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A digital archive of Western Theological Seminary's history.

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  • Food and beverages are allowed in the DeWitt Learning Center.
  • Tables and other surfaces must be cleaned before you leave the Learning Center.
  • Cleaning supplies are available. Ask at the circulation desk

The mission statement of Western Theological Seminary’s Cook Library is: “to be the center for access to biblical, theological, and ministry information resources for students, faculty, and alumni of Western Theological Seminary and the West Michigan community.”

As a library guest you acknowledge and agree to follow these conditions:

  • Your use of the Cook Library should be limited to academic research within the aims and intentions of the mission statement.
  • Your use of the facility, including your personal behavior, must not interfere with the needs of seminary students, faculty, staff, or other patrons using the facility or resources. The Cook Library Director and Staff determine the appropriate and proper use of the facilities.
  • Computer terminals are provided for the use of Western Theological Seminary faculty, staff, students and guests; because the primary mission of Cook Library focuses on the research and study needs of the faculty, staff and students of Western Theological Seminary, the computer needs of these groups take precedence. Computer usage shall fall within the overall policy guidelines for them (see the statement found in the policy sections below).
  • Your use of the wireless network within the library must follow the policy guidelines for computer use.
  • Your use of a computer within Cook Library acknowledges your understanding that the seminary has a right to monitor all activity on a computer within the seminary network or those accessing the Internet through the library’s wireless network, including, but not limited to, programs used and websites accessed. Acceptable use does not include entertainment or social networking sites such as music videos, YouTube, FaceBook or Pinterest.
  • There are two (2) iPads available on each floor for searching in the Catalog (Primo). No other use is permitted.
Failure to follow with these conditions will lead to loss of library privileges.
  • Use of the computers and network for commercial purposes is prohibited.
  • In order to allow equal access, the library staff reserves the right to set time limits on any workstation.
  • Downloading software or loading software directly onto a workstation from a personal storage device or CD is prohibited.
  • All personal files must be saved onto a personal storage device (such as a flash drive) or cloud storage (such as Google Drive). Any files saved to the workstation will be deleted by library staff.
  • Users are expected to preserve the computer's configuration by refraining from changing displays and icon arrangements.
  • All printing is routed to the laser copier next to the KIC system.
  • Patrons may pay for copies by using their bank/credit card or currency. For further details, please ask at the circulation desk.
  • The following uses of the seminary computers are prohibited:
    1. Use that denies or interferes with, or attempts to deny or interfere with, service to others in any way.
    2. Use that is inconsistent with Western Theological Seminary's non-profit status.
    3. Use that threatens or harasses others.
    4. Use that damages the integrity of the seminary, its computer network, or other computer networks.
    5. Use that violates federal, state, or local laws.
    6. Use that violates copyright laws.
    7. Use that violates seminary contracts.
    8. Use that violates any external data network policies.
  • Intentional violation of these policies will result in loss of privileges.
  • Applicable federal and state laws govern the use of computing resources within educational institutions. The standards for behavior expressed in the seminary handbook also apply to the use of seminary resources. Users are responsible for complying with any laws, standards, policies, or procedures pertaining to computer use.

Cook Library is in compliance with MCL 397.601–MCL 397.606 (The Library Privacy Act) in regards to library records.

A copy of your patron record in XML format is available upon request. Please contact the library for details.

  • The Internet is a global electronic network comprised of hundreds of millions of different sites reflecting the whole range of human interests and activities. Because the Internet changes so quickly, the Cook Library staff cannot be expected to have thorough knowledge of various sites and their content. Users are ultimately responsible for the choice of sites they visit.
  • Cook Library is committed to freedom of expression and the principles of intellectual freedom as expressed in the "Access to Digital Information, Services, and Networks: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights" statement formulated by the American Library Association.
  • The restriction of any child's access to the Internet is the sole responsibility of her/his parent or legal guardian.
  • Cook Library makes no warranty, expressed or implied, for the timeliness, accuracy or usefulness for a particular item of information accessed on the Internet.
  • Cook Library makes no guarantee that Internet sites will be accessible, nor can it guarantee the speed at which the system operates.
  • Users must comply with the United States copyright law and all other applicable laws.
  • In their use of the Internet seminary students are expected to follow the conduct guidelines as stated in the Western Seminary Handbook (2015-16) 2.3.

The goal of Cook Library's Collection Development Policy is to collect materials that encourage the spiritual and intellectual development of our users. We welcome donations of gently used and new books in quantities of less than 10 medium-sized boxes. Used books should be in good or better condition: no major binding flaws, water damage, loose hinges, or extensive ink or highlighter marks. We do not guarantee the final disposition of any books donated to Cook Library.

Nonitemized gift receipts are available upon request for any donations of books.

Book Donation Drop-offs must be scheduled in advance by contacting Cook Library at 616-392-8555 ext.139

We accept titles in the following areas published after 1995:

  • Biblical studies: Hebrew Bible and New Testament commentaries, background monographs, lexical material
  • Theological material: Classics and new theological texts
  • Ethics: especially Christian ethics
  • History of religion: comparative studies, specialized monographs
  • History of Christianity: especially Reformation and Counter-reformation, Modern Christianity
  • Missiology, world Christianity, inter-cultural studies, history of spirituality
  • Theory and practice of Christian formation
  • Christian denominational resources and publications: especially denominational histories, doctrinal works, and polity
  • Social history and concerns: including marriage, families, communities, class, race, and public welfare
  • Public theology
  • Music and Fine Arts: especially works related to spirituality and religion

Please download and fill out this form if you need a gift receipt for your records. A member of the full-time library staff will sign it when we receive your materials.

  1. In order to prevent confusion and to respect the privacy of library users, all tours of the DeWitt Learning Center must be arranged with the library staff.
  2. All tours of the DeWitt Learning Center will be conducted by the library staff.

Cook Library supports the mission of Western Theological Seminary by being the center for access to biblical, theological, and ministry information resources for students, faculty, and alumni of Western Theological Seminary and the West Michigan community.

Cook Library Collection Development Policy


The theological library fulfills a unique role in a seminary by systematically acquiring, organizing, making accessible, and preserving all forms of Christian communication. It does so guided by the commitment that interacting with persons engaged in serious exploration of matters of faith is an indispensable element of theological education. The theological library seeks to facilitate conversations between students and those contributing to the literature of Christianity (from the past and present, from women and men, from the many Christian traditions, from all areas of the world) thereby fostering the possibility of students making their own contribution to the ongoing theological conversation. In addition, Cook Library’s role is fundamentally shaped by its own mission statement ("Cook Library supports the mission of Western Theological Seminary by being the center for access to biblical, theological, and ministry information resources for students, faculty, and alumni of Western Theological Seminary and the West Michigan community") and by the seminary’s mission statement (“By God’s grace, Western Theological Seminary forms women and men for faithful Christian ministry and participation in the Triune God’s ongoing redemptive work in the world”). Collection development at the Cook Library will be oriented toward and evaluated by these two mission statements.

Selection of Materials

General criteria for selection

The following criteria will be used in making selection decisions:

  • Support for the academic needs of the seminary’s degree programs
  • Support for faculty research
  • Support for the ministries of individual pastors and congregations
  • Christianity’s global dimension, especially voices of traditionally underrepresented peoples and areas
  • Author’s academic credentials and reputation
  • Publisher’s reputation
  • Currency and relevancy of the subject matter for theological study and ministry
  • Cost
  • Availability at the Hope College Libraries and other area libraries

Areas of Emphasis

Historically the seminary’s major curricular emphasis has been in the areas of Bible and theology (including pastoral theology). These areas will be given priority in selecting materials for the collection. Given its denominational ties, Cook Library will try to be thorough in its collection of the history and current documentation of the Reformed Church in America as well as materials representing the wider Reformed tradition. Historically distinctive areas of the collection meriting special attention include the history of the Dutch Reformed churches in west Michigan, church art and architecture, and preaching/homiletics. However, scholarship on global Christianity will receive special attention for the purpose of enriching theological conversation and contributing to cultural competence.

Non-English languages

Purchases will be made of materials in languages other than English which conform to the collection development policy or specific needs of the seminary community. These languages may be primary languages in which courses are taught or students speak, historical research languages, or biblical languages, but not limited to these languages.

Multiple Copies

Normally only one copy of a title will be purchased. Requests for multiple copies will be considered based on need and expected value to the collection. In these cases, multiple copies will be purchased in the most economical format.

Out-of-Print Materials

Out-of-print materials will not be purchased or replaced unless they are considered major works in their subject area or specifically requested by a faculty member.


Western Theological Seminary students’ theses and projects will be retained by Cook Library with one bound copy held in Special Collections and an electronic copy available in the digital repository. Theses from other institutions available through University Microfilms may be selected in accordance with these general criteria for all library materials.

Selection by Format

In deciding upon new acquisitions and the retention and preservation of existing collections, the cost, staffing, storage, and use implications are major considerations. Although content rather than format is the main criterion for selection, economy of storage and maintenance as well as convenience of use are considered when material is available in formats other than print.

Selection Process

The primary responsibility for the selection of materials lies with the Director. For current materials the Director checks key sources such as publishers’ catalogs and websites, book reviews in theological journals, bibliographic essays, and general book review publications. The Director will consult with and encourage recommendations from faculty members, staff, and WTS students regarding selections in their areas of expertise.

Internet Resources

A website must serve the curricular needs of the seminary and/or provide quality information for pastoral ministry to be included as a link on the Cook Library web page. Links to websites must fall within the guidelines established in this collection development policy. Suggestions for new sites should be submitted to the Director.

Collection Maintenance


As a general rule, individual volumes of periodicals are bound. Exceptions may occur when there are missing issues, or the format of the publication does not make binding necessary. Binding decisions on items determined to be in poor physical condition are made on a case-by-case basis. Items may be weeded from the collection at that time (using the criteria below).


Items from the collection that are missing, lost, or damaged will be evaluated by the Director to determine whether or not the item should be repaired, replaced or withdrawn. Decisions will be based upon the general criteria for inclusion of materials in the library. Replacement items will be paid for from the appropriate fund from within the library budget.


Weeding of library materials is essential for the maintenance of an active, academically useful collection, and for the best utilization of limited space. Weeding in targeted areas of the collection will be done regularly as needed. The same criteria for selection will apply to weeding decisions. In addition, the following factors will be considered:

  • Past and projected used as substantiated by circulation statistics
  • Physical condition
  • Age, relevancy, and importance of the title in relation to the subject matter
  • Multiple copies or copies readily available in public domain or digital libraries.
  • Copies available in peer and national libraries
  • Broken runs and short runs of dated periodicals
  • Obsolete or superseded media
  • Superseded editions of no value


  • The Director may accept gifts for Cook Library.
  • The Cook Library will not accept any gift with special restrictions or conditions attached to it. The Cook Library reserves the right to evaluate, select and dispose of the gift in the best interest of the seminary.
  • The Cook Library will not appraise any gift to the library.
  • A letter of acknowledgement will be sent to the donor. However, the Cook Library will not provide the donor with an itemized list of all items received. If a list is provided by the donor, the receipt of the items will be acknowledged.
  • Gift items that are added to the collection must meet the established criteria for library material selection and collection development.


Western Theological Seminary will continue its contractual arrangement with Hope College to provide archival services. The Hope College Archives and Special Collections will continue to be housed in the college’s archival facility and served by the college’s archival staff. The Director and college archivist will work together to collect extensively documents pertaining to the seminary and the RCA in the Great Lakes region.

Freedom of Expression

The Cook Library is firmly committed to the provision of all forms of information to support intellectual inquiry and the educational process. The Cook Library supports the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights. While the rights of individuals and groups to criticize and disagree with points of view expressed in library materials are recognized, efforts to limit access to information will be resisted.

Review and Evaluation

Review and evaluation of the collection will be based on standard subject lists, course syllabi and reading lists, and knowledge of the holdings of area libraries. Review and evaluation of targeted areas of the collection will be done on an annual basis. Review of the library’s access to beneficial electronic resources will also be conducted on an annual basis.

Offensive Materials Statement

Cook Library exists to be a center of access to Biblical, theological, and ministry resources for the students, faculty, and alumni of Western Theological Seminary and of the community of West Michigan. In carrying out this purpose, Cook Library collects and holds materials from a variety of perspectives and written at different places and times in the history of the Church.

Content warning for materials

The mission of Cook Library is educational, supporting teaching, learning, and research for members of the Western Theological Seminary community. Because of our mission, we collect and maintain a diverse collection which represents many perspectives; we acknowledge that some of the material in our collections may offend or cause stress in some of our users.  Cook Library also acts as a custodian of resources that represent a portion of our shared heritage; we also acknowledge that some of these resources, while part of the larger historical record, contain images, text, or other content that may offend modern readers.

As a graduate-level Special Library, Cook Library does not remove or restrict access to materials solely because of content.  We believe that exposure to and consideration of ideas with which we disagree is an essential part of the educational process.

Cook Library sympathizes with those who are offended or harmed by materials; if you have any concerns about a particular title, please contact the Director of Cook Library to share your concerns.

The work of Cook Library

Our work is grounded in best practices, standards, and procedures developed through longstanding professional practices, collaboration, and research.

Librarians and archivists choose what language to use when describing not just books, articles, manuscripts, and other materials, but also the people and organizations who created and/or are represented in them. Some of these descriptions were written many years ago, using language and standards that were accepted at the time.

We use a variety of library and archives standards for describing materials including:

Some of these standards, such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings, contain terms that are outdated, offensive or inaccurate. We may also re-use language provided by the creators and owners of the materials, or that is transcribed directly from their source. This practice can provide important context and information about the time period and the people who created it, but can also reflect biases and prejudices. Cook Library and its staff, although holding and maintaining these materials, does not necessarily condone or endorse ideas contained in any individual item.

As professionals, we are working to address problematic language and change practices where possible. We ask that if you have suggestions to improve how we describe library materials, you please contact the Director of Cook Library.