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How to Create a Church Library Containing Fiction and Nonfiction

Updated on January 3, 2018
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Church Library Basics: Start at the Very Beginning

Needs Assessment and Start-up Planning

Begin by meeting with pastors and others in leadership (teachers, nursery directors) 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.

Acquisitions Policy

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 Develop a plan for accepting donations (and for graciously declining books in bad shape or out-of-date.)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.

Nonfiction

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.

Fiction

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.

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    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      People who are at church a lot can have a staff member let them in and can leave a note for the librarians giving their name and the items checked out. I also leave it unlocked for teachers during VBS even if a librarian is not in the room, since if I can't trust our teachers, they shouldn't be teaching :)

      I try to strike a balance between accessibility and security. We have a large, active church and things have been known to disappear (I used to be the costume mistress for our music/drama ministries and HAD to lock those things away or else sew new costumes for every production.) I guess I'm of the Reagan school, i.e. "Trust, but verify."

    • profile image

      Louise Booth 

      5 years ago

      I disagree with the idea of keeping the library in a room that is locked up when not staffed. Lock up the AV perhaps, but not the books. Our library is in the corner of a hall in a very visible spot. Most of the books that are borrowed go out during the week. We are used by our congregation and by people in the community. Over the 5 years we have been using automated we have done annual inventories, and the loss rate is extremely low. Eventually most books return, and in the mean time they have served a need. Make them accessible!

    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Because of space available, large items are in the supply room next door. I do work closely with the member in charge of that room, so together we make sure teachers have what they need.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Some useful information here and it is well presented. For Christians, the church should be the centre of members' social life as well as of worship. Have you thought of storage of bigger articles for Sunday School teachers, pastors and home-groups, as well, such as maps and charts?

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      very interesting and useful information.. thank you sharing this hub

      God Bless you

      Merry Christmas

      Debbie

    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Scripture itself is the Word of God. God chose to communicate to us through men who were told to record His Word. That makes words very important, so my library strives to promote thoughtful reading so that we may be informed Christians in a world where many are not readers and can be easily persuaded by popular culture as a result.

    • kschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Glad you found it helpful. My church has 2 campuses and the libraries on each campus reflect the different populations served. For example, one library carries a music collection while another has a much larger nonfiction collection and both offer children's books for young families.

    • celafoe profile image

      charlie 

      5 years ago from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth in between the oceans

      and the scriptural reason for this library is?

    • profile image

      Perspycacious 

      5 years ago

      Passed this along to our Ward librarian and Bishop. Thanks.

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