Mission Statement

Memphis Theological Seminary Library provides resources and services in support of the seminary’s mission to prepare persons for ministry. Specifically, the library provides materials for study and research in theology and practical ministry and nurtures the skillful use of resources through library helps and instruction.

The Collection

The library collection contains over 85,000 volumes and 340 current periodical subscriptions. The reference collection contains over 6,000 print volumes.  The library subscribes to four major online bibliographic and full-text services providing access to hundreds of databases.


The library collection is ecumenical in scope and supports the broad diversity of the seminary community. The library contains one of the world’s largest collections of materials relating to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, including rare and historical materials. The MTS library also houses strong collections of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and American and National Baptist materials. The library also collects materials relating to African-American Religion, especially in the mid-south. This collection includes photocopies of the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Library Hours

Fall and Spring Semesters


Monday-Thursday 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
Friday 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

When classes are not in session, the library hours are:

Monday-Thursday 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Friday 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.


The MTS Library is located in Founders Hall on the campus of Memphis Theological Seminary. The campus is on the southeast corner of East Parkway and Union Avenue in Memphis,Tennessee.

Public computers are available on the first floor in the reading room, as well as on each floor of the stacks.

Access to the stacks is through the periodical room.  Follow the yellow line on the floor to the door.  Students who are unable to use the stairs, please check with library staff to pull books for you.

Directories for each floor are posted throughout the library, at the entrance to the periodical room across from the public service desk, and on the door from the stairwell.

Library Policies

The copy machine is provided for library users. It costs 10 cents per copy. The library staff CANNOT charge copies so please bring change when planning to copy library materials. Please see the business office to change a bill larger than $5.00.

All printing through MTS Library networked computer printers is charged at a rate of 10 cents per printed page.  In order to print, users must first set up an individual printing account and pre-pay for printing at  the MTS Library public service desk.

A courtesy phone is provided for students near the Founders Hall main entry and a pay phone is provided for student’s use in the student center. Library phones are for BUSINESS USE ONLY.

Children must be attended by an adult when in the library. The library staff cannot assume responsibility for unattended children. Children under 12 should NOT be left unattended in the library while parents are in class. The staff is not qualified to provide adequate childcare and CANNOT take responsibility for the safety and well being of such children.

Please keep phones on vibrate while in reading room.  Please step outside to make and receive calls.

Collection Development Policy

The Memphis Theological Seminary Library’s mission statement says the library “…provides resources and services in support of the seminary’s mission to prepare persons for ministry. Specifically, the library provides materials for study and research in theology and practical ministry…”. In order to fulfill this mission, the library must continually add excellent new monographs, serials volumes, and audio-visual materials to its collection. Given the library’s limitations in terms of space and funding, new items must be chosen carefully in order to maximize the collection’s value to the Memphis Theological Seminary community. Furthermore, library items which no longer hold a great deal of value to the library should be withdrawn to make space for new acquisitions. This policy exists to guide selection and withdrawal of library materials.

The Library Director oversees all materials selection. Because the Library Director holds faculty status and participates in faculty meetings and in the Curriculum Committee, s/he is in a unique position in the library staff to anticipate resource needs for upcoming courses and faculty research, and to solicit resource selections from the rest of the faculty. It is expected that the Library Director will do so. The Library Director will also monitor the amount of selections from each faculty member, so that s/he can select more resources in areas where the faculty are selecting less. This way, the collection will target areas of teaching and research interest to faculty members who select resources, but will not cease to collect in areas where the library receives fewer recommendations. Materials selections by faculty members other than the Library Director will always take precedence in budget allocation.
The whole library staff should pay attention to student and faculty comments about the collection at all times. Often it is library patrons who discover weaknesses in the collection. A library staff member who hears such a comment should notify the Library Director via e-mail so that the Library Director can focus selection in that area.

Collection Specifications
Because Memphis Theological Seminary is a teaching institution supporting mostly professional theological degrees, the library’s collection should provide a wide and substantial sampling of current scholarship across the theological curriculum. In addition, the library should provide the classic texts in each discipline. No attempt is made to collect comprehensively in any one theological discipline. However, the library pursues a higher level of collection in its areas of special collection, which are Cumberland Presbyterian history, doctrine, and polity; materials related to C. S. Lewis and the Inklings; and materials related to the civil rights movement in Memphis and the Mississippi Delta. In addition, because Memphis Theological Seminary supports special programs in the areas of faith and health, theology and the arts, and theology and rhetoric, the library will collect more heavily in these areas.

Because Memphis Theological Seminary serves a student body that is diverse in ethnic background, denominational affiliation, theological perspective, and gender, the library’s collection should reflect this diversity as much as possible. Because past library materials selection and the publishing industry in general have neglected many diverse perspectives, the Library Director should be intentional about seeking out materials from perspectives that are underrepresented in the collection. This may include limited travel to bookstores of denominational publishing houses that do not distribute materials widely beyond their own circles.

Because the primary language spoken in Memphis Theological Seminary classrooms is English, the library will collect primarily English language resources. However, in recognition of the growing influence of Spanish in American culture, the library may collect some Spanish materials. Furthermore, in recognition of the importance of the Biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek, in theological studies the library may collect those materials to support the curriculum in Biblical studies.

Furthermore, in recognition that occasional works in other languages are necessary for faculty research and for diversity of perspectives, the library may collect some materials that are necessary for such purposes.
The library should also provide some materials in areas that are outside of the traditional theological curriculum. This includes materials from non-Christian religions, mythology, the social sciences, history, philosophy, rhetoric, and literature. These areas will represent a relatively small portion of the library’s acquisitions, and should represent a wide sampling of these areas. However, some seminary courses will necessitate more thorough collection in particular areas.

Because many of the faculty members at Memphis Theological Seminary are particularly interested in the intersection of Christianity and popular culture, the library will collect some items from popular culture. However, these acquisitions should be tied to particular curricular offerings or faculty research needs.
The reference collection in the library will necessarily span a wider range of academic disciplines and general studies. Generally, the collection should provide an expansive collection of current reference tools in each theological discipline and a wide collection of current reference sources such as general encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, and atlases. It should additionally provide some discipline-specific reference tools in disciplines related to theological studies, such as philosophy, history, and the social sciences.

The periodicals collection should maintain a steady core of journals and magazines related theological studies and other areas of interest to the seminary. Any new journal or magazine added to the collection should have direct curricular significance, and must be indexed in a database to which the library subscribes through either the ATLA FirstSearch Consortium or the Tennessee Electronic Library. Generally, the periodicals will be indexed in either ATLA Religion Index (FirstSearch), Arts and Humanities Search (FirstSearch), or Philosophy and Religion Database (Tennessee Electronic Library). Periodicals subscriptions may be canceled only in consultation with the full faculty.

Online databases services such as FirstSearch and the Tennessee Electronic Library are contracted on an annual basis. However, the library will strive to maintain stability by changing its online subscriptions as little as possible. If the databases used in the selection of the periodicals subscriptions cease to be available through these services for a reasonable rate, the library may seek access to those indexes through other services.

The audio-visual collection will include primarily faculty-selected materials for use in the classroom and current documentaries relating to theological studies.
Additionally, the library will collect a limited number of feature films which have discernible theological themes. Whenever possible given a reasonable price, the library will obtain performance rights for these materials. An audio-visual item’s bibliographic record will, wherever possible, indicate if the library has purchased performance rights.

Preference in selection is for DVD rather than VHS formats, due to space constraints and an apparent trend toward obsolescence of the VHS format.
The Memphis Theological Seminary Library recognizes the emerging area of digital resources in higher education. The library subscribes to full text article services through FirstSearch and the Tennessee Electronic Library. Additionally, the library links to relevant digital collections and webliographies on the World Wide Web through its website. In the future, the library resolves to discover ways to host digital scholarship should it begin to emerge from the Memphis Theological Seminary community and from the special collections in the library. These ways may include partnering with other institutions.

Withdrawal of Library Materials
The Memphis Theological Seminary has limited space in which to store its materials. For this reason, it is important to withdraw items which do not represent current scholarship, the important past work of a theological discipline, an area of particular interest to Memphis Theological Seminary, or an underrepresented perspective in the collection. Items for withdrawal are chosen by members of the library staff. All withdrawals are subject to approval of the faculty, especially the faculty members in the academic disciplines most closely related to the work in question.
When a group of library items are selected for withdrawal, the Library Director will e-mail a list of the works to the rest of the faculty. The faculty will be given at least two weeks in which any faculty member can veto the withdrawal of any particular item. After that, the books will be offered for sale in the library or on the open market. All proceeds from this sale will be returned to the seminary. If the items do not sell in a reasonable amount of time they may be offered free of charge or recycled. Books of possibly higher value may be sold online or to book vendors.

Gift Materials
The library accepts gift books that will benefit the library as additions to the collection or through sale. The library does not accept used student textbooks as gifts. Once an item has been accepted as a gift to the library, the library reserves the right to withdraw the item for sale or recycling if it outlives its usefulness to the collection.

General Circulation Information

The Memphis Theological Library is open to the public. Library borrowing privileges are extended to Memphis Theological Seminary students, faculty and staff, alumni, and to students and faculty from other area colleges with whom the library has mutual usage agreements. Clergy and religious professionals and others may apply for special borrowing privileges. Privileges may be granted upon application and approval from the Library Director and the payment of a $25.00 annual fee. Memphis Theological Seminary Library will NOT extend borrowing privileges to students from schools with whom the seminary library DOES NOT have reciprocal usage agreements.

All users must present a valid MTS library card to check out materials. This card is issued without cost to the patron. Persons with borrowing privileges have an assigned PIN number to assist in the use of on-line renewal privileges. Please keep the library informed of any change in address.

MTS students, staff and alumni may check out circulating materials for a four-week period. Items may be renewed for an additional four-week period, provided that another user does not have a HOLD request on the item and that the item is not overdue. MTS Faculty and D.Min students may check out circulating items for 6 months. There is no limit on the number of items an MTS student or faculty member may check out. Special borrowers are limited to three items checked out for a two-week period with one possible renewal.

Audio tapes, DVD and videos; MTS D.Min. projects and theses may be checked out for one week.

Periodicals, microfilm, and microfiche may be used only in the library and DO NOT circulate.

Rare books and  reference books DO NOT circulate.

Materials from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Manuscript collection must be used IN-HOUSE only and CANNOT be photocopied.

With the exception of reserve materials, hold requests may be made for checked-out items. All hold request items must be picked up within a week of notification of their availability.

RESERVE MATERIALS must be requested at the circulation desk and circulate for periods of time designated by the instructor. Most items placed on reserve are available for in-house use ONLY.

Renewals of checked-out materials can be made online through the MTS eLibrary web site (with User ID number and a PIN) or at the Circulation Desk.

Circulation Policy for special borrowers and public patrons who have properly registered with Memphis Theological Seminary Library:

  • Special borrowers who are NOT Memphis Theological Seminary students may check out NO more than 3 (three) books and are limited to a 2 (two) week check out with 1 (one) renewal possible per item.

  • Students from other schools with whom the seminary has reciprocal usage agreements may check out NO more than 3 (three) books and are limited to a 2 (two) week check out with 1 (one) renewal possible per item.
Fines and Overdues

Fines are accessed as follows:

  • 20 cents per day for regular circulating materials.
  • $1.00 per day for reserve materials, audio and video tapes and theses.
  • Fines will be due and payable when overdue materials are returned. Fines will NOT accrue on days the library is closed and the amount of the fine will NOT exceed the price of the book or other materials. UNPAID FINES WILL BE ADDED TO THE STUDENT’S ACCOUNT in the business office.
  • If books and materials are not returned on the due date, a notice will be sent to the patron, indicating that the material is overdue and must be returned to the library. If no response is received within 30 days, the patron will receive a second notice and will be contacted by the Library Director. If there is still no response within 90 days, a final notice will be sent and the patron will be invoiced for the price of the book plus a $20.00 processing fee for replacing the item.

Unpaid charges will be added to the student’s account in the business office and will be treated as other delinquent charges. Fines will be assessed and collected on all overdue library material.

Additional Rules
  • No smoking, eating, or drinking in the library.
  • Do not re-shelve books. Leave them at study carrels or on tables or book carts for the library staff to re-shelve.
  • Please respect the right of others to have an area on campus conducive to study and research
  • Please be sure that all library materials are properly checked out before leaving. The library staff reserve the right to inspect items as customers leave the library