Buddhist libraries in the United Kingdom

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Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economics and Social Studies

Original languageEnglish
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Award date2015
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Abstract

Purpose: Libraries play an important role in Buddhist centres in the UK. Books impact the life of practitioners of the religion. Texts are instrumental in spreading the religion. This dissertation seeks to make a contribution in defining Buddhist libraries, a phenomenon lacking description in both Buddhist studies and librarianship.

Aims and objectives: This dissertation aims to identify Buddhist libraries. It describes their main characteristics. Library collections are evaluated. Mission statements are analysed and their uses are explained. Current and future developments are taken into account.

Methods: Each centre is treated as a case study. A cross-sectional survey is employed to obtain data from centres located using a purposive sample. Web-based, self-administered questionnaires, semi-structured, open-ended, however informal expert interviews and collection analysis are the techniques employed to collect data.

Results: Libraries of varying sizes are present in Buddhist centres of all denominations. They focus on reference collections and many offer lending services. Most library mission statements seem poorly defined. The majority lack clear collection development policies. Professional librarians are the exception, libraries being run by lay volunteers or monastics. Physical books, particularly those relating to their own tradition, are their strongest assets. Growth depends greatly on donations. Some include important audio and electronic files
collections, although most consider those not part of the library. Some exceptional, professionally run libraries are also described.

Conclusions: No similar study could be traced in the literature. Libraries seem poorly integrated in their organisations. They have very traditional views on librarianship and have largely failed to embrace technological changes. They also show strong ideological bias and appear to be forming their own canons. It is proposed that Buddhist libraries can be classed as academic, monastic or community libraries. It is also suggested that Buddhist libraries have to redefine their role if they are to impact the life of practitioners and help spread Buddhism