Volume 6 Number 1
by Kent Annan
Andrew Scrimgeour, PTS alum and library director at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, sometimes goes to the library at odd hours, a master key being a benefit of the job. People have asked him whether being alone in the old building and walking among its stacks of books late at night is spooky. “No,” he replies. “Though I might look alone, I’m actually among old friends.”
Scrimgeour (pronounced Skrim-jor), who preaches regularly in area churches, is currently working on a sermon with All Saints’ Day in mind. “I want to preach about the communion of saints from the perspective of the library,” he says. “You know, the saints in the stacks.
“We treasure, certainly in the Reformed and mainline traditions, the whole history of witness—whether in the first, fourth, sixteenth, or nineteenth centuries. The pendulum of scholarship and theological sensitivity is always shifting. For example, women’s studies scholars have reclaimed so many lost voices, and suddenly the richness of women’s voices is present. The library’s responsibility is to ensure that all of those voices are speaking and continue to speak.”
These days those voices can also be heard on the Internet—a new challenge for librarians. Not to worry, says Scrimgeour, who in 1999 earned a Ph.D. in information science and technology from Drexel University, the Internet is not going to displace the book.
And surrounded by the stuff of books is right where Scrimgeour wants to be. He moved to his current position a year ago with his wife, Dorothy, and their sixteen-year-old daughter, Meghan, from serving as dean of libraries at Regis University, a Jesuit institution in Denver. The lists of what Scrimgeour enjoys and of his current duties read almost identically: collection development (Drew holds 500,000 bound volumes), development of library services, direct work with faculty, teaching research skills to students, teaching an occasional course in religious studies, shaping a staff, building and renovation projects, raising money, working with donors, and (he laughs in disbelief at his good fortune) even preaching occasionally at campus chapel services.
So perhaps it was not surprising that Scrimgeour discovered a few years ago that his DNA included a librarian gene. Henry Scrimgeour, a Scot from Dundee, was a Renaissance bookman and scholar in the sixteenth century who helped Calvin develop the library in Geneva. He was also in charge of one of the great private book collections in Europe at the time, the Fuger collection, now housed in the Vatican.
That was the nature. Princeton provided the nurture.
Scrimgeour credits PTS (M.Div. in 1971, Th.M. in 1975) for his academic and spiritual formation. Professor emeritus W. J. Beeners taught him about speech and preaching, which has served Scrimgeour well ever since. Professor Diogenes Allen, he says, “gave me my ethical compass.” Charles Willard, then the PTS librarian, invited him to a vocation.
Discouraged about the opportunities for teaching in the academy in the early 1970s (“I saw colleagues who were my intellectual superiors end up driving trucks for their fathers-in-law”), he talked with Willard, who said there was a need for well-qualified people to head theological libraries and that he needed a research assistant. He offered the position to Scrimgeour, as long as he would simultaneously pursue a library degree. Scrimgeour accepted, began a master of library service degree at Rutgers University, and has never regretted the decision.
In predictable ways, his education at Princeton has been influential. In Speer Library he learned the value of primary sources for research, of having an extensive primary and secondary resource collection, of archiving, of working in other languages. “I began to know what a good research collection was all about,” he says.
But Princeton affected more than Scrimgeour’s work with books.
“The way I have approached my whole life is as ministry, and that is because of Princeton,” he says. “As an administrator I have responsibility for shaping a staff and for working with the faculty. So a big part of the job is working with people, finding the best in people, helping them to make major contributions. The pastoral arts that I learned in Princeton have been the way I have approached personnel management.
“I’ve taken my fair share of management courses, and they’ve been valuable. But I wouldn’t trade them for what I learned in Seminary. You learn a realism about other people and about the nature of human beings. But, because of our tradition, you also learn about forgiveness and reconciliation and compassion, which management theory doesn’t usually address. Too often management theory at its core is making people cogs in someone’s machine. I think the pastoral arts bring something that management theory doesn’t. The ideal, obviously, is to bring the two together.”
As he works to give voice to the saints, Scrimgeour brings together management, ministry, and scholarship.
© Copyright 2001 Princeton Theological Seminary