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Cerebral palsy no handicap in librarian’s 40-year career

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–For 40 years, Barbara Russell has worked in the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary libraries, providing, her co-workers say, an example of Christlike servanthood and professionalism in one of the libraries’ most demanding positions.

High praise for a catalog librarian, who also happens to have cerebral palsy — a condition she has never used as an excuse for not doing her best.

Russell, who retired Dec. 20, said she will miss the people on staff at the libraries on the Fort Worth, Texas, campus.

“All of the librarians have been very special and all in different ways,” she said. “They have been very good to me. They focus on my ability rather than my handicap.”

Russell has served under four directors of libraries at Southwestern, Charles P. Johnson, Keith Wills, Carl Wrotenbery and, most recently, C. Berry Driver.

“She models the servant’s role of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Driver said. “She is an indefatigable worker. She never draws attention to herself, and she doesn’t garner sympathy. She is always thinking about others more than herself.”

Russell is one of the first library employees on the job each morning and shows outstanding tenacity and the ability to get the job done, he said.

From her office in a tucked away corner of the A. Webb Roberts Library, she has touched an amazing number of lives over the past 40 years.

“Her Christian servant’s heart has been a testimony to us all,” Driver said. “She gets along well with everyone. Her Christian character has been a great testimony of God’s grace in her life.”

Russell’s career began Sept. 5, 1960, in the old Fleming Library. Russell, who holds both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in library science from North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas), is an original catalog librarian, which means she is responsible for cataloging items not listed in the Library of Congress catalogs. Most catalogers can go to official bibliographic databases to catalog documents, books and other resources. Russell, Driver said, is very proficient at cataloging items that were not in those databases.

“Cataloging is one of the most demanding aspects of librarianship,” he said. “You have to be very intelligent, have a lot of wisdom and knowledge on how to catalog. There are not many people in that field who have that level of theological library experience.”

Retirement for Russell means she will become more active at Gambrell Street Baptist Church, where she serves as church librarian. She also wants to be more involved with the activities at her retirement center, where she recently moved.

Driver said she will still be called upon to work at the library and help out when she can.

“We’ll continue to invite her to our functions and make use of her expertise,” he said. “She is a librarian par excellence. … She is a specialist in her field. It will be challenging to find someone to do her job.

“To replace her equivocally will be impossible,” Driver said. “Her life remains a paradigm for 21st-century theological librarians.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BARBARA RUSSELL.

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  • Roy Hayhurst

    Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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