CBHD Research Library

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Last year CBHD embarked on an ambitious phase in our vision to create a study center environment as part of our physical presence. The Center undertook significant renovations on its research library with the intent of creating an area for collaborative inquiry and discussion, dedicated workstations for academic study and reflection, and the continued expansion of our library holdings. Renovations were completed in early June and the research library now contains an even more expanded and up-to-date array of resources and research accommodations.

The expansion and development of the library’s resources and study areas stems from the Center’s desire to foster rigorous research, theological and conceptual analysis, charitable critique, and thoughtful engagement. The Center’s executive director, Paige Cunningham has said on more than one occasion, “Holding physical books in your hands matters.” While some have moved to eliminate brick and mortar research libraries in exchange for electronic-only resources, the Center is committed to the value of browsing bookshelves in the “eureka!” moments of scholarly research. These opportunities for creative inspiration and the cultivation of interdisciplinary engagement come not from overly-focused database search results, but from the creative connections sparked by viewing physical tomes set side-by-side. CBHD’s goal in investing in a location for thoughtful scholarship is to spark deeper conversation and inquiry through a form of scholarly activity that values human embodiment and the importance of dialogue for the pursuit of knowledge, especially in such an interdisciplinary arena as bioethics. As Michael Sleasman, the Center’s managing director and research scholar notes, “There is something about the gravitas of being surrounded by important works of scholarship that both humbles you in realizing there is yet so much to learn and yet inspires you to think deeply along with those who have gone before you. To engage in the dialogical nature of scholarship requires hearing—and in this case reading—the voices of others to understand and when necessary to critique and to propose.”

The CBHD Research Library offers a unique blend of bioethics, theological ethics, biblical studies, philosophy, and technology ethics. Through Dr. Sleasman’s guidance, recent acquisitions have focused on developing areas of unique interdisciplinary overlap such as disability studies, as well as the expansion of holdings in medical humanities and bioethics as cultural engagement. The non-circulating holdings have expanded to include well over 800 books plus over twenty-five periodical subscriptions. An electronic catalog of books has been created through the online bibliographic software Zotero. (To browse the general holdings you can visit http://tinyurl.com/CBHDLibrary.) The library collection also includes print archives from all of CBHD’s past conferences, select materials from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), various multimedia resources, the electronic archives of the Center’s entire audio and video resources, and select archives of print articles categorized topically for individuals and students beginning research into any given area of bioethics.

A key feature of the Center’s holdings is the recently established Presidential Commission Collection. This collection, inaugurated through a donation of materials by CBHD Distinguished Fellow Dr. Gilbert Meilaender, includes the meeting briefing books from his tenure on the President’s Council on Bioethics, all the reports generated by the Council, and an assortment of publications from other presidential commissions.

Another unique aspect of the Center’s holdings is the Edmund D. Pellegrino Special Collection in Medical Ethics and Philosophy. This collection, inaugurated in honor of CBHD Distinguished Fellow Dr. Edmund Pellegrino in 2011, contains nearly 100 volumes on a wide variety of topics including moral theology, philosophy, and medical ethics. Acquisitions for this special collection are guided by those books that contribute to and continue the legacy of Dr. Pellegrino’s life work. (To browse the current holdings of the Pellegrino Special Collection visit http://tinyurl.com/PellegrinoLibrary.)

The Center’s investment in this research library has created a place for thoughtful scholarship in an environment that fosters dialogical engagement. Over the past year CBHD has welcomed a wide range of users to the library as the upgrades were completed, including domestic and international scholars, graduate students, staff, and interns. As an example, the Center hosted a series of theological bioethics roundtables in the research library. These roundtables enabled graduate students and interns to partake in bioethical, theological, and philosophical discussion with CBHD staff. Discussion focused on two books in the research library’s collection: God and the Art of Happiness by Ellen T. Charry, and Begotten or Made? Human Procreation and Medical Technique by Oliver O’Donovan. These roundtables helped students to foster deeper critical inquiry and theological reflection about bioethical issues.

The Research Library is open daily to the general public during the Center’s normal business hours. If you find yourself in the Deerfield area, have an upcoming trip to Chicago, or a sabbatical or research leave on the near horizon, you are invited to spend some time browsing the stacks and enjoying the atmosphere of collegial discourse.