Much that Michael Illif highlights in his insightful assessment of the Evangelical Library has been acknowledged by the Trustees for some time. Just over two years ago they resolved to take steps to transform the library.
Acting on the advice of an independent advisor (now our Communications Director) an upgrade of all the library’s facilities was duly devised. This included new technologies to afford better access to the library’s resources, the electronic cataloguing of the vast collection of over 80,000 books (making them available online via our new website) and new publicity and marketing.
Clearly, such a programme needed someone to implement it. But within weeks of appointing a new part-time Communications Director, the lack of investment in the library over the years came home to roost.
A serious problem with one of the structural walls, and other major repair works, needed urgent attention. Instead of implementing modernisation plans, the Communications Director had to become a fundraiser!
The upheaval that Michael met was a consequence of the renovation of the lower room. Books have to be put somewhere and the library has limited space!
Since the crisis arose the library has raised and spent about £250,000 on essential structural work. It has also revamped its magazine and publicity, developed a website, and completely renovated the lower room ready for furnishing as a Puritan room and Research Centre.
I should perhaps point out that (for reasons I cannot go into here) relocation is not a viable option.
The things we would like to do include:
• finish furnishing the Research Centre
• establish a bursary scheme for students
• and ministers to use the library’s reference and research facilities
• raise the level of membership
• devote more money to book buying and conservation
• further develop new technology.
• upgrade the upper floor of the library
• establish transatlantic connections.
Not a monument
Our purpose is not to preserve the library as a monument, but to make its unique resources available to the Christian ministry in all its forms. Nowhere else in the UK (perhaps in the world) are 80,000 evangelical books, including rare Reformed and Puritan items, within arms’ reach.
However, ‘people through the door’ do not define current use — a growing number use our facilities via our website (www.evangelical-library.org.uk) and many borrow books by post. There is an unseen yet valuable work of sending books to overseas libraries
Humanly speaking, we live from hand to mouth, as Michael discerns. The library has never had an endowment, nor has it received the support of significant and regular evangelical benefactors.
So we would be delighted to welcome new members, new supporters and new friends generally — who appreciate the long-term value of the library as a unique resource for the church of Christ.
We understand well enough that we cannot operate by ‘blind faith’ — expecting God to provide while doing nothing ourselves. So the question is: are you, dear reader, also willing to help us in this?
The challenge is not only for the library’s trustees, staff and helpers but for Evangelicals generally — to recognise and preserve what is of abiding value.
Gifts and enquiries: Steve Taylor (Librarian), The Evangelical Library, 78a Chiltern Street, London, W1U 5HB (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).