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Librarians and Chaplains: Discovering our Shared Sense of Purpose

Chaplains find themselves working in some interesting contexts. As the dominant culture continues to secularize in North America, staunchly secular institutions, businesses, and even governmental agencies have begun to explore ways to develop resources for supporting spiritual wellness. Though I’ve grown accustomed to finding myself functioning as a chaplain in some unusual spaces, I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d find my chaplain-self in the LA County Library.

For the last eight months, CFLC has been exploring and developing community partnerships in and around Los Angeles County. We are persuaded that the curriculum we are creating and the lay chaplains we are training can be utilized to support spiritual wellness anywhere. We have joined community meetings, advisory boards, and met with the leadership of nonprofits all in an effort to listen and grow in our understanding of how CLFC might serve the wider community.

Through this work, we learned that the LA County Board of Supervisors developed an initiative to encourage the County Library to collaborate with faith-based communities and develop programming within the library system to directly engage wisdom traditions. For the last several months, CFLC has been in conversation with the librarians in charge of this programming and we have been energized by our discussions and surprised to learn about the similarities in our values, ethical commitments, and sense of purpose.

At first glance, it may seem as if chaplains and librarians have little in common. But if you consider that LA County librarians are radically committed to providing access to the information people need, you can begin to see a similarity in function. Librarians creatively work to remove barriers, so people who may otherwise not have access to the library–along with the information and narratives a library contains–can gain access to these vital resources. Look no further than the book mobile program that brings the library to local parks in under-resourced communities.

I’ve learned that a skilled resource librarian needs to be curious about the needs and interests of any client who approaches the desk to ask questions. A good librarian, I am told, supports library clients as they navigate the library’s abundant resources, taking seriously the individual interests and abilities of each client. As a result, attentive listening is an essential skill of any capable librarian.

All of this should sound immediately familiar to any chaplain. Our work parallels the role of librarians so much that I have begun to think of the librarians as academic chaplains and we here at CFLC are excited about the possibilities as this collaboration begins to unfold.

On October 12th and 26th, CFLC will participate in the LA County Library’s series of virtual conversations entitled Interfaith Dialog on Community Care. Through these online conversations participants will explore our shared values of community service and care of neighbor, and the unique approaches we take enacting those values.

Then February 21st - March 6th 2024, CFLC will install Confessions for Humanity in the East LA Library. Confessions is a public installation that explores the human desire for rigorous honesty about wrongdoing. You may remember when we initiated this project back in 2022 at Blossom Market in San Gabriel (see the gallery below). Be on the lookout for further details about our collaboration with the LA County Library!


Confessions for Humanity 2022 | Blossom Market Hall

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