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About Eric Ames

Assistant Director for Marketing & Communication, Libraries and ITS and adjunct lecturer in Department of Museum Studies, Baylor University.

Survey of religious studies scholars reveals many embrace 21st century study habits but are unsure how to utilize them.

Armstrong Browning Library - Stained Glass - Interior - 10/04/2013

In the early days of the Christian church, scholars would study sacred texts and handwritten epistles in cloistered, holy spaces, shielded from the outside world. A recent national study conducted by Ithaka S+R reveals that, in many ways, those early scholars’ modern contemporaries prefer to conduct their research in a similar way: with primary resources, in familiar spaces and without significant impediments between themselves and the Word.

Modern religious studies scholars find themselves with one foot in the old world and another in a rapidly evolving information landscape, with almost-instant access to a mass of raw data unimaginable to previous generations, and new resources coming online literally every day. And despite new avenues for data collection and dissemination, many scholars find themselves in the awkward position of feeling required to publish their findings in traditional print journals, a process dating back to the earliest days of scholarly publishing that can take months – sometimes even years - to complete.

Beginning in 2016, Baylor joined with 17 major institutions across the country in order to analyze the study habits of modern religious studies scholars. The results of the study were released under the title, “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Religious Studies Scholars.” The research conducted with Baylor religious faculty was gathered by two scholars from the Baylor University Libraries: John G. Bales and John Robinson. Bales and Robinson interviewed faculty from the Baylor University Religion Department and the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, and the information gathered from those interviews was then anonymized and pooled with data from  the other participating institutions to create the source material for the report.

In many ways, the study’s findings on religious scholars reflect similar issues faced by other faculty in the humanities. Like their peers in history and art, for example, religious studies scholars find themselves facing a set of pressures different from faculty in the “hard sciences” — physics, chemistry or biology. The humanities scholar relies on access to primary sources that often reside in collections that are available only in physical form, necessitating travel to far-flung and occasionally poorly organized archives. Humanities scholars are often expected to present their findings in book-length form, rather than as stand-alone articles in peer-reviewed journals.

But even even as they knew the general landscape of the state of humanities research, Bales' and Robinson's research provided opportunities to gather new insights. As Bales put it, “On the one hand, it was thrilling for me to hear some of the intriguing, interdisciplinary areas of research that our faculty are exploring. Their research confirmed to me how essential the University Libraries are to their cutting-edge scholarship. Because of the Libraries’ robust print and electronic collections, the Libraries are prepared to serve the current needs of our faculty and students.

“On the other hand,” Bales continued, “I also realized that due to the interdisciplinary nature of current research, I needed to become better equipped to handle the way that I was supporting their research.”

Bales’ sense of needing to do more to assist his faculty charges is not unique. The Ithaka S+R study revealed that a majority of religious studies scholars felt overwhelmed with new avenues for finding primary and secondary sources in their field of study. Beyond a simple Google or Google Scholar search, some only felt comfortable navigating a small set of online databases with which they worked on a regular basis; new resources and tools like data analysis sites were viewed as too difficult to master for a limited return on the time invested.

Robinson reported that one faculty member said, “We are really getting past the point where you can have one scholar writing a monograph about something…. There’s too much for one person to undertake, too much data, too much information.” But there is an upside: this feeling of inadequacy can be seen as an openness to collaboration, both with library and information specialists but also with faculty from other disciplines whose expertise can augment the religious scholars’ work.

Beth Farwell, Director of Central Libraries, said of the study, “It’s a perfect example of the new roles the library plays in the academy.  Libraries are partnering with scholars and colleagues to research and master interdisciplinary research methods, new technologies, economic impacts, scholarly publishing trends, and digital literacy.  I’m proud of our Baylor Libraries professionals for their participation in this important national study that helps identify methods for supporting our Baylor faculty.”

Read the full Ithaka S+R Report

Read the report of Baylor’s study findings

In 2018, Moody Memorial Library will celebrate its 50th anniversary as Baylor University’s main campus library. In advance of that significant milestone, the Baylor Libraries have secured a $100,000 grant from the Moody Foundation to begin renovations and upgrades to the historic structure’s first floor.

With this gift, the Moody Foundation – which provided a sizable lead gift in 1964 that helped finance the building’s construction in 1967 – has pledged its support to revitalize the building’s interior with the creation of an innovative instructional learning space complete with flexible furnishings, upgraded interiors and the latest in instructional technology.

“This gift will serve as a significant catalyst for our long-term plans to reimagine and renovate Moody’s first floor as we continue to meet the needs of our 21st century patrons,” said John S. Wilson, interim dean of University Libraries. “The Moody Foundation saw the importance of continuing to provide a high level of service to Baylor students, faculty and staff through innovative learning spaces, and we are excited to partner with them on this project.”

The space, which will be located behind the library’s main circulation desk, is envisioned as an active learning space. The multi-purpose area will fill the growing need for dedicated areas in the library that support a variety of instructional needs.

Beth Farwell, director of Central Libraries, noted that the planned space is an important jumping-off point for grander plans for Moody. “We hope to see the entire first floor reimagined to include the kind of spaces students have told us are important to their success, like individual study spaces and aesthetically pleasing areas that inspire creativity, collaboration and academic success,” she said.

Work on the instructional learning space is expected to begin during the fall 2017 semester. Updates on progress will be posted on the library’s website at and on the libraries’ social media channels, including Twitter @baylorlibraries and Facebook at


Moody Memorial Library will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2018, and in the half-century since it opened, the print collection has grown significantly to include over 2 million physical volumes.  Providing appropriate storage and ease of access to these materials is of the highest priority for the Central Libraries staff, and they strive every day to ensure that a building designed in the 1960s can accommodate the ever-evolving needs of a 21st century patron base. Every year, our collections management team tracks the flow of incoming materials, the usage stats (specifically, check-outs) of existing materials and the need to remove items from circulation that no longer require significant physical storage outlays (such as titles that are readily and easily available in online editions).

After careful review and planning, the Central Libraries will begin a collection management project this month to withdraw materials from Jones and shift targeted areas from Moody to relieve our space constraints.  Our usage statistics indicate many of the science print journals on Jones 2nd floor circulate very rarely and are available to our faculty and students in online formats, so these journals will be removed from Jones to create space for significant monograph collections from Moody’s holdings.

The monograph collections that will be moving from Moody 1st to Jones 2nd include:

F – History of the Americas

G – Geography, Anthropology, Recreation

H – Social Sciences

L - Education

The decision to remove the science periodicals and move the Moody monographs was not taken lightly. We considered a range of options and input from our users, as well as our usage statistics, to determine the best course of action to balance the space available in our central libraries with the ongoing information access needs of Baylor faculty, students and staff.

We view the process of shifting these collections as an opportunity to better serve you, yet we recognize there may be questions that arise during the process. As we move these materials, we will update our maps and provide signage to assist patrons who need to access these collections.  Regular updates will be posted at the library’s main website ( and on the Central Libraries blog (  If you have any further questions please contact myself, Ken Carriveau ( or Beth Farwell (

I appreciate the opportunity to move forward on this major project and am excited for the ways it will help us as we make major plans for a significant renovation to Moody 1st floor, a project that will begin this semester with the renovation of Moody 104 into an innovative instructional space thanks to a $100,000 gift from the Moody Foundation. (You can read more about this exciting news here.) Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me, and I look forward to continuing the libraries’ mission of serving the needs of our campus community’s academic endeavors.

John S. Wilson
Interim Dean of Libraries

Get Regular Project Updates at

@BaylorLibraries on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram