Pitts Theology Library


The Pitts Theology Library, one of Emory University’s seven libraries, celebrated its centennial in 2014, when it also moved into a new five-story, 59,000 gsf building. This new home was designed to be well integrated into Candler School of Theology’s own new facility (2008) and features small and large group study rooms, an entire level devoted to special collections, a beautiful 1,200 sf exhibit gallery with 22 custom cases, and a lecture hall nearby. Usage has more than doubled with the new facility (more than 67,000 entrances in the last year), and its three annual exhibits draw almost 10,000 visitors.

The Pitts Library is one of America’s premiere theological libraries with more than 600,000 volumes, 20% of which are in special collections, along with archival collections of more than 1,800 cubic feet of processed materials.

While it collects broadly in theology in order to support faculty and students at the Candler School of Theology and Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion, it has developed particular strengths in the following:

  • The German Reformation; the Kessler Reformation Collection’s 3,800+ materials, dating before 1571, America’s largest collection of early Luther imprints
  • Sub-Saharan African Christianity with its particular strengths in periodical literature
  • English Religious History (1660-1920) with extensive holdings in English Catholicism and the Oxford Movement
  • English and American hymnody and psalmody, almost 18,000 pieces with substantial strength in the Sacred Harp tradition
  • North European theological dissertations and disputations (17th-19th centuries)
  • English parish church guides (19th-20th c.), more than 10,000 items
  • Thomas Merton, including scans of about 7,500 pages of his holographic notebooks
  • Jewish Passover Liturgies/Haggadot, more than 700 items
  • Wesleyana
  • Incunabula, 105 volumes
  • Archival records of the American Academy of Religion, African Orthodox Church, eight entities devoted to pastoral care and education

Most of these materials are shelved in the Pitts Library building, but about 200,000 are in the new Library Service Center (opened in 2016), a partnership of Emory University and Georgia Tech, located on Emory’s Briarcliff Campus, about a half-mile from the central Emory campus.

Pitts’ staff of 15 and many student assistants are distinctive as well in terms of their training, expertise, and exceptional devotion to the library’s research, teaching, and service missions. Their work is supplemented by a cadre of volunteers and docents who typically contribute 2,000 hours to the library’s efforts, scanning reserves, transcribing manuscripts, creating metadata for the Digital Image Archive, and leading tours of exhibits. Staff and docents make as many as 200 group presentations to 3,000 people annually. Staff have also exercised exceptional creativity in developing and curating new initiatives, such as the Digital Image Archive (currently serving 60,000 digital images from the library’s special collections) or the new Pitts Library Scholars program that draws a highly select group of Candler and GDR students to work with library staff to create research tools and undertake special collections projects.

Sacred Harp Sing, 2016

Written by M. Patrick Graham

Leave a Reply