Wilson Library

Open Letter To Dr. Jay Herndon, Re. Bethany University Library

Wilson Library
Wilson library at Bethany University. Photo by Debbie Pope.

Dear Dr. Herndon:

You might remember me as the Library Director at Bethany University, for 5 years after Arnold McLellan retired.  I had the pleasure of hiring and working with your daughter-in-law for those years, and the privilege of teaching Josh’s Critical Thinking class for a semester in 2006.  I am also a quarter-century supporter, student and employee of Bethany University, as well as a concerned citizen who has spent his entire adult career in the field of Information Science.

I’m writing this letter based on my concerns regarding the future of the Wilson Library collection at Bethany University, at the urging of several alumni and mutual acquaintances.  In 2002, I was ordered by President Wilson to conduct a survey of the collection. Of 1300 randomly-chosen items throughout the library, I was happy to report to the administration that the collection was worth in excess of $4 million. Physical plant notwithstanding, the library proved to be the single largest physical asset on campus. I’m not sure what happened to this report. I assume it was placed on someone’s desk, where it sat until it moved to another desk, and another, and ultimately was filed away. I’d be interested to know if somebody on campus (the Business Office or the Presidents’ Office) could find a copy of this, for the trustees, to pin down numbers for any future discussions dealing with the physical library collection.

Please know that my study was completed in order to assess a replacement cost for insurance purposes. The Administration wanted to know what we would do if something were to happen to the library itself. The number was not meant to place a fixed cash value on the collection for selling the books. I say this because I believe that far more important than the monetary value (which is an accurate, albeit 10-year-old estimate) provided by the collection, many of the books and journals that exist on Wilson Library’s shelves are not only unique to the state of California and to the United States, but also informs and records our Pentecostal heritage. It is a log of the events, people and churches in the NorCal/Nevada District, and are quite frankly irreplacable. It is my concern that these materials, collected for more than 90 years, would be lost to the Assemblies of God, and thus to history itself.

I urge the Trustees to carefully consider what will become of this collection. It would truly be a travesty if the collection were auctioned off to a bookstore, or sold piecemeal on Amazon. The contents are extremely narrow in scope. Because many of the pieces are related to our heritage, would be worth “next to nothing” to anyone outside our culture. For example, William Jessup University would have no use for a hundred-year run of every issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. it’s my recommendation that, at very least, Northwest College, Vanguard University, and the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center should be given access, if not first “dibs,” on this collection before any thoughts have been given toward liquidation. These materials are our legacy, our history, and our heritage. I urge you, your fellow Trustees, and the District, to resist any temptation to view the collection as nothing more than an excellent source of cash.

Thank you for your time. I am sure you will consider my concerns with much thought and prayer.


Brian Carpenter


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