Sister Rebecca Abel of the Immaculate Conception Monastery in Ferdinand, Indiana is on-site at St. Gertrude’s for six weeks consulting for the library and archives. She has overseen libraries for schools and colleges, and in 2013 concluded 17 years of serving as librarian for the Pontifical North American College, the American bishops’ seminary in Rome. Upon returning to her monastery, she began to serve as a consultant.
She explains that the work required in the library and archives includes three phases: organization and weeding out, computerizing, and training. Sister Rebecca is assisted in her work by Librarian Sister Sue Ellen and Archivist Sister Miriam Mendez.
As a specialist in theology libraries, Sister Rebecca is adept at identifying spiritual classics from less necessary books. She also reads the check-out card to learn which books the sisters are reading. The library collection will be digitally catalogued over the next five years.
Sister Rebecca explains that the archives are important as a record of the activities of the sisters and the information there requires a similar gleaning process. The archives will be catalogued with the same software used to track artifacts at the Historical Museum.
Benedictine monasteries have generally long-upheld the importance of libraries and record-keeping. “I like to think of those old monasteries and their scriptoriums,” says Sister Rebecca. “I get to help this community discover the treasures in their collection — and they have riches here!”