Southern Seminary librarian honored for lifetime of service

Communications Staff — June 2, 2015

Martha Powell (center) receives...; pictured with Boyce Library archivists Adam Winters (right) and Chris Fenner (left).
Martha Powell (center) received the Betty Hurtt Meritorious Service Award during the ALABI annual meeting, April 22-24. She is pictured with Boyce Library archivists Adam Winters (right) and Chris Fenner (left).

The Association of Librarians and Archivists for Baptist Institutions recently honored a librarian at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who retired after 45 years at the institution. Martha Powell, director of technical services at the seminary’s James P. Boyce Centennial Library, received the Betty Hurtt Meritorious Service Award during the ALABI annual meeting, April 22-24, at the Southern Baptist Convention building in Nashville.

“I was of course very surprised and honored by the award,” said Powell, who served at the library for 45 years under three different seminary presidents and in multiple roles: music librarian for 26 years, catalog librarian for 11 years, and director of technical services for eight years.

“Martha Powell’s contributions to the Southern Seminary library, and to theological and music librarianship are exceptional,” said Taffey Hall, past president of ALABI and incoming executive secretary-treasurer. “Martha has been a valued friend, mentor, and encourager to me since I began service at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in 2003. She is a treasure.”

Based on her faithfulness and accomplishments, four members of ALABI recommended Powell for the Betty Hurtt Award. Once a year, it is given to an individual who demonstrated exceptional care for the materials kept in Baptist libraries, and it was developed with three major purposes: “to honor an individual, to publicize the individual and the organization, and to improve the perception and visibility of the organization.”

Powell’s love for students and desire to interact with them first drew her to a position at Southern’s library in 1969, and she says she still remembers the first reference question she answered on the first day of the job: locating the collection of Johann Sebastian Bach’s complete works. In every position held, she maintained a high standard of professionalism, as well as a cheerful and generous spirit, according to those who recommended her for the award.

She guided Southern Seminary’s library through the transition from a print to electronic catalog and the transition from the Dewey system to the Library of Congress system. She also taught Music Bibliography at Southern Seminary as an adjunct professor from 1970 to 1994. Besides personally preparing the textbook, “Music Bibliography Manual,” Powell also prepared two other bibliographies for the course and edited Maurice Hinson’s Guide to the Pianist’s Repertoire (1973).

“Miss Martha Powell contributed at the highest professional level in her roles as music librarian and as director of technical services at Southern Seminary,” said former Southern Seminary librarian Bruce Keisling. “In both roles she consistently applied the best practices and standards of the profession to her work. Her energy and care for organizing and preserving countless unique items of Baptist history in Southern’s collections will bear witness for generations to come of her devotion to her tasks.”

One of the four people to nominate Powell for the Betty Hurtt Award was Berry Driver, associate vice president for academic resources and seminary librarian.

“There is not one book in our library that does not bear Martha Powell’s imprint,” Driver said. “She is one of the most godly women I know.”

Powell officially retired as a library employee on May 15. She lives in Louisville and is a member of the Baptist Tabernacle, where she has served as pianist and organist for more than 30 years.

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