During his 20 years as a pastor of local congregations in the Christian Reformed Church, Lugene Schemper had always had a fascination with libraries. After a friend encouraged him to apply to be the theological librarian at the Hekman Library at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, he decided to make the transition. “I was theologically trained, I understood the work of pastor ministry and I also had a degree in library science. I’ve always enjoyed using libraries wherever I’ve lived,” he said.
Schemper grew up in Bellflower, California, before coming to Calvin to earn his bachelor’s in history in 1973. He then went to work in child welfare for about 2 years before going to Calvin Seminary, from which he graduated in 1979. He then studied Hebrew Bible for two years at Yale University and was ordained as a Christian Reformed pastor.
He served as a pastor of three churches consecutively: in Holland, Michigan, for two years, in New York for nine years, and then in Chicago for eight years. He was hired in the Hekman Library as a theological librarian in 2000, where he served as head of the theological division. Over the past 16 years he has worked with students and faculty at Calvin Seminary as well as Calvin’s religion department. He has also been in charge of the library’s rare book collection. This past year, he served as interim dean of the library.
Although Schemper appreciated the work of a pastor, he enjoyed the change of pace he experienced as a librarian at Calvin. “Serving as a pastor was deeply satisfying. I felt truly blessed to be doing what I enjoyed doing, but this was another challenge I found to be fulfilling. Helping students with their academic work, serving as a mentor for some students, and collaborating with colleagues at both the college and seminary has been wonderful,” he said. “Mid-sized academic libraries like Calvin are great places to work: We’re not so large that you only [do] one thing as a librarian, but we’re large enough to have the resources to do interesting work.”
He and his wife, Carla, live in Chicago, from where he has been commuting. He and Carla live on the north side of Chicago along the lakefront and enjoy biking along the Chicago Lakefront Trail. They have four children who live in Chicago, Alaska, Florida and California. He and Carla will continue traveling to see them often and their five grandchildren as well.
Schemper plans to be more involved in his church, work on his conversational German and do research work on several Chicago local history topics during retirement. “A good librarian is a dabbler; you find yourself taking a taste of one subject, then a taste of another. In my retirement, I’m hoping to have the time to make a full meal of a couple of topics.”