Drafting Guidelines for Emerging Scholarship

Over the past few months, a few of us in ExperimentalHumanities@Iliff have been participating in an ongoing conversation about resources and guidelines for the support and evaluation of scholarship that doesn't fit easily into traditional print publishing models. In concert with Ted Vial, chair of the AAR Publications Committee, we have collaboratively worked up a draft statement on resources for the support and evaluation of digital scholarship in religious studies. The draft is below and we share it to encourage input from others. Please use the comment area at the bottom of the page or the embedded hypothes.is tools at the top right of the page to share your comments, concerns, questions, and insights. We look forward to the conversations. 

Read More

A New Discovery Interface for library@iliff

by library@iliff

The library staff at the Iliff School of Theology are excited about the upcoming transition  to our new discovery interface: Primo. Training opportunities are forthcoming, but here are some of the highlights:

1. Primo allows users to search Iliff resources, University of Denver resources, print resources, and online resources all from one search bar.

2. Searching facets allow searches to be refined by resource type, author/creator, subject, publication date, library location, and more.

3. “Access Online” allows users to access online resources directly from search results.

4. “Virtual Browse” allows users to browse resources near items they have selected.

5. “Get It” allows users to request items to be picked up at the circulation desk.

6. Primo allows users to sign in to manage their library accounts, create an “e-Shelf” to store bibliographic information, and to make requests for library items.

7. If users have any questions about how Primo works, they may click on the green help button at the bottom right of any page to request help.



A Look At Our Past: What's in the Box?

by Micah D. Saxton

On December 1, 1962 the Iliff School of Theology laid the cornerstone for Schlessman Hall. On June 15, 2016 that very cornerstone was removed in preparation for the razing of Schlessman Hall; behind it, much to everyone’s delight, was a sealed time capsule.

As word of the time capsule spread among Iliff community members who were on campus that day, a sense of Indiana-Jones-like excitement was palpable. What could be contained in that sealed metal box? Ancient gold? A treasure map? A long forgotten about will or contract?

Ok, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but everyone was curious to see what was sealed inside that box. It was no surprise then that as Tom and Jerry… er… that is, Tom Wolfe and Jerry Eno struggled to open the time capsule a number of folks gathered to see what was inside.

There was no gold, treasure maps, or wills, but what was inside was a treat nonetheless: course catalogs, Iliff publications, a roster of students, newspaper clippings, a list of recent library applications, and a strategic plan involving many more buildings that never came to fruition (for a compete inventory of what was contained in the time capsules, see bellow). These documents provide an interesting glimpse into what Iliff was like in the early 1960’s. There are some things that make us cringe (the use of the term “man” to refer to all humanity), some things that make us proud (that Iliff was working to provide a progressive theological curriculum), and some things that make us grin (one article in the Iliff review is entitled “Was Albert Schweitzer a Christian?”). 

 A flyer advertising scholarships at the Iliff School of Theology

A flyer advertising scholarships at the Iliff School of Theology

It is a good thing to glimpse into our institutional past, to see from where we have come; In fact it may help us see where we ought to be going. Time capsules, like the one found in Schlessman, allow us to do this and for that we are grateful. Many of the items found in the time capsule will be on display in the fall as students return to campus. We invite everyone to come and take a look at our intuitional past.

An inventory of items from the Schlessman time capsule:

·      Pamphlet outlining a development program

      3 issues of the Iliff Review

       18:3 (Fall 1961)

       19:1 (Winter 1962)

       19:2 (Spring 1962)

      Pamphlet for Summer School (1962)

      Academic Catalog 1962-63

      List of Officers of the Board and other committees (1962-63)

      Student Roster 1962

      List of presidents of the board of trustees

      List of presidents of the Iliff School of Theology

      Ross Rall 1962-1963

      5 photographs of the construction of Schlessman

      Program for “The Laying of the Cornerstone of Schlessman Hall” (Dec. 1, 1962)

      Program for “The Service of Inauguration of the President of the Iliff School of Theology (Dec. 2, 1962)

      Invitation to the “Cornerstone Laying for Schlessman Hall” and the “Inauguration of Lowell Benjamin Swan as President"

      Article from Denver Post, “Presidential Installation, Rites At New Building Slated for Iliff” (Dec. 1, 1962)

      Article from Rocky Mountain News, “President to Be Installed At Iliff School of Theology” (Dec. 1, 1962)

      Article from Rocky Mountain News, Cornerstone Rites Set At Iliff (Dec. 1, 1962)

      Student Handbook dated Sept. 17, 1962

      Promotional Pamphlet “A Quality Education For A Ministry Relevant To The Space Age"

      2 Issues of the Iliff Reporter

       14:1 (July 31, 1962)

       14:2 (Oct. 31, 1962)

      Flyer advertising scholarships and grants available at the Iliff School of Theology

      List of the Board of Trustees (Dated July 18,1962)

      List of recent acquisitions to the library covering June to Nov. 1962

      Financial Statements for fiscal year ending May 31, 1962

Thank you to everyone involved in this fun project!

NAPAS Community Worship in the Library

by Mina Nau

On April 27, 2016 the National Alliance of Pan African Seminarians (NAPAS) hosted a three-part Journey Worship Experience.  “It Takes a Village” was the theme. A village of different people gathered and participated in a Spiritual Journey that allowed us to visit the past, present and future. We started the Journey in the Iliff Chapel and sang “Walk Together Children,” to the Library where we were able to share a beautiful and blessed worship experience.  

Preaching in the library was not something I ever thought about doing.  When I think of the library I think of traditional libraries where one goes to do research work, study or read, a place where noise is not permitted.  The Iliff Library has been open to innovative ideas regarding how it can be used. It is no longer just a quiet space for those who want to read and study, it is now a place where people of diverse backgrounds can come together to be in community with one another, to engage in conversation, to learn from one another, to relax, to celebrate, to host workshops, to teach classes, to have parties and to play games.  For the National Alliance of Pan African Seminarians (NAPAS), we hosted a worship service experience. The library was decorated with traditional mats, portraits and artifacts. We gathered as a village to be in unity, evoking and honoring our ancestors, welcoming the spirit and rejoicing with gladness as a family.

This was an amazing experience that uplifted and rejuvenated the spirits of many. Using the library as a sacred space to hold a worship service was creative and truly reconnected us to one another and the spirits that were felt in the library space








Using a Google Search Algorithm to Make Sense of the Bible

by Justin O. Barber

Human beings have a difficult time making sense of large corpora such as the Bible. No one can possibly maintain in their awareness at a single point in time all the different themes and points of view expressed therein. How should a reader make sense of it all? Which texts or statements are most important? What should a reader do when conflicting viewpoints arise? An algorithm used by Google may help answer these questions (and simultaneously provide a sort of CliffsNotes to this sometimes daunting corpus!).

 This plot shows the most important sentences when TextRank is run against the New Testament as a whole. Of course, people usually read one text at a time. Still, for communities that tend to read the entire collection as a single work, the above plot might prove informative.

This plot shows the most important sentences when TextRank is run against the New Testament as a whole. Of course, people usually read one text at a time. Still, for communities that tend to read the entire collection as a single work, the above plot might prove informative.

In 1996, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page developed an algorithm called PageRank to determine the importance of a web page. In essence, it determines the importance of a web page based upon “votes”—in the form of links—it receives from other web pages. When page A links to page B, it in effect casts a vote for page B. A variation on this algorithm, called TextRank, has proved useful for summarizing texts. It analyzes sentences and words instead of web pages and links.

In the images that follow, I will use the TextRank algorithm to rank the importance of each sentence in the (Greek) New Testament. (I will leave aside the Hebrew Bible for now, although I have worked with that corpus as well.) The pink labels and data points indicate the most important sentences in each book. The blue lines through the middle of these data points illustrate the average importance of the sentences in each part of a book. The zenith of that blue line, then, roughly corresponds to the most important part of a book, whereas the nadir correlates with the least important.

I want to limit my comments to a couple observations pertaining to the plot above. First, perhaps the most explicit statement of purpose of any of the New Testament texts shows up among the most important sentences in the Gospel of John:

. . . ταῦτα δὲ γέγραπται ἵνα πιστεύ[σ]ητε ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἵνα πιστεύοντες ζωὴν ἔχητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ. (20:30-31)
. . . Now these things have been written in order that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and in order that—by believing—you might have life in his name. (Translation my own.)

That seems like a success. Although this statement of purpose is explicit enough that most readers will not need help identifying it, it would have presented a major problem for this algorithm had it shown up among the less important sentences. (That was a close one! Google may be on to something here.)

Second, the important sentences for many of the non-narrative texts have received a lot of discussion for their importance within the thought of their respective authors. For example, both Galatians 2:15-16 and Romans 3:21-22 show up among the most important sentences for their respective texts. For those of you who do not know, those verses have generated a tremendous amount of literature over a particular Greek construction. The question basically comes down to the following: does Paul understand a person to be justified through faith in Christ or through the faith of Christ (that is, Christ’s faith)? (Thanks Richard B. Hays!)

By way of one final example, consider the important sentences in the Epistle of James. Readers of James often have difficulty identifying a cogent structure for the epistle; it appears to be a collection of admonitions. In the face of this lack of structure, the TextRank algorithm might offer some aid. The most important sentences appear in 2:14a and 2:18.

As you can see from the blue line, the most important part of the letter (again, according to our algorithm) also corresponds to section of the letter with these verses. The sentence with the highest TextRank score is this one:

Τί ὄφελος, ἀδελφοί μου, ἐὰν πίστιν λέγῃ τις ἔχειν ἔργα δὲ μὴ ἔχῃ; (2:14a)

What use is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but does not have actions? (Translation my own.)

This section, of course, contrasts with Paul’s view of faith, which maintains that a person is justified by faith apart from actions (compare Romans 3:28; 4:1, 6). In fact, it prompted Martin Luther at one point to claim that James was an epistle of straw (an assertion he elucidates here). Is it possible that this dissimilarity is the very heart of the Epistle of James?

My point here is that computers help us encounter texts more fully than we can encounter them when left to our own devices. They can help us take in huge swaths of data all at once, and they can help us analyze that data in sophisticated ways. They are, in short, excellent conversation partners that come to texts with presuppositions of a kind entirely different from our own. No one has taught them to read texts from a liberal or conservative standpoint (although one theoretically could) or any other point of view. They offer us the opportunity to read with something wholly other.

You can find a more detailed version of this post here, where I elucidate some of my methodology.

Iliff in the Cloud

Guest post from David Petty, MDiv Student and IT Support Specialist

When asked about where I go to school, I typically respond with the physical location: “Denver, Colorado—Iliff School of Theology.” I have come to realize that for many of my cohort here at Iliff, Denver is not “where” they attend school. Denver is not the “where” as much as the “how”.  These students (probably some of you reading this right now) come from all over the world.  Some live within minutes of campus and attend school online out of preference or scheduling needs.  Others have no choice but to attend Iliff online due to their geographic location, thousands of miles away from the brick and mortar buildings.

In the IT Department, we joke about the consequences of a snow day compared to the consequences of a server failure.  If something prevents students from coming to campus, there’s still a way for students to access their educational community.  If all of our academic technologies were to fail, it would necessitate a temporary hiatus for coursework.

So, through the wonders of technology, Iliff is able to bring coursework, library resources, community, lectures, worship, communication, and more to your fingertips anywhere in the world.  With all of that riding on technology, what if a server goes down?  With other existing technology, most of the ways we connect students to their experience here at Iliff are hosting “in the cloud”.  While that may seem like a deep theological message, it’s really not.  We also don’t mean to give anyone the idea that anything is physically located in any clouds.  So, what do we mean by the Cloud?

The easiest way I can think to explain the cloud is this: 

“The Cloud” is a collection of data centers located all over the world that store and process multiple copies of data simultaneously.

When things are in the cloud, they are in many places at once. If one server goes down, another one picks up where that one left off.  This means less (if any) down time and that data is secure and reliable.  While campus cannot be open 24/7, these online platforms are.  While the doors are closed and the lights are off in the brick-and-mortar building that we call “Iliff Hall,” the communities of learning are thriving.  These online platforms attempt to build something new that has yet to reach its full potential. As we gear up for Iliff's 125th anniversary, I can only begin to imagine what the next 125 years will look like for the Iliff School of Theology and the community that identifies itself by that name.

A Place to Meditate

by Micah D. Saxton

Sometimes being a student means spending long periods of time in the library exercising your mind..er…writing a last minute paper. This means settling in, spreading out your resources and notes, and banging away on your keyboard. In a perfect world you stand up a few hours later with a paper full of clarity and erudition. Also in a perfect world, there are no moments of frustration or writing block between start and finish. In all my years of writing papers, however, I have never found that perfect world. On the contrary, writing (and research) is full of mental blocks and, at times, frustration. In those moments it’s important to close your eyes, relax, and breathe deeply. In fact, it’s time for some good ol’ fashioned meditation.

Thanks to the efforts of Iliff’s Student Senate, there is now a developing meditation space on the top floor of the library (after coming out of the stair well, turn right and turn right again and you’ll see it). There are of course many other good reasons to take some time out of your day for meditation. So no matter what your motivation, you are welcome to use the meditation space in the library for a little peace and mindfulness.

I Library

by Micah D. Saxton

“What do you do?” We are all asked that question from time to time. The next time I’m asked that question I am going to respond by saying, “I library.” Now, I happen to know that “library” is a noun and not a verb. As a noun, “library” usually means a collection, great or small, of books. So to respond to that cocktail party question with “I library” may not make sense. However, since this is my blog post I’ve decided to make “library” into a verb. Yet, by making it into a verb I do not merely mean “I collect books”; rather, I mean so much more.

My new verb, “to library,” means something like “to create a context for careful and creative engagement with the self, the other, the world, and the relations that obtain among them.” So yes, “to library” means to collect books, but it also means to create space for conversation with those who are absent, be it with a theologian long deceased mediated by a dusty old book or with a critical theorist on another continent mediated by an online journal article or Youtube video. Or perhaps a conversation with a friend, or not a friend, about pastoral care while looking at those beautiful westward mountains.

But let us not forget mens sana in corpore sano. We are not just minds thinking ideas, we are bodies that move and express themselves. Perhaps the activities of the mind and the activities of the body need not occur in separate spaces. “To library” means to cultivate opportunities for movement and expression: peddle on an exercise bike while writing a term paper or find a corner to stand and stretch. Admittedly this all sounds a bit grandiose or sappy, but let us re-imagine libraries, let us make library a verb, and let us ask, “what can it mean to library?”