Library Expansion


The following is a reprint of an article that appeared in the November 2008 issue of the For The Life of the World magazine.



New Library Announced at Opening Service

By Rev. Ralph G. Schmidt

Opening services are never ordinary days at any seminary. But September 7, 2008, was a most extraordinary day in the history of Concordia Theological Seminary. For on this day, Dr. Dean O. Wenthe, President of the seminary, announced plans to build a major addition to Walther Library on the Fort Wayne campus.

Designed by world famous architect Eero Saarinen, the campus was dedicated in 1958 as the home of Concordia Senior College. The campus won national architectural acclaim and served the Senior College well. But when the seminary moved to Fort Wayne from Springfield, Illinois, twenty years later, the library, while a beautiful building, was not adequate to hold the rich repository of books belonging to the seminary library. It was, in fact, only half the size of the Springfield library.

Over the past three decades, the lack of space was compounded by additions to the library holdings. Today almost forty thousand books are in storage in other parts of the campus, requiring special forms to be filled out and library staff to retrieve them when students select them for use. The seminary's rare book collection, an irreplaceable asset consisting of an additional six thousand volumes, is housed in yet another part of the campus with very limited accessibility. Some of these priceless tomes date from Luther's time and require special environmental care for preservation.

Walther Library today has limited administrative space, limited technological access, no space for students to work collaboratively, and cramped study space in general. For many years, the seminary's accrediting agencies have lavished praise on the library staff, headed by three men who have both library and theological degrees, while strongly encouraging the seminary to improve the facilities that are critical to the students learning environment.

Over the past number of years, several plans have been advanced for either a new free-standing library or a library addition. None of them, however, captured the essence of the Saarinen campus nor were they in a range of affordability. Early last year, design proposals were invited, netting submissions from six architectural firms. From these proposals emerged a plan submitted by MSKTD architectural firm in Fort Wayne that beautifully carried on the Saarinen design within a budget that the seminary felt was achievable. Dr. Wenthe announced that he had signed a contract with MSKTD two days earlier, and work on detailed drawings will proceed immediately. Construction is expected to begin next summer with preliminary work being done already this winter.

The library addition will add 48,000 square feet to the 15,000 square feet currently in Walther Library. It will house all 175,000 volumes the seminary currently possesses with enough additional space for another twenty-five years of acquisitions. When the shelf capacity is reached, a system of compact movable shelving can be installed that will double the capacity and add another century at the current pace of acquisitions before needing further space. Already Walther Library is considered the finest theological collection in the state of Indiana. As part of two different library consortia, books are routinely loaned and borrowed. Amazingly, for every book requested from other libraries, between five and six books are requested to be borrowed by other libraries. Two of the three most frequent borrowers are Valparaiso University and the University of Notre Dame, a notable testimony to the value of the seminary's collection.

The library addition will feature a rare book room with a reading room adjoining it, both of which will be environmentally controlled. A sample pastors study with the resources the faculty believes should be in the possession of the typical parish pastor will be another feature. Expanded administrative space will add to the efficiency of the excellent library staff. Enhanced technological areas will aid students in their quest for knowledge.

The current lack of any group study space will be eliminated by a number of small rooms seating six to twelve students where group study and discussion can occur without disturbing others in the main area of the library. These rooms will also be perfectly sized for the Greek readings classes that all students take throughout their seminary studies. These classes focus on the reading for the coming Sunday, translating the texts from the original language, and then discussing how they may be applied in the Sunday sermon.

Another room will be devoted to materials for children and young adults, featuring all the curricular materials published by Concordia Publishing House for elementary and high school religion classes, Sunday School, Weekday School, and confirmation classes. This will benefit students as well as Fort Wayne area churches and schools.

Enhanced study areas will be located throughout the building where students will be able to study in a quiet atmosphere away from the centers of activity that currently interrupt the concentration of students. Increased technology, including a special classroom for students to learn how to use library technology, will be another feature.

The cost of the library addition and renovation of Walther Library is estimated to be about $8,000,000. The Advancement Department has quietly been raising funds since last year, and Dr. Wenthe was able to announce at the opening service that already $5,625,000 has been committed to this project. Rev. Ralph G. Schmidt, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, said, Our donors have expressed a tremendous sense of excitement for this project and have opened their hearts to give exceedingly generous gifts to bring to fruition what for so long seemed a distant dream. They have demonstrated magnificent confidence in the seminary's contribution to The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod in preparing biblically and confessionally sound pastors, missionaries, and deaconesses who will bring the care and compassion of our Savior to His people as they proclaim His precious Gospel of salvation.

The seminary library benefits not only current students but pastors throughout the Synod. Pastors from all over the country can also access the resources of the library from wherever they may be serving, borrowing books, and making use of many of the online resources. The extension of the library's services is an integral part of the ongoing education of our clergy. Graduate students come from all areas of the country and, indeed, from around the world to study at the seminary. Upon returning to mission fields and partner churches, many online resources remain available to them as well.

The library addition is part of a $15,000,000 capital campaign that also includes $5,000,000 in added endowment and $2,000,000 for a family life center to house the Food and Clothing Co-op following construction of the library. Dr. Wenthe was also able to announce that the endowment portion of the campaign has almost reached its goal. The campaign, named Into All the World, is over and above the regular substantial gifts given for student aid and the general operating budget of the seminary.

Those who are interested in giving a special gift or multi-year pledge to the library may do so by sending in the coupon below or calling the seminary Advancement Office at 1-877-287-4338.