How to Create a Church Library Containing Fiction and Nonfiction
Help for the New Church Librarian
Church Library Basics
Needs Assessment and Start-up Planning
Begin by meeting with pastors and others in leadership to determine what the vision is for your church's library. A library can meet many different needs:
- provide resources for lesson preparation by Bible study teachers,
- provide resources for home schooling and/or a church-based school,
- promote literacy in at-risk populations served by the church,
- provide resources for counseling, outreach, and spiritual growth, and
- provide wholesome leisure reading material for all ages.
After determining what the objectives are for the new library, find out how much can be budgeted for the start-up expenses.
Location and Equipment
Identify a room that can be used for the library. If the room is a shared space, have a plan for keeping library materials safe from damage, loss, and theft. The ideal room can be locked when there is no teacher, pastor, or library volunteer present.
The most basic equipment includes:
- adequate shelving for the books,
- access to a computer for cataloging,
- a desk or small table for the library volunteer to use for work space, and
- a box or book truck for book returns.
A larger library may include a cozy reading corner, a study table, or display racks for new books. Some churches may choose to locate a copier and laminator in the library as well.
Circulation and Cataloging
Have a plan for cataloging books and checking them out. Small libraries might use an online tool such as LibraryThing for a catalog and a simple sign-out list for checking out books. Libraries that go beyond a few bookcases, however, will want to investigate a dedicated system made for circulating libraries. Some links are provided below for consideration by the new church librarian.
Based on the results of the initial planning meetings, develop a policy on which books to buy and how to prioritize needs. Develop a plan for accepting donations (and for graciously declining books in bad shape or out-of-date.) Determine who is authorized to approve books for inclusion in the library and who is to make purchases. Open accounts at a denominational bookstore if there is one nearby. For example, my Southern Baptist church has an account at Lifeway.
Buying Books: The Fun Part of Librarianship!
Now, finally, the part everyone looks forward to: acquiring books for the library. Start by determining what proportion of the book budget to allocate to fiction, children's books, and nonfiction titles.
Every church library should have some basic Bible study reference tools: Bible dictionary, Bible atlas, Bible handbook, concordance, and commentaries. Sunday school teachers can help determine a list of books that will support their curriculum, such as missionary biographies, Bible story DVDs, and books with games and reproducible activity pages for various age groups.
Pastors may want to recommend books from the pulpit. Ask them to give you a heads-up before doing this, so you may have multiple copies in the church library beforehand. Books about contemporary social issues can be chosen based on your congregation's particular passions.
Be sure to include a variety of fiction in the library collection. Modern Christian fiction includes wholesome romance, historical novels, mysteries, end-times drama, and action thrillers. One librarian might have a hard time creating a balanced collection, so ask several church members with assorted interests to help create an acquisitions list. A suggestion box on the library table could also be helpful in determining what members want to read.
Fiction for teens and children should be included as a ministry to families in the church. A school teacher or homeschooling mom can help with a list of good books for various age groups.
Church Library Resources
- Resources for Starting and Maintaining a Church Library
- How to Begin or Renew a Church Library
- Church Librarians Network
A community of church librarians serving together
- Best Christian Nonfiction for Your Library
I review books for several major Christian publishers. As a church librarian, I also do some of the buying for the Life Community Church library in Greensboro, North Carolina. Let me share some of the best new nonfiction I've found in the past year,
- Library Supplies: Furniture, Book Covers, Book Trucks and more
The Library Store, Inc, in Tremont, Illinois is a family owned business. We have been serving Libraries and Classrooms for over 30 years.