The 17th-century English writer John Milton wrote, in response to censorship issues of his day, “He who destroys a good book, kills reason itself.” Although I have never had to deal with issues of book censorship (at least directly), nor destroyed a book, I have come to realize that I have in many ways ignored the gifts of “reason” found throughout the shelves of Anna E. Kresge Memorial Library (both print and electronic). Whether it be in fiction or nonfiction, theology or philosophy, history or science, Kresge is a warehouse of knowledge for more than just the crucial sources to argue an assigned research essay; it is a place to pursue curiosity and questions that not even your professors could predict you would have interest in. In fact, the ideas I have been most curious about at Covenant are things in which I never even talked about in class. And, as my Covenant education comes to a close, I realize how little I have made the most of this direct access to the library. So, as a response to my many instances of apathy towards the unique gift of living in such close proximity to an academic library, I want to encourage three ways of making the most of Kresge.
First, think about what you are interested in and crack open a “Cambridge Companion to (Fill in the Blank with Interest)” to follow that curiosity. You do not even have to have a definitive idea of what that “fill in the blank” might be exactly so you can start super vague and follow the conversation going on in areas you are generically interested in. A helpful beginning is sometimes just looking over past research essays you wrote that you might have even been vaguely interested in and researching into the authors you have cited, or looking at the generic “Companion” books for the broad research area. You may be surprised about what kind of ideas are being discussed and how you might be shaped by those ideas when you encounter them. And the best part, you are in complete control and can to take your curiosity as far as you want; it's not an assigned essay. So, if you are like me and you want to know a little bit more about feminist theology but don’t want to necessarily become an expert, simply read an essay or two. Learn for the sake of learning, and learn things that you might not be able to get in the classroom for the sake of your own curiosity.
Second, when you find a general/specific area you are beginning to care about, go to John Holberg! John Holberg is one of the most helpful people you can talk to if you are wanting to find out more about a topic, or at the very least, who you should be looking up to find out more about a topic. When I was trying to uncover the various ways in which 1790s England was dealing with issues of political identity, reform movements, etc., all I had to do was go to him with a pen and paper and write as fast as I could to keep up with his long list of sources. If you have a curiosity, John Holberg is the seer who can point you to the sacred texts you need.
Third, challenge yourself both by learning things outside the classroom and learning things that might challenge your own perspectives. This is one of our last opportunities to truly dedicate ourselves to learning and research, and thus, I think we should make the most of it. And moreso, since Covenant is filled with so many faithful Christian thinkers and followers of Jesus, this also may be one of the last places you will be where there are people who are interested enough (even vaguely interested) that they will want to talk about it and you can know it is safe to talk about it. Yet, I know what you also might be thinking: “How can I find the time?” That is true, but even if it is just dedicating 30 minutes or even just 15 minutes every other day (or week), follow your curiosities. Seek out that “Cambridge Companion” book, talk to John Holberg, and challenge your perspectives and interests by making the most of Kresge. Who knows, you might even find yourself a SIP topic in the process.