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A Library At Scarritt Bennett Center? Really!?

By Steve Gateley

Scarritt Bennett Center is a campus with many diverse activities! Of course, it’s a place where folks stay in one of our many campus housing units for pleasure or as a guest attending programing either on campus or possibly off. And yes, I did mention programing that’s held at the Center most by organizations sponsoring events by renting our space … but, of course the Center has its own programing events for enjoyment and fulfillment for those who attend. The grandest events held on campus happen in our own Wightman Chapel … vesper services; Tuesday chapel services; and the grandest of all are weddings. What a great place to get “hitched!” But did you know, Scarritt Bennett Center is a place for research where families connect with relatives from the past. Alums reminisce over times gone by. Persons wanting to connect with missions do so at the Center. And those seeking to understand or delve deeper into the core values of Scarritt Bennett Center, subjects like spiritual renewal; equality; women’s studies; multiculturalism; social hospitality; and other ethnic and social issues do so within a special place on campus. How and where can all of this information and resources be found at Scarritt Bennett Center? The hub for such activities is Virginia Davis Laskey Research Library.

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From Scarritt’s founding days in Kansas City, Missouri (1891) as Scarritt Bible and Training School … to its move to Nashville in 1924 … through its college and graduate years … to the birth of Scarritt-Bennett Center … having a library accessible to students and now guests has always been an important academic element of this campus. Originally housed on the second floor of Scarritt Administrative Building in what is now known as the International Room, the library gained its own building proper when Mrs. Henry Cannon (aka Ms. “HOWDY” Minnie Pearl, Grand ‘ol Opry star) served as building committee chair for a new library building to be built on campus. An impressive three story building with the first two floors housing the library … the building was dedicated to Virginia Davis Laskey for her sacrificial work in Louisiana on behalf of the Methodist church. She was a staunch supporter of Scarritt and of women’s ministry work in the church.

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Today, Laskey Building is used primarily as conference space and as a “living room” for those checking in for a good night’s rest. Laskey Research Library is located just off the first floor corridor right before getting to the elevator door. Comprised of a large room where book stacks; reading tables; public computer; and journals can be found, two archival rooms and the librarian’s office connect with this space.

In its archival spaces, one will find 5 four drawer filing cabinets full of student files from years gone by when Scarritt was a college and graduate school. Glossy black and white photos; archival documents; memos; letters; newspaper clippings; and a few artifacts (Scarritt decorative plates and fold out calendars) are kept in the archives as well. From recent years, SBC program fliers and posters; Arches Newsletters; and DVD’s of recorded programs add to the longevity of the archives collection. In the main reading room stand tall numerous stacks of books addressing the core values of the Center. Biographical books on the lives of prominent women; freedom marchers; and spiritual leaders can be found. Books that provide medical; social; historical; racial; and life style issues on women are in abundance. A variety of subjects such as books on missions; hymnology; civil rights; poetry; Methodism; and a small reference section comprise the bulk of the library’s book collection.  As for journals and magazines, these resources date back to the late 1800’s when the institution was located in Kansas City. Titles like Epworth Era (1899); International Review of Missions (1912); The Watchword (1894); The Methodist Woman (1940); and Methodists Quarterly Review (1852) provide dated resources from many years back. Current journal titles held include The Christian Century; New World Outlook; Response; Insight Into Diversity; The Hymn; and others.

All of these valuable resources are kept organized by a professional staff of one, Stephen Gateley (M.A.L.S.) who can be reached at sgateley@scarrittbennett.org or by phone at 615.340.7477. Ably supported by volunteer staff persons, Laskey Research Library stands ready to serve with information requests from patrons both near and far. The research library is open on Thursdays only but special access arrangements can be made for other days of the week. Research appointments are best for a meaningful research experience in Laskey Research Library. All are welcome and donations of resources and funding are accepted.