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Sacred Stacks: The Higher Purpose of Libraries and Librarianship Paperback – April 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0838909171 ISBN-10: 0838909175

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The subtitle states that Sacred Stacks is about librarianship, but in fact the book is about how institutions that guide human behavior and learning have evolved in style, importance, and application in popular culture. In what is a critique of culture (especially American culture), author Maxwell draws many parallels between libraries and religious institutions, and librarians and clergy. Like religious institutions, libraries perform a sacred function in the transmission of a more enduring culture and provide individuals and the community with a sacred, secular space. Also like religious institutions, libraries change with the times, while retaining their essential mission--enabling civilized lives--stays the same. Maxwell's observations are funny, pointed, thought-provoking, and wry. Whether one's cosmology involves deities or not, this is a book to read, ponder, and discuss beyond the sacred walls of the library. Highly recommended. Linda Loos Scarth
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Nancy Kalikow Maxwell, currently an administrator at Miami Dade College North Campus Library, has more than thirty years of experience in public and academic libraries. She is an award-winning writer, writing extensively on library and religion topics. She contributes frequently to American Libraries magazine and has authored two ALA Techsource Library Technology Reports. Her articles have also appeared in National Catholic Reporter, Tikkun, Lilith, and Reform Judaism. She holds her MA in Library Science from the University of Missouri at Columbia and an MA in Catholic theology, the first Jewish recipient, from Barry University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: Amer Library Assn Editions (April 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0838909175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0838909171
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #374,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Sacred Stacks: The Higher Purpose Of Libraries And Librarianship is a 168-page exploration and analysis of the importance of librarianship today. Nancy Kalikow Maxwell (Administrator, Miami Dad College North Campus Library) draws upon more than 30 years of professional experience and expertise to argue persuasively that libraries and librarians have an underlying significant meaning and diverse contributions to society. Included among these responsibilities are the promotion of the community, to uplift society, to bestow immortality, to preserve and transmit culture, to organize chaos, and finally, to provide "sacred space" for a democratic and secular culture. Long ago libraries were frequently held in trust by members of religious orders. Some of that sacred trust still permeates the stacks, according to Maxwell. Sacred Stacks is a tribute to the libraries' long honored ability to provide sacred secular space. Filled with pertinent, widely drawn quotation, Sacred Stacks is both a tribute to librarians and a manifesto to them. The author exhorts librarians to speak out, demand libraries as spiritual, sacred space to demand space for books, to remember the spirituality of books, to demand libraries serve as communal space, to balance libraries' public and private functions, to trumpet their ability to uplift individuals and society, to control chaos, and to remember that they transmit culture and immortality. Sacred Stacks will draw many parallels between secular and sacred learning. For those who accept the paradigm, Sacred Stacks is an inspiration long awaited. For those who are uncomfortable with some of the author's premises, Sacred Stacks is still commanding readings.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By B. McCloskey on October 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
In her book, Sacred Stacks, Nancy Kalikow Maxwell makes an argument for the library as sacred space. There is an awe-inspiring and arguably religious aspect of library architecture and atmosphere, and it seems that librarians are the venerated high priests of this age-old institution. She discusses the reference desk as confessional ("I haven't used a library in years" or "I should know this already..."), the concept of library sins, such as ripping pages out of a library book to decorate one's walls, or library guilt, which is the often the result of not turning materials in on time. Libraries are also a source of community for the locale or institution it serves, and bring profound happiness and fulfillment by bringing members of an increasingly isolationist society together for book discussions, storytelling, computer classes, and so on.

Sacred Stacks is ultimately exciting and fills one with the sense that librarianship really is a divine vocation. I would recommend it to any librarian (or budding librarian) to refresh one's zeal for this sacred duty.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Olive Bazzle on January 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The argument for the library as sacred space may seem religiously motivated, but this thoughtful analysis makes a strong case for the library as the secular equivalent of a religious space, not as a religious space per se. The author makes her case with historical documentation and semiotic analysis, adding just enough personal anecdote to keep the tone light. If there is a bias either in favor of or against religion, it is not overtly evident in the text. On the contrary, thoughtful readers of both religious and secular inclinations should be equally impressed and delighted by her evidence-based claims about how we, as a society, view and treat libraries very much like secular houses of worship.
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Essie Sea on February 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
I find this book archaic and nauseating. I am a librarian who wants nothing to do with the church or religious spaces. I became a librarian because I enjoy helping people and I'm darn good at searching. She likens librarians to "ascetic, self-sacrificing monks," "respected priests," and "receivers of confessions," and argues that librarianship is a "spiritual profession." Please. I may have a master's degree, but there isn't a "higher purpose" to what I do. If you like feel-good religious books, read it. If not, steer clear.
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