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The rewarding work of a Reading Room librarian

From the December 2023 issue of The Christian Science Journal

I’ve worked full time as a librarian of a Christian Science Reading Room for many years. It’s a unique position, one I’ve found to be just as important and rewarding as other positions within the church organization. 

There’s something special about being a “librarian.” For example, if I were to go to my local public library to find out more about astrophysics, it is unlikely that the librarian would tell me about the subject. He or she would more likely direct me to the section of the library that includes books about astrophysics. Similarly, the librarian at a Christian Science Reading Room is familiar with the various resources available from The Christian Science Publishing Society and facilitates access to them. 

Additionally, the librarian is a Christian Scientist who can answer questions the public may have on the subject. Many entering Reading Rooms are unfamiliar with what’s in them, and may be unsure of what led them to come in. Some visitors may be searching for healing. In every case, it seems to me that all who come have been guided by God. The role of the librarian is to point the way to Christ, Truth, the path that leads to healing. 

Mary Baker Eddy gives guidance about how to do this work effectively. In a By-Law in the Manual of The Mother Church, she states the qualifications for a librarian of a Reading Room of The Mother Church: “He or she shall have no bad habits, shall have had experience in the Field, shall be well educated, and a devout Christian Scientist” (pp. 63–64). So it’s important to consider an individual’s talents, capabilities, and spiritual readiness when making appointments. The role of the Reading Room librarian isn’t to be taken lightly.

The role of the librarian is to point the way to Christ, Truth,
the path that leads to healing. 

Mrs. Eddy once wrote in a letter: “Our Reading [R]oom is a great feature in our cause” (Mary Baker Eddy to William P. McKenzie, August 14, 1900; L07220, The Mary Baker Eddy Library, © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection). Another By-Law makes clear the Christian standard of behavior in the Reading Room: “No idle gossip, no slander, no mischief-making, no evil speaking shall be allowed” (p. 81). 

Thankfully, the work of a Reading Room librarian isn’t done alone. It is supported by the Word of God, which the librarian can turn to at any time in the Reading Room. A Bible verse that I often pray with is Second Thessalonians 3:1: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.” I see this as the role of the librarian—to support the “free course” of God’s Word in the community, meaning its unimpeded diffusion. (An article titled “Absalom in the Reading Room?” by Ben Frederick in the August 18, 2014, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel addresses this subject.) 

In our work we have plenty of opportunities to remove obstacles to an understanding and appreciation of divine Science. In this regard, I’ve often pondered the meaning of “New Jerusalem,” described by John in the book of Revelation. This city, which he sees in a vision, is filled with God’s goodness. In this holy place, there’s no room for tears, death, sorrow, crying, or pain. Mrs. Eddy explains: “Its gates open towards light and glory both within and without, for all is good, and nothing can enter that city, which ‘defileth, . . . or maketh a lie’ ” (Science and Health, p. 577). As librarians who serve in the Reading Room, we can keep our thought so filled with divine Truth and Love—have such an awareness of God’s presence—that nothing can obscure our perception of the true, spiritual identity of anyone who comes through the door.

Once, a visitor came into the Reading Room who was friendly and enthusiastic but difficult to understand. He was having a hard time thinking clearly and expressing himself intelligibly. I chose immediately to be unimpressed by this and reached out to God for guidance about how to respond. Our conversation continued amicably for about twenty minutes, and then the man left. He returned later that day when I was no longer on shift. A coworker told me that he was easier to understand this time, and he told her that he’d never felt so heard and understood as he had during his visit earlier that day. 

Experiences like this remind us that God is always doing the communicating, and we’re there to witness the ways in which our Father-Mother is guiding each one of us every day, giving us clearer views of our completeness and wholly spiritual identity. The more we understand this, the more we are able to help others. Science and Health says, “The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man” (p. 284); and this is true in every encounter we have with someone in the Reading Room. 

I’ve found that the Reading Room work often calls on us to forgo human busyness for “stationary power, stillness, and strength,” which Mrs. Eddy explains is “the best spiritual type of Christly method for uplifting human thought and imparting divine Truth” (Retrospection and Introspection,p. 93). The work fosters discipline, as well as the moral and spiritual qualities so necessary for the full-time practice of Christian Science healing, such as humility and compassion. 

The role of a Reading Room librarian is so much more than keeping a space open for certain hours, or even providing a quiet place for the community to pray or study. To me, it’s about actively engaging with the resources in the Reading Room, living consistently with the spiritual ideas they contain, and facilitating the “free course” of God’s Word so the receptive heart may feel its benefits and be healed.

More in this issue / December 2023


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