Are you thinking about starting a library in your congregation? Do you need to dust off the collection you already have? Here are some tips for you to follow to help get the right resource into the right hands.
Know your audience
The most important components of a congregation’s library are its resources. The books filling your shelves need to be useful to your members and in sync with the teachings of the ELCA.
Dusty commentaries from decades past are of little help to those in search of current information. But not all newer books will work in your congregation either. For instance the “Left Behind” series is contrary to the teachings of this church and should not be added to the collection.
A list of subjects being covered in sermons or Bible classes is helpful in selecting material and resources.
You also need to consider the demographics of your congregation. If your membership includes many young families you may want to stock up on DVDs. If you have a large senior membership, your readers may prefer Bible studies and inspirational reading.
If you are unsure of your congregation’s needs, you should simply ask people what materials and resources would be helpful to them. A quick and easy way to do this is to use a survey.
Simply distribute the survey after worship services, Bible studies or other events. You might be surprised by the suggestions you receive.
Purge the shelves
To offer an enticing library, weed through the collection. If your shelves are full of dilapidated copies of “Pilgrims Progress” or “Fundraising in the 48 States,” people will not want to browse the shelves too closely.
Jam packed shelves do not create an enticing library. Even books in good condition may need to be weeded out in order to increase the library’s appeal. It is important to free up space for display.
Out of sight, out of mind
In congregation libraries, as in any real estate, location is almost everything. Tucking the books away in a little room far away from foot traffic is like hiding your candle under a basket. People will not know about or remember the library if they cannot see it or it is hard to find.
Avoiding the pitfalls
One of the biggest pitfalls a library can fall into is being inconsistent. Whether it’s the circulation policy, the late return policy or even the hours, if you do not take these seriously, people will not take your library seriously.
The congregation’s librarian must be ready for conflicts. Sooner or later a member will complain about a doctrine or writing style of a book. A written policy helps to resolve issues with less stress.
Books selection tips
Here are categories of books that you may want to emphasize:
- Systematic theology
- Reference books (e.g., concordances, Bible dictionaries)
- Books on church history
- Bible handbooks
- Books on leadership
- Books on marketing
- Books on specific areas of ministry
- Books on families, marriage and child rearing