BETH – European Theological Libraries

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European Theological Libraries, or, in French, Bibliothèques Européennes de Théologie, hence the name BETH, is an ecumenical association established in 1961, with legal registration in Nijmegen, Netherlands. Its purpose is to contribute to the development of theological libraries in Europe and to encourage cooperation among its members.


To mark the tenth anniversary of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft katholisch-Theologischer Bibliotheken (AKThB) several librarians met in Frankfurt in 1957 and founded an association that would become BETH. Father Luchesius Smits of VKSB (Vereniging voor Seminarie en Kloosterbibliothecarissen, The Netherlands), Father Francis Courtney of ABTAPL (Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries, United Kingdom), and Father Paul Mech (Association des bibliothèques de sciences religieuses, France), in the spirit of reconstruction and reconciliation that characterized the post-war period,[1] were concerned about making a contribution to the development of the Christian faith by promoting exchanges between the theological libraries. It seemed essential to them to improve the professional qualifications, to work on some international bibliographies and to promote mutual assistance in order to fully accomplish their mission. Revisiting the words of Johan van Wyngaerden on the founders of the Netherlands VSKB "they considered an apostolic mission not only to support the conservation of valuable collections of books in seminaries and convents , but also to make these available to a wider public. "[2]

It was in Frankfurt, however, on 18 October 1961 that the International Committee for the Coordination of Catholic Theological Library Associations (le Comité international de coordination des associations de bibliothèques de théologie catholique) was established when librarians from Germany, France and the Netherlands met at a meeting of German librarians. In 1970, the ‘Committee’ became the International Council of Theological Library Associations (le Conseil international des associations de bibliothèques de théologie) when it had grown to include a number of national associations and the Council became a member of IFLA (1971-1986). From 1961 to 1999 several collaborative publications testify to the enterprising activities of the Council: Scripta recenter edita, an updated bibliographies of philosophical and theological works, were published between 1950 and 1973, and Bibliographia ad usum seminariorum, a selection of the necessary tools for theological studies (liturgical, missiological, ecumenical) from 1959 to 1965.

In 1999, in recognition of the distinct European composition of the association and its activities, the Council became BETH: Bibliothèques Européennes de Théologie / European Theological Libraries / Europäische Bibliotheken für Theologie, which has a website ( hosted by The Catholic University of Leuven (KULeuven).

By 2010, BETH had a membership of 12 national associations and 16 extraordinary members, among which are found, for example, the National Library of France (the department of Philosophy/Religion), the National and University Library of Strasbourg and the Library of the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

BETH, supported by the national organisation and the exceptionally rich heritage of the libraries involved, organises a conference each year. The official languages of the association are English, French and German, but libraries from all areas of Europe (and their native languages) are welcome in the association, although communications among the membership are principally conducted in English. BETH assists its members in forming consortia for obtaining access to databases and distributes throughout the year any information concerning exhibitions, symposia [3] other current digitalisation projects.


Association logo

In Hebrew, Beth ב is the second letter of the alphabet and the first letter found when opening the Biblical text, the word Bereschit (in the beginning). The word BETH conveys the idea of a house, dwelling, building.

In 2008, an Hungarian artist designed the logo of the association, which expresses the tradition of study and of the lectio divina set on a lectern, as well as the contemporary librarian’s job with the keys of a keyboard on which we see the letters of the acronym of the association.

Member associations[edit]

  • ABCF : Association des Bibliothèques Chrétiennes de France – France
  • ABEI : Associazione dei Bibliotecari Ecclesiastici Italiani – Italy
  • ABIE : Asociación de Bibliotecarios de la Iglesia en España – Spain
  • ABTAPL : Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries – the United Kingdom and Ireland
  • AKThB: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Katholisch-Theologischer Bibliotheken – Germany
  • EKE: Egyházy Könyvtárak Egyesülése – Hungary
  • FIDES: Federation of the Polish Ecclesiastical Libraries – Poland
  • FTRB: Forum for Teologiske og Religionsfaglige Bibliotek – Norway
  • URBE: Unione Romana Biblioteche Ecclesiastiche – Italy
  • VkwB : Verband kirchlich-wissenschaftlicher Bibliotheken in der Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Archive und Bibliotheken in der evangelischen Kirche (AABevK) – Germany
  • VRB: Vereniging van Religieus-Wetenschappelijke Bibliothecarissen – Belgium
  • VTB : Vereniging voor het Theologisch Bibliothecariaat – The Netherlands


Official website


  1. ^ André J. Geuns and Barbara Wolf-Dahm, "Theological Libraries : an overview on history and present activities of the international council of associations of theological libraries" [archive], in INSPEL, International Journal of Special Libraries, 32 (1998) 3, pp 139-158.
  2. ^ J. van Wyngaerden, "Vereniging voor het Theologisch Bibliothecariaat (VTB)", in Conseil International des Associations de Bibliothèques de Théologie, 1961-1996, Leuven: Bibliothek van de Faculteit Godgeleerdheid van de K.U. Leuven, 1996.
  3. ^ O. Dupont "Les réseaux français et européens de Bibliothèques religieuses" [archive], in BBF, Bulletin des Bibliothèques de France, 2010, t.55, n°