Jenna Wilgenburg- Staff Writer
Rush hour hits around 9:00am each Sunday morning as church-goers disperse to the 17 churches in town. Lawn mowers remain idle. Local businesses stay closed. And Dordt College students looking to study at the campus library are met with locked doors.
Not all Sioux Center residents or Dordt students treat the Sabbath differently than other days of the week, but it is a common trend.
The John and Louise Hulst Library provides Dordt students with various forms of literature, movies, computers, printers and space for group work or independent studying.
But these resources are unavailable each Sunday when the library closes. With more than 1,400 students and 80 full-time faculty members, views are varied. Is God’s command to rest on the Sabbath applicable to Dordt’s library?
“If we’re living on God’s rhythm, our Sunday lives should have some distinctiveness from the culture at large,” said Dordt President Erik Hoekstra.
He referred to the creational structure of work and rest, explained in Old and New Testament Scripture.
Josiah Kotte, linebacker for the Defender football team and engineering student, finds little time for studying on game day. Athletic competitions are often held on Saturdays, presenting a challenge when athletes need the library during the weekend. Many students find themselves cramming for Monday’s exam or needing to print an essay.
“For some people, Sunday isn’t their Sabbath. My day of rest typically is, like, Thursday,” said Kotte. “It being closed on Sunday can make it kind of difficult to get some things done that I would like to over the weekend.”
Most students agreed that the library’s closure is tolerable, but inconvenient. If the building was open, they would use it.
Dordt’s Sunday observance does not stop with the library. Certain buildings are locked for the day. The Rec Center is open for limited hours. Dordt and Northwestern are the only two GPAC schools which are members of the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities and do not participate in Sunday competition.
“Rhythm of work and rest is a good thing,” said Jennifer Breems, Director of Library Services.
Despite all of the library’s resources, Breems said most students use the library as a study space. Other spaces are available on Sundays, and a large portion of the library’s resources can be found online. Breems added that paying workstudy students to run the library on Sundays would affect the college financially.
Not all Christian colleges close their libraries in honor of the Sabbath. The library of Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, welcomes students for select hours on Sundays.
The DeWitt Library of Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, opens its doors from 1:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. each Sunday. These hours allow the students to worship and eat prior to
studying, according to Greta Grond, the Library Director of Northwestern. Sunday is a busy day for the library. At times, students can even be found standing outside, waiting for the doors to open.
Hoekstra said that Dordt has considered opening the library for limited hours on Sundays, but it decided that keeping it closed supports the college’s policy regarding Sunday observance.
Like most students, sophomore Jenna Bremer does homework on Sundays, but she does not have an issue with the library’s closure.
The library is not simply closed out of tradition, according to Leah Zuidema, the Associate Provost of Dordt College.
Zuidema said that closing the library is not about the legalistic “do’s” and “do not’s”, but rather as a way of calling attention to our relationship with God. She hopes pulling on a locked door and peering into the empty darkness of the library can cause students to reflect on their ordering of life and activities and remind them to celebrate the day of rest that God has set apart.
“We overwhelm ourselves by trying to be busy all the time,” she said.
Inside Dordt’s library, the scene on Sundays will remain the same. The coffee pot will rest from supplying students with caffeine. Computer screens will remain dark, shut down from research and printing jobs. An empty chair will sit behind the front desk. Dordt closes its library in an effort to keep the Sabbath holy, or ‘set-apart.’ Students and faculty may have different interpretations of this Fourth Commandment, but one thing remains—thou shalt not enter the library until 7:30am Monday morning.