The Church Library: An Outline of Procedure


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Why Have a Church Library

Paul wrote to Timothy, "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all, the parchments." 2 Timothy 4:13. Paul had need of books: how much more the growing Christian of today needs the stimulus of books for reference, for Bible study, for inspiration in Christian living!

Spurgeon wrote of Paul, "He was inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He has a wider experience than most men do, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the very heaven, and had heard things that it was not lawful for a man to utter, and yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!" (Barton: 100 Great Texts and Their Treatment, p. 111.)

The church library is a teaching tool, important to study for the individual, the class, and the congregation. The library supports the mission of the church as well as the growth of individual members' faith. The Christian, in his study of the Bible, needs the information, discoveries, examples and distilled ideas found in books.

By studying the congregation's teaching, mission, and goals to ascertain what purpose(s) a church library would address, a broadly written statement should be composed highlighting values that a church library could provide. This would depend upon the focus of the local congregation.

The formal, and informal, leaders of a congregation must approve of the need for a library so they will provide the support for it, individually and collectively. After gaining official approval from the governing group, ask for a place in the next year's budget as well as funds now for beginning costs. Suggest specific books and resource materials that individuals might be interested in purchasing as honorariums or memorials.

The Library's Function

A well-selected collection of books, periodicals, Internet resources, and other materials may be used to aid in the congregation's mission.

  1. Educational growth needs of the congregation.

    1. Make available appropriate study materials.
    2. Stimulate integrated lesson preparations.
    3. Provide books on how to teach.
    4. Provide information on mission areas as well as major service areas of this congregation. i.e.

      1. visitations
      2. food
      3. pantry
      4. shelter
      5. divorce recovery
      6. youth projects and involvements
      7. family abuse

  2. Stimulate and encourage reading by members.

    1. Provide books, study helps, inspirational materials, Internet resources, and CD Roms.
    2. Supplement religious books and magazines of the home.
    3. Provide related materials for reading enrichment.

  3. Books for children's reading.

    1. Provide value-based reading materials for children and young people.
    2. Provide materials for the children's teachers to use in class preparation as well as in age-level understanding.

  4. Resource materials for public presentation.

    1. Give devotional ideas.
    2. Assist preachers and teachers in their study.

  5. A wide variety and format of resources.

    1. A variety of books and other materials arranged and catalogued so that they may be easily found.
    2. Provide vertical file and picture file materials.
    3. Catalog and coordinate media materials, including Internet resources.

  6. Archives of congregational historic materials.

    1. Collect, sort, assemble and preserve documents.
    2. Give access to these materials.

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," 1 Timothy 2:15.

The Library Personnel

  1. Library Committee

    The library committee may be volunteers who are interested in this part of the teaching program of the church. The maintenance of a library affords an unlimited ministry of service opportunities.

    In many congregations the elders appoint a library committee to coordinate the activities of the library; often, a member librarian is available to head the committee.

    The committee could:

    1. Write the librarian's job description.
    2. Recruit staff to help in this ministry of service.
    3. Develop long-range plans and policies on budgeting, selection, and usage.

  2. Librarian's Job Description

    1. Serves as a member of the Library Committee
    2. Develops a "how to" manual to maintain consistency in procedures.
    3. Provides staff training by mentoring and workshops.
    4. Provides the best in materials and resources for collection development.
    5. Organizes and administers the library to provide a satisfactory level of service.
    6. Publicizes resources and services.
    7. Provides an attractive atmosphere.

  3. Library Staff Qualifications

    1. Willing to serve.
    2. Able to give time.
    3. Likes people.
    4. Willing to take occasional special training.

    1. Organize the library collection.

      1. Maintain cataloging devices.
      2. Provide circulation routines by checking books in and out and maintaining records.
      3. Shelve books and see that they are in proper order on the shelves.
      4. Order and process books.
      5. Do routine mending (no extensive repairs.)
      6. Publicize the resources of the library i.e. book talks, bibliographies, church bulletin, class visits.

    2. Cooperate with teachers by recommending materials and securing needed resources.

    3. Become familiar with contents of materials in order to guide users in their choice of reading.

Location and Equipment

  1. Location

    1. The library should be located near high traffic areas as a convenience as well as a reminder to members of its availability.
    2. The library should have set hours for accessibility.
    3. The library should be inviting.

  2. Equipment

    1. Shelving for books. One running foot of shelf space will be required for each 12-15 books. Magazine titles are more easily read if the shelf is slanted.
    2. Book supports.
    3. Table and chairs. This might include two or three lounge chairs. Handicapped table(s) may be required depending upon the members of the congregation.
    4. Card catalog unit. Cabinets are available in two-tray and four-tray as well as larger ones. Each tray holds approximately 1,200 cards, which provides space for about 400 titles.
    5. Computer and software for computerized cataloging programs
    6. Filing cabinet. A legal size will better accommodate vertical file materials.
    7. Bulletin boards for library wall and perhaps a portable display unit.
    8. Personal computer with online hook up and printing capabilities.
    9. Media equipment; scanners
    10. Projectors and readers for nonbook materials which may be a part of the library's collection.
    11. If nonbook materials are not intershelved, a housing of cabinets or files may need to be provided.

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The Collection

Quality in a library collection is much more important than quantity. One dozen good basic reference titles are preferable to a hundred poor choices.

  1. Books to add to the library

    1. Basic materials for Bible study. The church library fills a unique place and does not need to rival the public library.
    2. Books whose content and condition make them worthwhile and useable. A quality collection involves selection.
    3. Do NOT add books that are:

    1. beyond repair.
    2. too brittle to stand use.
    3. out of date.
    4. inappropriate.
    5. very small, hard-to-read type.
    6. heavily marked with ink or markers.

  2. Book selection sources

    1. See the Appendix for a bibliography of recommended religious reference books.
    2. Recommendations from library committee as well as ministers, church leaders, teachers and individual members.
    3. Reviews in religious publications.
    4. Catalogs from publishers.
    5. Visits to bookstores and/or lectureships and other church meetings.
    6. Standard lists for church libraries, for ministers' libraries.
    7. Personal reading.

  3. Gifts

    1. Accept books with the written, signed agreement that only usable titles will be added to the collection.
    2. Worn and outdated books take time and money to process. They clutter the shelves and obscure good materials.
    3. Asking for book donations will bring good books but also many undesirable ones. Write a statement to give to donors about the ways that the library might use the materials:

      1. Add to the collection, as a new title.
      2. Add as a duplicate of a popular title.
      3. Trade for other titles.
      4. Sell in book sales.

    4. Memorial gifts for books.

      1. provide for lasting memorials that are beneficial to the library and its patrons.
      2. Purchase needed titles.
      3. Control duplication.

  4. A basic reference collection

    1. Bible in various versions
    2. Concordances
    3. Bible dictionaries
    4. Bible atlases
    5. Bible commentaries
    6. Church history
    7. Bible history
    8. Christian living
    9. Biography
    10. Dictionaries
    11. Encyclopedias.
    12. CD Roms
    13. Internet sources

    Hard cover books are practical for a library because they stand heavy use. However, paperback books are less expensive, which makes the budget go further. Paperbacks usually need reinforcement to withstand a number of circulations.

  5. Order request forms

    1. List each book considered for ordering on a 3x5 slip of paper for convenience in alphabetizing and handling. Each should contain available order information. See Figure I.
    2. From these slips, select the titles to be ordered. The basic information included in the order will also be used later in cataloging.
    3. Check each slip against the library catalog so that there will be no unintended duplication.

Purchasing Books and Supplies

  1. Budget

    1. Funds are usually designated by the elders or ministry leaders and may be supplemented by gifts. The amount of the budget should be understood, and the library should stay within its budget.
    2. The librarian should prepare a written library budget for the elders' approval.
    3. Purchases are usually cleared through a designated person, perhaps the educational director or the church treasurer.

  2. Orders

    1. Orders should be made on church letterhead or on an official form, which may be mailed or faxed.
    2. Internet also provides quick, easy ordering.
    3. Full order information should be given when available. This includes number of copies, author, title, publisher, date, and price.
    4. A copy of the order should be returned and a file set up of all orders sent.

  3. Invoices

    1. Invoices should be checked promptly and sent for payment.
    2. Unpack books and check with the invoice, putting a check mark by the left margin as each book is unpacked. Note price, source, and date of receipt on order slip.

  4. Supplies

    1. Loose-leaf accession book and sheets
    2. Catalog cards and alphabetic guide cards
    3. Self-sticking labels [A foil-backed cold seal label sticks very well.] Print the call number and place on spine of book in a consistent position, about 1" from bottom of spine
    4. Book cards, book pockets, and date due slips
    5. Library paste
    6. Pressure sensitive mending tissue
    7. Library ownership stamp
    8. Book supports
    9. One-wipe dust cloths

  5. How many supplies are needed?

    1. Take inventory of available supplies
    2. Estimate 5 catalog cards per book.
    3. Make a list of needs and costs.
    4. Shop for the best buys.
    5. Try not to order more than you can reasonably store.

  6. Suggested library supply houses

    1. Bro-Dart, 888-820-4377,
    2. Demco P.O. Box 7488, Madison, Wisconsin 53707. 800-356-1200.
    3. Gaylord Bros., P. O. Box 4901, Syracuse, NY 13321-4901 1-800-448-6160.
    4. Highsmith Inc., W5527, Highway 106, P.O. Box 800, Ft. Atkinson, WI 53538-0800, 1-800-558-2210 email:
    5. University Products, 517 Main Street, P. O. Box 101, Holyoke, MA 01041-0101, 1-800-628-1912 email:

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