts clearly displayed and easy to navigate. The detailed search capabilities offer especially great opportunities for studying the development of particular themes or the use of biblical passages over the whole breadth of Barth’s work. So, for example, it would be possible to retrieve a complete list of all the citations of Romans, chapter one, or all of the references to Hans Urs von Balthasar, throughout his work.

Other useful features include the ‘document lists’ organised by date, place and document type, which show what was written in a particular year or which of his writings relate to a particular place.

The subscription to this resource has been provided through a collaboration between Cambridge University Library, the Divinity Faculty Library and ebooks@cambridge.

Recent acquisitions 10/2016: Buddhism


Sarah Shaw, The Spirit of Buddhist Meditation, Yale University Press 2014, DivLib classmark: 15A SHAW 1

One comment from the National Student Survey 2016 stated that we did not have enough books on Hinduism and Buddhism; or rather s/he said ‘This year [2015-16] there has also been a serious lack of books in Cambridge that are essential for the C10 Hinduism and Buddhism paper, which seems like a serious over-sight. This is across all libraries and is something that really needs to be dealt with.’ We have been trying, with the help of the lecturer in Hinduism, to fill this gap (more books will shortly be on order).

In June I drew up a list of potential books on Buddhism – some of which we then bought. The first batch of books we acquired, or us trying to act on what you said (see also You said, we did!), is listed below; however, we always welcome suggestions [needs Raven authentification] – so please suggest any books; these recommendations will be especially welcome if they are about Buddhism and Hinduism.

ANALAYO, Bhikku Compassion and emptiness in early Buddhist meditation 9781909314559 Windhorse Publications 2015 15A ANAL 1
BARASH, David P. Buddhist biology : ancient Eastern wisdom meets modern Western science 9780199985562 OUP 2014 15A BARA 1
COOK, Joanna Meditation in modern Buddhism: renunciation and change in Thai monastic life  9780521119382 Cambridge Universtiy Press 2010 15A COOK 1
LEWIS, Todd Buddhists : understanding Buddhism through the lives of believers 9780470658185 Wiley-Blackwell 2014 15A LEWI 1
SHAW, Sarah The spirit of Buddhist meditation 9780300198768 Yale University Press 2014 15A SHAW 1
SHAW, Miranda Eberle Buddhist goddesses of India 9780691168548 Princeton University Press 2006 15A SHAW 2
KIEFFER-PÜLZ, Petra Sīmāvicāraṇa : a Pali letter on monastic boundaries by King Rāma IV of Siam 9789743503993 Lumbini International Research Institute 2011 15B RAMA 1
GYATSO, Janet Being human in a Buddhist world : an intellectual history of medicine in early modern Tibet 9780231164962 Columbia University Press 2015 15H GYAT 1
MITCHELL, Donald W. & JACOBY, Sarah Buddhism : introducing the Buddhist experience [3rd Revised edition] 9780199861873 OUP 2014 15H MITC 1c


You said, we did!

OPAC and MCS machines, near section 8 of mezzanine level of DivLib

OPAC and MCS machines, near section 8 of mezzanine level of DivLib

Welcome back, finally, also on our Blog! This time, we’ll cover some of the things which were suggested to us, and which we have tried to put in place for you: or simply “You said, we did!”

First, and relating to the photo above. In the Library Survey 2016 (conducted in March & April 2016), someone suggested ‘More Computers, and some upstairs’ (see an earlier post this year on Computers and printing). We didn’t know from this comment which kind of computers were wanted, but we have observed some library users dashing up to the Mezzanine level, and back to the OPACs/catalogue terminals on our ground level, and back and forth… So we have added one OPAC/catalogue terminal, near the beginning of section 8, and we also added one MCS computer. In the coming weeks we will monitor the usage of both, but anecdotal evidence suggest that both are in good use. Keep using them, or even better, let us know in person, or by email what you think about this change. We are grateful for the help from Dave Goode (Computer Officer), in enabling us to move these machines.

Second, last year Part IIB and MPhil students asked about sample dissertations, and the MPhil dissertations we had were very old. Finally, we can now provide some! Thank you to these students who gave us the permission to hold a copy of their work, and to provide it to students. A big thank you also to Karen Webb and Katy Williams (Faculty Office) – we couldn’t have done this without them!

We now have 2 Part IIB dissertations from 2015, 3 Part IIB dissertations from 2016, and more than 3 MPhil dissertations from 2016 (we are in the process of cataloguing more, so please check our catalogue in the next few weeks) by following these links:

More improvements to be made…


Library Survey 2016: More books!


New books display, opposite DivLib Issue Desk

We are happy for any current member of the University of Cambridge to recommend books to us. Preferably by emailing us, or using our online recommendation form, or using a (printed) recommendation form – available from a shelf opposite our Issue Desk. The worst feedback, I feel, you can get from any library user is “More books!” – that’s not because I don’t want to hear it. To the contrary: I like the idea that library users “still” want to use books (indeed my experience, of working in Cambridge for 6 years now, tells me that most library users prefer printed books to ebooks!) No, what is so bad about this feedback is:

  1. To me it somewhat sounds that you need to tell this to librarians, who – generally-speaking – do not have a problem with having more books, except for the constraints their library spaces might make on them.
  2. It is actually a fairly unhelpful comment. We add about 600-700 volumes per year (including numerous donations!), so we are “repeat offenders” when it comes to adding more books. However, when I read the suggestion “More books!”, I wonder two things: 1. Which specific books might this person have seen as lacking in our library provisions? 2. Did we (in theory) have a book, but was the copy (or were all copies) borrowed already, so that did we not have enough copies (not any multiple copies)?

We are really happy to have reader suggestions, as we cannot anticipate all the books any of our readers might want, need or find useful. Please, please, please let us know when you cannot get the book you needed.

Okay, onto the suggestions received in our Library Survey 2016:

Number of books:

More books on the reading lists for students. We are very happy to do this. However, we need your help! Please:

  • Put a hold on a book which is borrowed by someone else, but needed by you. We regularly check the holds placed on books, and where possible buy extra copies.
  • Please email us at to alert us of any books on reading lists we do not have. Most of your lecturers send us the reading lists for your papers in May and June of the year preceding when the paper is taught – however, despite our best efforts and working very hard between May and October, we do not always get reading lists from every single academic, and sometimes books are out-of-print, and not available second hand.
  • We are happy to purchase ebooks, but almost every single request for books we receive makes a preference for print, not online. Please let us know which titles you would like us to investigate as ebooks, and we’ll see which we can buy (not all books are available as ebooks to libraries!).
More copies of books on reading lists
Have more copies of books available, if two people are set the same essay it limits the books to one person
Have more books that are on the reading list available either in hard copy/online as many times students do the same essays at the same time and they are all taken out.
I’ve had trouble locating books on my reading list for the Islam module. Make sure these have been ordered to the library.
I think there should be more copies of books on reading lists as sometimes vital information for an essay is lost because the book was on loan to someone else and the divinity faculty was the only place that had it.
It’s not uncommon for reading list books (particularly for ordinands) to be all on loan: when buying multiple copies of core texts it might be sensible for some copies to be reserved. I’m sorry that this is the case, but there are two reasons for this:

1.       We actually do not receive reading lists for papers taught within the Cambridge Theological Federation.

2.       Our primary remit is to support the teaching and learning of members of the Faculty of Divinity, then any other member of the University of Cambridge.

We are happy for members of the Cambridge Theological Federation to borrow from the Divinity Library, but within the CTF you should have copies for the courses taught there, then the UL copies should be used, and DivLib should ideally only be your third point of call. We haven’t got the budget to purchase also multiple copies of core texts which might only be needed for CTF modules. Sorry!

Book topics:

More books in Christian Theology in addition to e-books. (I.e. Not settling on e-books only as a sufficient provision) We welcome suggestions, so please let us know of specific titles. Please fill out our online form, email, or fill out (a) Book Recommendation slip(s) (available from opposite the Issue Desk in the Library).
However, we won’t be able to buy all possible books, or even be able to anticipate what you will need/want. Also, we cannot duplicate every book which might be available either at the UL (over 9 million books!), or in other Faculty and Departmental Libraries. We are very keen to buy unique, relevant books – as it is likely that the books you need for your study and research might be needed by someone else too.


Library Survey 2016: Computers and Printing


Our multifunctional device: printing, photocopying & scanning

Often people I talk to think of libraries as “just” about books. However, some of our readers actually like to use our library as a working space – and some prefer to use our public work stations, as opposed to bringing their own laptop. The Library Survey 2016 had a specific section asking about computers and printing, but what follows are the suggestions made by our readers.


Allow us to put printing/photocopies on uni cards/pay for it online. This sounds like what we implemented in May: printing from the new MCS computers via DS-Print. If that was not what you meant, please let us now.
More knowledge about the printer – I did not know we could use it!

Make the printer/photocopier more accessible.

I think even the new printing situation is confusing and strange, I don’t understand how to log in to the new system, I think a poster should be made of email sent round that can help people understand how it works because be able to photocopy books is so important especially because so many for my course aren’t borrowable because there is only one copy.

Point taken. We will work on a poster, but have been overwhelmed by a couple of end-of-academic year projects (including, ordering new books for 2016-17!). We will provide some instructions near the computers and near the multi-functional device (photocopier/printer). We have had instructions online for some time now, and in general if you wonder about anything to do with more practical issues in the Library, please check

or simply please ask us.


A separate computer room- it can be quite noisy to use the desktops in the middle of such an open space and I feel conscious of disturbing others My understanding is that such a room in the Faculty was converted into a teaching room – as there wasn’t enough use made of such a space. At the moment we do not have any separate room within the confines of the Library to convert into a computer room, but I concede your point. Are you particularly concerned about the noise of typing? We might be able to obtain some “less-noisy” keyboards, in order to improve the situation slightly. Could you please let us know if this was what you meant?
More Computers, and some upstairs What kind of computers? MCS/”all-singing-and-dancing” machines? Cataloguing terminals to save library users to walk between the upper and lower level just for (re)-checking the catalogue? We will investigate this with the Computing Officer of the Faculty.
Some of the desktop computers are slow and freeze quite regularly. Perhaps an occasional upgrade is necessary? Otherwise I love the library setup as it currently stands. The replacement of these machines has been overdue for reasons which are too boring to mention here. However, have you see our new MCS machines? They are brand new, and should be fast. Equally, the new catalogue machines are brand new, so should be much better.
The computer terminals are astonishingly slow. I often take five or ten minutes waiting for the computer to turn on and open the browser and search the catalogue, when my laptop could start up and complete the search in less than a minute. Therefore, if I could change one thing, it would be to have the computers improved so that they respond quickly.
I would like to see more PROPERLY WORKING computers in the Divinity Library. Some/many of the existing stock have given very honourable service but are now too old, too slow and at times barely functioning, and should be replaced.


Library Survey 2016: Finding books

Photo of section 11 shelf, October 2015

Photo of section 11 shelf, October 2015

Another day, another couple of suggestions made in our Library Survey 2016…. This time: finding books!

The classification system (which makes it impossible to browse for books on a particular topic).

The signatures could be more specific.

More precise classification- it sometimes takes ages to find a book if the author has written multiple works or it is a common surname. There is also no way to browse a specific subject or area or expand beyond the reading list which is limiting to studies

We fully agree! Since October 2015 we have started to

  • add a running number which will help tracking down books.
  • indicate a specific copy of a book (where there are multiple copies of a book) by adding “(x)” (where x is the number of the copy of this book at DivLib)
  • increase the surname of author element from 3 to 4 letters, plus coming up with unique combinations of this “author-ID”, e.g. THQ = Thomas of Aquinas [okay, that’s 3-letters, but it
    is unique]
  • apply an existing element of the classification where secondary literature gets highlighted by the 4-letter “person-ID” being followed by the scholar who wrote about this person (3-letter)

 Since May 2016, we have also changed the classification by adding a number of new sections:

  • Newly-acquired books relating to religion & anthropology, politics, society & gender will now go into section 18 and 19, but previously-acquired books are still all in section 10.

Also, please see

Splitting section 11. It’s ridiculous!

I would like to see the books in Section 11 arranged according to religion for ease of browsing

We fully agree too! After surveying library users in December, and consulting with various academics, as well as discussing this at a Learning Resource Committee meeting, we have implemented the above and following changes, since May 2016:

  • newly-acquired books relating to Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions or religious movements are being placed in section 15, 16, and 17. However, most previously-acquired books covering these areas are still in section 11

We will endeavour to move the most-borrowed books out of the respective sections, but realistically it will take us years to complete this re-classification project. Thank you for your patience.
Read more about this on

A system where it would be harder to lose books, on LibrarySearch it said available, but the book was not on the shelf – recently one of my books was lost so I had to go to the UL rare books room to read it. We appreciate your frustration, but what you describe as a “lost book” might be a book used by someone else, or a book being mis-shelved after use. There is no system in the world which will prevent that from happening, unless you want us to go back to chained books!
Please always report a book as missing. We will try very hard to investigate such missing books further. In May 2016 we also started a daily shelf-tidying approach where we spend time browsing the shelves for misplaced items. We also will consider ordering replacement copies when needed. The important thing is to talk to us please! I’m slightly alarmed by the fact that you say that the book was only available at the UL’s Rare Books Reading Room – could you please get in touch with me to let us know what you were looking for?


Library Survey 2016: Opening Hours


Part of Summer Vacation 2016 poster at Divinity Library

Whilst working in libraries, in the last 12 years, at each single one there were complaints about the opening hours. Don’t get me wrong, I can fully see how opening hours are important, or even crucial for library users – after all, I am, have been and plan to continue to be a user of libraries myself. I’m a member of one library I am not allowed to borrow from, and therefore cannot use it as often as I would like. Another library I cannot borrow from often, because I cannot get there after/before work.

When I started working at the Divinity Library I enquired about opening hours; why not open on Saturdays? Why opening “only” until 6pm? In the end, I realised that – sadly – not much could be changed; so I decided to preamble the Library Survey with the following text: Please note that this survey will not ask about opening hours of the Divinity Library. This is due to the fact there are currently insufficient funds, and due to the Faculty’s Health & Safety concerns, to open it for longer, or on Saturdays.

However, to the question “If you could change one thing in the library, what would this be?”, we received 12 (out of 84 comments). Below I try to respond to these comments:

Longer opening hours during vacation (although I suspect the cost would outweigh the minor improvement in convenience!)

Vacation access is poor: the hour long lunchbreak closure, in particular, has been the biggest barrier to my use of the library during the vacations (which is a pity because it hampers the development of a graduate community during these months).

Open to staff during lunch hour.

We have trialled keeping the library open during lunch hours in vacation time in Easter Vacation 2016, with the financial support of the Faculty and the help of two PhD students. We are continuing to do so for all of June and July, and most of September – however, in August the use of the library drops so much, that we did feel that we could not justify paying extra money to keeping the library open.

Incidentally, other smaller libraries (such as the Pendlebury Library, next door) also need to close during vacation times, as permanent staffing levels drop over vacation times.

 Last year our Library was closed during all of August, this year we will be closed for 7 working days. I hope that this is deemed an improvement – even if it is not as ideal as you would like it to be. If you are a PhD student or staff member, please also make use of our generous borrowing allowances.

Longer opening times!

Opening hours

Longer opening hours

The opening hours are totally inappropriate and one of the reasons not to do a PhD in Cambridge.

Longer opening hours

Longer opening hours. I work in the Law faculty more often than in Divinity for this reason.

I wish it didn’t close so early!

Have the library open on Saturdays.

Open on weekends

As stated in the preamble to the Survey Please note that this survey will not ask about Opening Hours of the Divinity Library. This is due to the fact there are currently insufficient funds, and due to the Faculty’s Health & Safety concerns.
However, I appreciate that this might not be deemed to be a good answer. I have been told that the Health & Safety concerns are unsurmountable, as the whole building needs to be open, and then would need to be checked before closing the building for the public. Other Faculty and Departmental Libraries have different layouts to their buildings, and can allow for access. I’m sorry that I currently see no way how to find a solution.


Outstanding e-resources for Theology and Religious studies: the Intelex Past Masters Augustine and Luther databases


Intelex Past Masters, front page; accessed 2 June 2016.

It is perhaps worthwhile to highlight the excellent electronic editions of Augustine and Luther which are available as part of the University’s subscription to the Intelex Past Masters series [Raven password required]. They offer access to full text editions of major English translations of these authors.

The Intelex corporation is a leading provider of scholarly electronic resources in the humanities. Its Past Masters collection offers an unrivalled series of full text databases of important editions of a wide range of authors.

The Augustine database reproduces 41 volumes of the New City Press translation (still ongoing with 50 volumes projected), while the Luther database reproduces the comprehensive  55 volume translation published by the Fortress Press and Concordia Publishing house in 1957.

As well as the texts themselves, the introductions, footnotes and indices are all available in an easily-navigable format. The search facility in particular is potentially very useful: it is possible to limit or expand a search to individual chapters, book divisions, volumes or even the entire collection. This ability makes an important contribution by enhancing the ways in which the texts of these translations can be used to support research.


How many theologians does it take to change a library?


MTA employee changing lights, FLICKR mtaphotos lightbulb (CC BY 2.0),

Between March and April 2016 we asked the members of the Faculty of Divinity to give us feedback; the Library Survey was meant to help the small library team see how we could improve things. The response rate was not brilliant (with the exception of the PhD students, where more than 40% of folks from that group responded!), but as we are not purely in it for the quantitative side of things, we will gradually report back on the results of the survey: most importantly, we’ll give proper responses to the answers we received for “If you could change one thing in the library, what would this be?”. But first, as statistics are important:

Group Number of responses
PhD students 37
Part IIb (third year) 24
Part IIa (second year) 16
MPhil 15
Part I (first year) 14
Faculty of Divinity Research Staff 9
Faculty of Divinity Academic Staff 8
Diploma 3
“none of the above” 2
College Teaching Officers 0

A full analysis, especially feedback to the free-text suggestions “to change one thing at the Library” will be shared shortly. However to go back to what I alluded to in the title of this post: ‘How many Christian theologians does it take to change a light bulb? Three. But the three are also one.’