Tombs or Seeds?
New Life Among the Stacks of the Rudolf Steiner Library
Abandoned buildings are a familiar sight in the small, post-industrial mill town of Philmont, New York. The shrub obscured brick of the old Catholic church doesnt get many second looks from those passing by on Main street. There is no outward sign that this is temporary home to what is believed to be the largest collection of Rudolf Steiner’s writings in the English-speaking world.
Inside, beneath beautiful stained glass windows and a tall vaulted ceiling, rests the Anthroposophical Society in Americas library collection. Half a dozen individuals bend over stacks of books, carefully repairing bindings, erasing marks, placing soft covers in protective sleeves.
It could be a scene from a cloistered monastery, this silent work – were it not for a flurry of activity taking place where one would traditionally expect the front altar. An intergenerational group is engaged in passionate dialogue, everyone leaning in around the table to hear and be heard. Like a command center with generals strategizing battle plans, this peaceful union of church and library also plays host to a revolutionary impulse!
The relocation of the librarys physical surroundings over the past year seems to have also freed up imaginations for what a library can be. More than just repairing books, the steady stream of volunteers are also engaging with questions of how the historic legacy of the Anthroposophical Society in America might best serve the future rushing to meet it.
Posts on the librarys blog are filled with daring new thoughts, inspired by Steiners threefolding impulse, for how the library might better model a vibrant free cultural organization. Ideas with a goal toward making the library more broadly accessible and at the same time moving deeper into research.
Seth Jordan, the transition manager, speaking from the churchs choir balcony and sounding like a cross between a farmer planting seeds and a rebel leader calling up the troops: The future of the library depends on the engagement of a new generation. The question of whether these books are tombs or seeds depends on people today getting them ready for a new life.â€
The library is currently raising hundreds of hours of volunteer labor in order to resume the circulation of books to its lending membership this Fall. The longterm location(s) for the collection is under discussion. Follow the story at http://library.anthroposophy.org.