Contactless Lending at the Divinity Library

The Divinity Library is happy to offer a contactless lending service beginning next week. You may begin requesting titles now, using the form linked below. We are also still fulfilling scanning requests; follow this link for instructions on how to replace a request for scanning. Read on for details about how to request books, how to pick them up, and how we’re keeping you safe throughout this process.


    • These instructions are only for Divinity Library items.
    • Please do not spray or wipe down our books. Please do not microwave our books. It is not necessary to clean or disinfect them; in fact, this will hurt the books.
    • You will need to wear a mask when on campus.


How to Request Books

Currently it is not possible to request books through the library catalog; we are working with Duke University Libraries to restore this function for Divinity items. For now, please use this form to submit your request. The form will ask you for some basic information (your name, email, and NetID), let you select your pickup method (more details below), and allow space for as many as 12 titles. Please include the title and call number (highlighted below) for each book you are requesting. (You can copy and paste this information straight from the item record in the library catalog.)

Please also make sure the item has “Divinity School Library — Stacks” as its location, and “Available” as its status (see the blue arrows above). We cannot deliver items from other libraries; nor are we recalling items that are currently checked out to other patrons.


How to Pick Up Books

Once you have submitted your request, please allow a minimum of 72 hours for processing by Divinity Librarians. We will email you if we have any questions or issues locating any of the books you selected. Your items will be checked out to you and placed in a bag with your name on it, and the bag will then sit in isolation for a minimum of 24 hours before delivery. We have three pickup options for you to choose from (you will be able to make your selection on the Qualtrics form):

    • Student Lockers: We have a bank of available lockers near the student lounge downstairs. If you select this option, we will email you with a locker number and combination after your books have been delivered. You may come at any time to pick up books that have been delivered to a locker; however, please note that access to campus is still restricted. You will need to wear a mask throughout your visit to campus, swipe your Duke ID to enter the Divinity building, and practice social distancing with any staff you may encounter. Be advised that the university has not approved students, faculty, or most staff for return to campus yet, which means you should collect your items and then depart.
    • Pentecost Window: We are also offering direct pickup of library items under the Pentecost Window at the main entrance to the Westbrook Building (upstairs from Goodson Chapel — see the picture at the top of this page). Currently, our only schedule for pickup under the Pentecost Window is WEDNESDAYS from 12pm-2pm. If you request items within 72 hours of this pickup time, your items may not be ready until the following week. Please note that access to campus is still restricted. You will need to wear a mask throughout your visit to campus, swipe your Duke ID to enter the Divinity building, and practice social distancing with any staff you may encounter. Be advised that the university has not approved students, faculty, or most staff for return to campus yet, which means you should collect your items and then depart.
    • Faculty/Staff Office: This option is only available for Divinity faculty or staff with an office in the Gray, Westbrook, or Langford buildings. Librarians will contact you to arrange approval for the building manager to let us into your office with your books.


Ready to request items? Follow this link to the Divinity Titles Request form.



When can I come into the library? Not now. All Duke Libraries remain closed to patrons. We will post updates as we have more information.

Because if I could come into the library, I could browse… Yes! We understand how important this can be during various stages of research, and we’re so sorry that we can’t accommodate it right now. In the meantime, there is a way to “browse” within the catalog: once you have found a book that will be useful for your project, note its call number. Let’s say you’re interested in R. I. Moore’s The War on Heresy: faith and power in medieval EuropeThis book has the call number BT 1319 .M67 2012. Next, go to the main Books & Media catalog search and select “Call Number” instead of the default, “All fields.” Search for the first part of the call number (in this case, BT 1319 — with or without the space). This will bring up all search results that start with that call number, allowing you to virtually browse that particular shelf!

What if I need books from other libraries; can I request them for pickup at Divinity? Not at this time. You will have to pick up Perkins books at Perkins, Lilly books at Lilly, etc. See this FAQ page for details on the DUL (Perkins/Bostock/Lilly/Music) take-out service, scheduled to start July 6.

Where should I park when I come in to pick up books? The Bryan Center parking garage is closest to the Divinity School building. If you arrive and depart within 30 minutes, you will not be charged.

Can I return my books? Sure! Please return items through the Divinity Library’s book drop, outside our main entrance. If you are picking up books under the Pentecost window, the librarian will also have a book cart there for returns.

How soon will my items be ready? We are committed to getting your requested books to you as soon as possible. It generally takes 72 hours to fully process a request, due to the mandatory minimum quarantine periods built into this process.

I’m comfortable skipping the quarantine period and all these other extra steps. Can I request books for same-day pickup? No. Our protocols for materials handling are not a question of what level of risk individual patrons are willing to accept; rather, they are based on what level of risk Duke University is willing to accept. Decisions about wearing face masks and other personal protective equipment, about strength and composition of sanitizing solution, about length of quarantine period for various materials, etc., are all based on extensive research and committee work conducted through Duke University Libraries and the Duke Health System. Our answer to many requests, that in other times would seem perfectly reasonable, must therefore be “no.”

Just how “contactless” is this contactless lending service? We are taking steps to make this process as safe as possible, and it is completely fair for patrons to ask for a little more detail so they can make informed decisions about whether they are comfortable coming to campus for books. The process varies a little bit depending on the pickup method you select, but the first steps are always the same:

      • As we collect your requested books and check them out to you, librarians will be wearing masks. We are washing our hands frequently throughout the day and will always do so immediately prior to handling books for checkout. The books are then placed in a paper bag that will be set aside on a book cart for a minimum of 24 hours quarantine.
        • Pentecost Window: On your scheduled pickup day, your bag will travel from the quarantine area of the library to the Westbrook building on a book cart. A librarian (wearing a mask) will be stationed 10-12 feet from the book cart. Your bag will have your name on it; you will be the only person to handle it on your pickup day.
        • Student lockers/Faculty office: The bag with your books will travel down to the student lounge area or to your office on a book cart. The librarian delivering your books will be wearing a mask and have just washed their hands. With minimal handling, your bag will be placed in a locker and the locker secured, or in your office and your office secured. The librarian will then spray the locker door or office door handle with a sanitizing solution and notify you that your items are available. If the books have already been on their quarantine cart for a full 24 hours, the librarian will send your notification immediately. If the books have not been on the cart for a full 24 hours, the librarian will send your notification on a 24-hour delay.

How to Access the Latest News using Duke Libraries


Keeping up with current events is an important aspect of pastoral ministry and scholarly engagement. And it’s important to get your news from a variety of reputable sources. But if you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that there are challenges associated with print and electronic subscriptions — not least that they generally cost money.

If you’re tired of hitting a paywall and hoping you can thumb through Duke Libraries’ edition of your favorite local, national, or international newspaper, check out our list below of major titles and advice on how to access them electronically. Titles below are listed in alphabetical order. Looking for a newspaper or magazine we haven’t listed? Email Dr. Benjamin and she’ll help you find what you’re looking for.

Note: When looking for newspaper and magazine issues/articles, often you’ll find you need to use our Online Journal Titles search. Not familiar with this function in the library catalog? Watch Dr. Benjamin’s screen as she walks through a tutorial.

Another Note: Many of these search instructions refer to a newspaper’s “ISSN”, which is a term you might not have heard before. The ISSN is the “International Standard Serial Number,” an eight-digit number that gives a unique identifier to all journals, magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals. It’s a good way to differentiate between the bazillion newspapers that are just called “The Times”!


Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionUse the embedded link or search by ISSN 1539-7459. Any of the platforms listed that include “to Present” in the date range will work — if you select the first, it will take you to a ProQuest-supported site that will let you expand by year and month so that you can select today’s date.


The Atlantic: Use the embedded link or search Duke’s catalog using this publication’s ISSN 1072-7825. From the many results, we recommend selecting “America’s News (Duke University).” This landing page will allow you to select from Recent Issues (including the current issue). Issues of The Atlantic are published on the first of the month. Click the date to see a list of articles you can read online.

Really wanted to read the physical copy? This magazine is received at Perkins Library, and can be found in the Current Periodicals section. Perkins Hours


Herald-Sun (Durham): Interested in reading a local newspaper? The Durham Herald-Sun or the Raleigh News & Observer are two good options. For the Herald-Sun, use the embedded link or search by ISSN 1055-4467. Select the “America’s News (Duke University)” platform, and you will be taken to a page where you can View Recent Issues (the newest will be from yesterday), or select a specific date from the calendar.


New York TimesUse the embedded link or search ISSN 0362-4331. Choose any platform that includes “to Present” in the date range; if you select “U.S. Newsstream,” you will be taken to a ProQuest-supported site that will let you expand by year and month in order to select the current date.


News & Observer (Raleigh): Use the embedded link or search the Duke Library catalog for the publication’s system ID, 004404962. Select the “America’s News (Duke University)” platform — be sure to select one where the date range ends with “to Present”! This will take you to a NewsBank site where you can View Recent Issues (the newest will be from yesterday), or select a specific date from the calendar.


The Wall Street Journal:  Go to the Online Journal Titles search in the Duke Libraries catalog and search “Wall Street Journal.” This should generate 18 search results, and the one that works best is part of the way down the page — it reads “Wall Street Journal (Online)” and has the ISSN 2574-9579. (Searching by this ISSN has yielded uneven results in the past, so we recommend searching by title!) Then, select the “International Newsstream” platform, to be taken to a ProQuest-supported site where you can expand by year and month to find the newspaper issue for the current day.

Alternatively, Duke’s Business and Law Libraries have committed to provide personal accounts for Duke community members for, the online edition of the Wall Street Journal (visit their FAQ page for information on how to register).


The Washington Post: Use the embedded link or search Duke’s catalog for ISSN 0190-8286. From the results, we recommend “U.S. Newsstream,” which will take you to a ProQuest-supported site that will let you expand by year and month to find the current issue:


Interested in a magazine or newspaper that is not on our list? E-mail Dr. Benjamin or use our Ask a Librarian form and we’d be happy to assist you!


What was it Karl Barth said about “reading the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other”? Well, he may not have used those exact words, but he made similar remarks in a number of places. See the Center for Barth Studies’ FAQ page for more.

Duke Alumni Library Resources

Hey! HEY! You did it!

Did you know that every academic term, the Divinity Faculty meets and reads the names aloud of graduating students, and votes to approve them for graduation? That happened for YOU. You earned this! Go add the letters from that degree to your email signature! NOW! We’ll wait.

Whatever your next steps as a newly-minted Divinity graduate, you should know that Duke University Libraries is committed to your continued flourishing and intellectual engagement. So what can you do as a proud Duke graduate?

Step One: Register for your OneLink account

Visit the Duke Alumni Library Online Access page to set up your OneLink account. This process will assign you a number that will be your new identity in Duke’s system.

Step Two: Electronic Resource Access

Once you have OneLink set up, you can immediately access a trove of databases available to Duke alumni. These include the Atla religion database, JSTOR, the Digital Karl Barth Library, the Digital Library of Classical Protestant Texts, and many, many more. You might be used to accessing one or more of these databases as a student, directly from the library website, using your NetID and password. This will no longer be the case! Instead, you will log in through the Duke Alumni Portal using your OneLink number. This portal includes links to all the databases available for alumni access, and this is how you will engage them from now on.

Step Three: Borrowing Print Resources

(Note: There is currently no access to Duke Libraries due to COVID-19. We look forward to welcoming you to campus when this disruption has abated!)

Once you have your OneLink number (on your phone, through the app, or printed from your computer), bring it to the library together with your current driver’s license or other government-issued ID. Librarians will then set up your alumni account for borrowing print materials. Alumni can borrow up to ten books at a time, for a loan period of 28 days. You can renew these loans up to 2 times online, logging into My Account with your OneLink number.


Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to my NetID and password, and my Duke Email? You should have access to Sakai and your Duke email using your NetID for about a year after graduation. Contact OIT with any questions.

What about electronic books owned by the Duke Libraries? E-books require an active NetID and password for access. Your OneLink account will not work for e-books.

What about non-library, open access resources? Are there any you recommend? Visit this research guide for a comprehensive list of open access resources for the study of religion and theology.

What about printing or scanning in the library? We have several scanners that you can use without logging in, and from which you can save files to a flash drive or email them to yourself. If you want to print anything at the library, you will need to purchase an eprint/copy card from Perkins Library. See this page for more details.

When can I visit the library? Check this page for Divinity Library hours, and find hours for other Duke University Libraries here.

Where can I park? Duke Alumni are eligible for an evenings and weekends parking pass valid for certain Duke parking lots. Visit this page to request your pass and learn more.

What else do I get as a Duke graduate? There are several perks and discounts and other benefits that come with your Duke Alumni account! Visit the Duke Alumni Benefits page to learn more.

Returning Duke Library Books

UPDATE: You are welcome to return your Duke Library books. Please see FAQ #13 at this page for more details.


We are nearing the end of another semester! And this means closing the books (literally) on the projects that have occupied us this term. Many of you have reached out to ask how you can return your library books when the libraries are closed. Below, you can find details on how to do exactly that. However, we ask that ONLY graduating students return their books at this time. Thanks for understanding — and congratulations to our graduating seniors!


How to return your books — if you are still in Durham:

You may return your books on campus, either at the external book drop at Perkins Library’s main entrance (off the quad) or at the Divinity Library, since the building can still be accessed by your Duke ID. Please be aware that vehicular access to campus is limited. Also, librarians are not currently working on campus, and returned library books will have to be quarantined before they can be safely checked in—so even after you return your books, they will stay listed as loans on your account for some time.

You may also return your books off campus, at the Golden Warehouse. (Yes, this is a real place, and you can drive up and bring your books to it.) Duke’s off-site shipping and receiving facility is located at 100 Golden Drive, Durham, NC 27705. Here are some specific notes for the use of this facility:

    • Place your materials in a box clearly labeled on the outside with “Perkins Library, Attn: Access and Delivery Services”
    • Drop off at this facility is limited to the hours of 8:30am to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday.
    • You must park in the rear parking lot and enter through the warehouse. A bin is set up for book collection by the warehouse.
    • Please remember to practice social distancing, especially as you encounter Duke staff working at this facility.

How to return your books — if you are no longer in Durham:

You may return your books through the mail. Again, your books will not be checked in immediately, but they will be secure. Please obtain a tracking number for your package, and ship the books to

Perkins Library

411 Chapel Drive

Durham, NC 27708

Attn: Access and Delivery Services




Duke Divinity School Library

407 Chapel Drive

Box 90972

Durham, NC 27708


Your diplomas and bursar bills

Many of you are aware that fines on your library account or unreturned library books traditionally keep you from receiving your diplomas. As we’ve noted above, even once you return your library books, they will not be checked in immediately. So while your Divinity and Perkins librarians are committed to being efficient once we return to working on campus, it is possible that books you return will still be listed as on loan to you even during graduation weekend. This is okay. Bursar bills for lost or un-returned materials will simply be calculated later in the summer.


Still have questions? Please contact or use our Ask a Librarian form.

Divinity Library Tips for Offsite Research

Need help looking for online resources to support your research project? This guide aims to put all the links you need in one place. Below, find out how to contact a librarian about your research question; watch recorded tutorials that walk you through search strategies for various databases; and find a list of helpful links to connect you with additional online resources to support your research.

Not sure where to begin? Go straight to the source: librarians are still working offsite to answer your research questions and give you advice about where to find the sources you need. You can submit a general email query, set up an appointment with a librarian, or request a purchase.

Use this email form to ask us anything: from factual inquiries about the library’s holdings and services, to citation verification, to selection and use of electronic databases and resources, to guidance on how to begin library research for a term paper or class project.

Prefer to set up a Zoom appointment to have a conversation with a librarian? No problem! Make an appointment with a librarian so that we can hear more about your research interests. Zoom allows us to share our screen, so we can also walk you through searches of databases or other resources we think will be helpful to your project!

Make an Appointment with Katie Benjamin

Make an Appointment with Lacey Hudspeth

Have you identified a print resource that would help your research, and wonder if it’s available as an electronic book? Use this form to email a purchase request to the Library Director.

Note: To speed request processing, the most important information you can include on the form is the book’s 10- or 13-digit ISBN! This can be found in the library catalog record (if Duke already owns the print book) or on a book seller website like Powell’s or Amazon.


Using the Divinity School Library Website

Searching the Atla Religion Database

Searching the JSTOR Database

Troubleshooting: Searching a partial citation using Online Journal Titles

Searching HathiTrust – Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS)     ◊    Hathi Trust Digital Library — Home page

Searching Intelex Past Masters (Written tutorial)       ◊     Past Masters — Homepage


How to Return your Library books: At this time, we ask that only graduating seniors who need to clear their library accounts return their books. This page walks you through the various ways you can do that.

Divinity E-Reserves: Electronic versions of books required for Spring 2020 courses. (Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 coming soon!)

Quick-guide to Databases and Electronic Resources: The top 13 search strategies and databases Divinity students should know about.

Research Guide: Open Access Resources in Religious and Theological Studies — Duke Divinity School Library

Research Guide: Art and Images — Duke Divinity School Library

Research Guide: Biblical Studies — Duke Divinity School Library

Digitized pre-1923 Books on Divinity Archive — Duke Divinity School Library

Open Access Digital Theological Library (OADTL)

Theological Commons — Digital Collection from Princeton Theological Seminary

Online Theology Resources — Bridwell Library (SMU)

National Emergency Library — Internet Archive

How to Place a Request for Scanning

As the Divinity Library staff continues to work mostly offsite, we are carefully planning our return to campus and the safe delivery of library services to Divinity students, faculty, and staff, as well as our wider Duke and Durham communities. Although we cannot yet welcome patrons back into the Divinity Library, we are committed to making it easy for you to access Divinity Library materials! Check out our tutorials and tips for offsite research, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions about electronic databases or other library resources that can support your work. Of course, you might be wondering, What about Divinity Library materials that are print-only, and don’t exist in an electronic format? Great question. And we have good news for you!

This summer, the Divinity Library is partnering with Duke University Libraries’ Document Delivery team to allow you to place scanning requests for Divinity materials. In other words, you can now use the ILLiad form to request a PDF scan of chapters, essays, and articles from the Divinity Library’s print collection. Remember, we are unable to scan a full book for you, due to copyright laws and human finitude. So please make careful selections of what you really need for your research. When making your selection of one or more chapters, please also make sure that the book is checked in and has a Divinity Library location. We do not currently have access to other Duke Libraries’ materials.

Ready to make a Document Delivery request for something in the Divinity Library collection? Here’s how it works:


  1. From the main Divinity Library website, select “My Account.”


2. Choose “Document Delivery” and log in using your NetID and password.


3. From the menu on the left, select “New Request -> Chapter.”


4. Give as much information as you can about the book/chapter(s) you are requesting.

  • Book Title: This field is required.
  • Inclusive pages: This field is also required — if you know what pages your chapter falls on, this is helpful; if not, just put “not sure” and give us the chapter title; we’ll figure it out.
  • Call Number: For example, BR115.P8 P35 2018 — you can copy and paste this from the book’s catalog record. It will help us speed request processing! While you are in the record, make sure your book lists a Divinity Library location. Currently there is no shipping between Duke Libraries, so we are unable to do any scanning for you from other libraries’ collections.
  • Chapter Author/Title: Again, we cannot scan an entire book for you, so please choose the chapter or chapters that will be most helpful! If you would like multiple chapters, feel free to list them all in these boxes.
  • Notes: This field is for any other information you think will be helpful for us as we locate your book and fulfill your request. We are prioritizing scanning for fall courses, so if your request is for something you need to post to Sakai for your students, please include the course number in the notes field and we will fulfill it ASAP. Otherwise, individual research requests will be processed in the order that they are received.


5. Once you’ve filled out your form, hit “Submit” at the bottom. Please allow a minimum of 48 hours for request processing. When your scan is available, you will receive an email with a direct link to the PDF. The scan will also appear on the ILLiad menu, under “Electronically Received Articles”:


We look forward to helping you continue to access the Divinity Library’s collection remotely. Stay safe, and thanks for your patience as we plan our return to campus in coordination with the other Duke Libraries and with Duke University guidelines!

Reading List: Latin American Liberation Theology

As we look to the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero (March 24, 2020), the witness of the archbishop’s life and death continues to challenge us to listen for the voice of Christ in the cries of the poor and the oppressed. If you feel drawn to learn more about Romero or about liberation theology in a Latin American context, consider reading one of the books on this list, or attending the Duke Graduate Conference in Theology: Engaging Liberation and Reconciliation Through Latin America, taking place March 20-21, 2020. Registration is just $5 for Duke students, and meals are included!


Reading List:

Introducing Liberation Theology, by Leonardo Boff

A theology of liberation : history, politics, and salvation, by Gustavo Gutiérrez, edited and translated by Sister Caridad Inda and John Eagleson

Practical theology of liberation, by Hugo Assmann

Cry of the earth, cry of the poor, by Leonardo Boff, translated by Philip Berryman

No salvation outside the poor : prophetic-utopian essays, by Jon Sobrino

Óscar Romero’s theological vision : liberation and the transfiguration of the poor, by Edgardo Colón-Emeric

Sermons of San Oscar Romero, in English and Spanish, at the Archbishop Romero Trust

A critical introduction to religion in the Americas : bridging the liberation theology and religious studies divide, by Michelle Gonzalez

A theology of human hope, by Rubem Alves

A guide to liberation theology for middle-class congregations, by Charles Bayer

Liberation theology, edited by Roger Nash

Latin American liberation theology, by David Tombs

Liberation theology and sexuality, edited by Marcella Althaus-Reid

The Liberation Theology Debate, by Rosino Gibellini

Liberation theology and the Bible, edited by Pieter G.R. de Villiers

Liberating exegesis : the challenge of liberation theology to Biblical studies, by Mark Corner and Christopher Rowland

Liberation theology in Latin America, by James V. Schall

The Cambridge companion to liberation theology, edited by Christopher Rowland

Liberation theology : an introductory reader, edited by: Curt Cadorette

Pastoral care and liberation theology, by Stephen Pattinson

Radical liberation theology : an evangelical response, by Raymond Hundley

Liberation theology : the political expression of religion, by Ricardo Planas

Liberation theology : a study in its soteriology, by Atilio René Dupertuis

Struggles for solidarity : liberation theology in tension, edited by Lorine M. Getz and Ruy O. Costa

Latin American liberation theology : a bibliography on essential writings, by Svein Helge Birkelflet and Kjell Nordstokke

The practice and theory of liberation theology in Peru, by Arthur Joseph McDonald

The Latino Christ in art, literature, and liberation theology, by Michael R. Candelaria

Our God has no favourites : a liberation theology of the Eucharist, by Anne Primavesi and Jennifer Henderson

The option for the poor in Latin American liberation theology, by Joseph Barry Stenger

Mission between the times : essays, by C. René Padilla

Reading List: Black History Month

  1. The Souls of Black Folks, W.E.B. DuBois
  2. African American History and Devotionals, Teresa Fry Brown
  3. Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God
  4. Go Tell It On The Mountain, James Baldwin
  5. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  6. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  7. Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  8. The Cross and the Lynching Tree, James Cone
  9. The African American Century, Cornel West and Henry Louis Gates
  10. Knowing Christ Crucified, M. Shawn Copeland
  11. Our Lives Matter, Pamela Lightsey
  12. A Testament of Hope, Martin Luther King Jr,
  13. Just A Sister Away, Renita Weems
  14. Blood Done Sign My Name, Tim Tyson
  15. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  16. Roots, Alex Haley
  17. Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation 1838-1839, Fanny Kemble
  18. The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
  19. To Die For The People, Huey Newton
  20. An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
  21. Proud Shoes, Pauli Murray
  22. Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
  23. Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
  24. The Third Reconstruction, William Barber
  25. Enfleshing Freedom, M. Shawn Copeland
  26. Were You There? David Goatley
  27. Making A Way Out of No Way, Monica Coleman
  28. Katie’s Canon, Katie Geneva Canon
  29. Deeper Shades of Purple, ed. Stacey Floyd Thomas
  30. MARCH, vol. I, vol. II, and vol. III, John Lewis
  31. Breathe: A Letter To My Sons, Imani Perry
  32. Word, Like Fire, Valerie Cooper
  33. This Far by Faith, Quinton Dixie and Juan Willians
  34. Economic Ethics and The Black Church, Wylin D. Wilson

Finding Commentaries in the Divinity School Library: A Short Guide

Need to find one or more biblical commentaries* for a sermon or an assignment? Below you’ll find advice on how to find commentaries using the Atla database, the Reference Room, the library catalog, and more!

Using Atla

You can access the Atla database directly from the Divinity Library’s homepage — look for the blue catalog search box and choose the second tab (Atla). Use the keywords “Daniel commentary” (or whatever book of the Bible you are searching for) and hit Search.

Now. Atla indexes a lot of material — articles, book reviews, books, and more. To narrow it down to commentaries specifically, scroll down and watch the left-hand menu. “Source Types” has a default selection of “All Results,” but that’s not what you want. Select “Books” — the page will refresh, and now all the results will be books!

Browse through the results and pick a few you like. The item record will only give you a little information — the title, the author, and the publication data. Once you’re ready to find the book itself, click the “Get it at Duke” icon. This icon will run a search for an online version of the book, and it will likely take you to a page that says we don’t have it — but that just means we don’t have it online. The same page gives you options to locate the book in the print catalog, OR request the item through Interlibrary Loan!

Using the Catalog — Finding PRINT or ONLINE Commentaries

Go back to the Divinity Library homepage and find the blue search box again. Use the same search string we just used for Atla (book name + commentary) in the main catalog search box. Sometimes if your book of the Bible is a common English name (Samuel, Daniel, Matthew, Mark, etc.), it helps to toss the word “Bible” in there, too.

You might get a lot of results — look at the menu on the left-hand side of the page for helpful ways to narrow them, for example:

“Available Online” — Check this box to only see e-books you can access immediately!

“Location” — Select “Divinity” to limit your search results to print books that are from the Divinity Library’s collection.

“Publication Year” — This one is towards the bottom of the menu, but very helpful if you are looking for the latest scholarship (e.g., within the last 25 years).

Using the Reference Room

The entire back wall of the Reference Room is filled with commentary series, arranged in alphabetical order by series title — starting with ANCHOR BIBLE on your left and proceeding to WORD BIBLICAL COMMENTARY on your right. The series are then arranged in order of canon (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus…). These are all modern commentaries (after the development of historical critical methodology),  and the wall is designed to be very easy to browse. None of these volumes can circulate (which means they’ll always be right there in the Reference Room for you to use!), but we typically have a circulating copy of all Ref Room commentaries that you can find in the stacks and check out.

One exception to the Reference Room’s WALL OF MODERNITY is the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series. Per its title, this series gathers short excerpts from commentaries by Early and Medieval church fathers and mothers on particular passages of scripture. Interested in using the ACCS or other methods to find pre-modern commentaries? Keep reading!

Looking for Pre-Modern Commentaries

What is a pre-modern commentary, and why should you be interested in studying one? We’re using “pre-modern” here to mean “before the development and popularization of historical criticism”; in other words, before the 19th century. (As for why you should care about pre-modern biblical commentary, go read David Steinmetz’s “The Superiority of Pre-Critical Exegesis,” chapter one in Taking the Long View.) When you’re well and truly convinced by Steinmetz’s thesis and ready to go about finding some good pre-modern material, here are a few places to start:

Searching the Library Catalog: Pull up the library catalog and use the following search string: “Bible. Daniel. Commentaries. Early works to 1800” Seriously. Copy and paste it (quotation marks and all) and hit SEARCH. (And insert whichever book of the Bible you are studying for “Daniel” in the example.) This will bring you pre-modern commentaries from our library catalog. Enjoy!

Using the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series: ACCS gathers lots of short excerpts on short passages of Scripture, but these come from longer works. So how do you find the longer works? First, find a passage you like in ACCS. Locate the author (small caps, after the bolded section heading), and the source (small caps, at the end of the section). The source will have a footnote: look for the corresponding number at the bottom of the page. Here you will find an abbreviation of the larger source: LCC 3:178-79, for example, means Library of Christian Classics, volume 3, pages 178-79. Not sure what the abbreviation stands for? Look for the Abbreviations section in the front of the volume you are using. Popular series in English include ACW (Ancient Christian Writers), ANF (Ante-Nicene Fathers), FC (Fathers of the Church), LCC (Library of Christian Classics), and NPNF (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers) — and ALL of these series are in the Reference Room! (Ask a librarian if you get stuck.)

Using Biblia Patristica: Interested in finding commentaries in Latin and Greek? The Biblia Patristica series is located in the Reference Room at BR 66.5 .U53, or you can also use the online, open access search tool at BiBLindex. These resources gather citations of passages in the writings of early and medieval Christians that comment on Scripture and organize them by verse. Start by looking up your passage in a Biblia Patristica volume: you’ll find abbreviated citations of longer works; for example, “TERT PAT ” is Tertullian’s De patientia. (See the abbreviation list at the front of the volume — which will also tell you Tertullian’s De patientia can be found in CCL (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina) volume 1. Look closely at the citation: often Biblia Patristica will give you the book and chapter number of the larger work, and/or the page and line number from the critical edition in CCL or PG (Patrologiae, Series Graeca) or PL (Patrologiae, Series Latina)! Confused? Find Dr. Benjamin. She loves helping people learn Biblia Patristica.

Browsing the Stacks for Commentaries

The Divinity School Library uses the Library of Congress classification system, which arranges books by subject. Each book of the Bible is its own subject — commentaries on Old Testament books start with Genesis at BS 1231 and end with Malachi at 1671; OT Apocryphal books occupy BS 1711-1871; New Testament books start with Matthew at BS 2570 and end with Revelation at 2820; and NT Apocryphal books occupy BS 2860-2970. Looking for commentaries on Daniel? Go browse BS 1550-1560! This section will be full of commentaries* and monographs** on Daniel. The full list of biblical books by Library of Congress Classification Number can be found here.


*What is a commentary?

A commentary is an in-depth, verse-by-verse analysis of a book of the Bible. Commentaries often interact with the original language of a text as well as its cultural, historical, literary, and socio-political contexts, in order to help readers understand the text’s function and purpose.


** What is a monograph?

A monograph is a book that is written (graph) by a single (mono) author, typically on a single subject. But a monograph is not necessarily a commentary! Remember, a commentary is a verse-by-verse engagement with a text. A monograph might go on at length about something related to the biblical text (e.g., coins within the Roman empire and currency used in 1st-century Judea), but will not offer verse-by-verse commentary. Trying to figure out if the book you have chosen is a commentary on Matthew? See if you can find the part that deals with Matthew 4. And Matthew 16. If that was an easy exercise, you have a commentary!


De-coding your Syllabus: Practical Tips for the Beginning of the Semester

Welcome back to Duke Divinity School! We know the first days of a new semester are always hectic — and on top of it all, professors keep handing you 18-page documents full of dates and bibliography entries and bullet points! A syllabus can be complicated and intimidating, even for people who have been in academia for years, so please know it is NOT just you.

Don’t panic. Do this instead.

Sit down with a hard copy of the syllabus, a highlighter, and your personal calendar. (And a cookie.) 

Everything in this syllabus is important. But let’s grab the REALLY important stuff first.

REQUIRED TEXTS: These usually show up early in the syllabus. You MUST have these books OR know exactly how you can access them. HINT: if a reading says “SAKAI” next to it, the professor has posted it to your course’s Sakai site. If a reading doesn’t have this notation, YOU are responsible for making sure you have access to the reading, whether by purchasing the book or finding it in the library. Professors send their book lists to the library before each semester so that students can have access to them for three hours at a time—this is when a book is on “Reserve” at the library. The library also collects “e-reserves”, or electronic copies of required textbooks, that you can access online and read from home or from your favorite Durham coffee shop. Give it some thought: choose which books you want to invest in buying and which books you can check out at the library and scan chapters to send to yourself.

ASSIGNMENTS – LIST: Open the syllabus to find the calendar of assignments. Sometimes you have to dig a few pages to find it. And it may be under a few different categories, but often it will be under something akin to “Assignments and Policies.” You are looking for assignments and DATES. This section is the most important thing in the entire document.  Read it closely, TWICE, and immediately write or enter all of the assignments into your calendar on the days they are due. Midterm exam? In-class presentation? Final paper? Final paper due the same week as all your other final papers for all your other classes? Don’t let any of these dates sneak up on you! GET THEM ON THE CALENDAR. Start to make a plan for the hard weeks in the semester now. Do you know who’s great at helping make a plan for the hard weeks in the semester? Judith Heyhoe, director of the Writing Center and Academic Support! Email her at — she will be very happy to help you look at your schedule.

ASSIGNMENTS – DETAILS: Knowing you have a paper due in the first week of March and getting it on your calendar is a great first step. But as soon as you get it on the calendar, your whole brain is going to go, “Great! Let’s not worry about this until March 1.” HOLD THAT THOUGHT. Flip through the rest of the syllabus and see if you can find a section that gives more detail on the expectations for each assignment. Flag this section with a Post-it note that will stick out the side of your syllabus so you can find it easily again when you start worrying about an assignment in earnest. But do yourself a favor and read it now, and think about how you can prepare: does the assignment ask you to review a book that’s not on the assigned readings list? Do some summary and analysis of the course readings up to this point in the semester? Make a plan for how you’re going to get that work done before the night before your assignment is due.

RHYTHM OF A WEEK: What does a normal week in this class look like? Find the CALENDAR OF ASSIGNED READINGS. Slowly skim through the first couple of weeks. About how many pages are you being asked to read to prepare for class? Do you need to write a summary of the readings, post a discussion question for Sakai, email your preceptor a reflection paragraph, or prepare some other response to each week’s readings? Figure out exactly how much work this class is going to be, and figure out when you’re going to do it. Reading is slow work! Try to find spaces in your schedule where you know you can read without being stressed about rushing off to your next thing.

ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS: Okay, admit it: you skipped ahead to see what you need to read for next week, and you saw “CCOT” and some numbers and got confused. Slow down! Go back and look through the different required texts and see if any of them have an acronym next to them. Often these books have long, complicated titles — and in the assignments sections, a professor will only refer to the book by its author’s last name, or by an acronym. So for the Cambridge Companion to the Old Testament, a professor might call it CCOT — aha!

OTHER AWFUL WORDS: Monograph… Peer-reviewed article… Chicago/Turabian style footnotes… Highlight ANY word you aren’t sure about and either look it up or ask your friendly librarians. Sometimes in a syllabus, professors will speak in the ways in which they are used to speaking and reading, which often includes jargon that is unfamiliar to people who haven’t spent the last decade (or more) immersed in the academy. And, if you feel overwhelmed from the start of the semester because you don’t understand the syllabus, that can be a difficult start to the class. We want you to feel empowered!

PARTING THOUGHTS: If there is ANYTHING you do not understand in a syllabus, make an appointment with either Dr. Katie Benjamin or Lacey Hudspeth on Sakai or email them at or Librarians are here to help make your lives easier and to aid in your academic success in any ways that we can!