Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Five - Church Libraries

From RevGalBlogPals:

Church libraries seem to be diminishing and even disappearing in some churches. Our church is full of scholarly books that no one looks at, and how should it change, be developed, or continue? As the de-facto chairperson of the library, I need ideas and suggestions about church libraries in this day and age. Please help!

1. Does your church have a library? What is it like?
My church does have a library.  It contains 2 or 3 UCC confirmation curricula, several sets of commentary, a Biblical dictionary or two, a meditation resource "Imaging the Word,", copies of books we've done as book studies, some Sunday school curricula, and various assorted works of fiction including Jan Karon's series, the James Herriot "All Things Bright and Beautiful" series, some Catherine Marshall, and a few other "wholesome" offerings.  It's not used much, so the shelves are usually neat and organized.

2. Has this church library changed in recent years?

The library has changed very little over the 30+years I've been a member.  I think the last additions to the  library was a confirmation curriculum purchased in 2004 and the Imaging the Word books.

3. Does your church library serve as space for other activities, such as meetings or as a multi-purpose room?

The library consists of 2 floor to almost ceiling built in bookshelves framing a double a window on the back wall of our church parlor.  Our parlor is used all the time for committee meetings, fellowship, community group meetings, Sunday school worship and classes, and our council meetings.  There's also the worship supply closet in it (seasonal antipendia, communion trays, etc) and a small kitchenette.  

4. Is a church library necessary? What does a library need?

A few church members have been talking about our library lately.  We've been wondering about these exact questions.  As it's presently constituted, it serves very little purpose other than a a place to shelve books few, if any, people are using.  Our discussion started when a parishioner suggested putting a shelf in our narthex for folks to share current "spiritual" reading.  He purchases new books frequently and was cleaning out his shelves.  Despite the fact that he'd been a member of the church for over 10 years, he wasn't aware that we had a library!  Our library is so underused and so out of date, that the bookshelves had become furniture that wasn't noticed.

One of the discussion points is the lack of relevant material available.      I think that a library is helpful and that it should be a resource for those folks interested in exploring theology, faith practices, and as a resource for Bible study.  It should have some current commentaries, a number of various Biblical translations, some dictionaries, and current publications from the denomination.  It should also have current writing accessible to lay readers ---  Marcus Borg, Diana Butler-Bass, Sarah Miles, etc.  I'd also love to have some DVD's along the lines of  Living the Questions which we watched a few years back.  

It needs to have worship resources too for both personal and corporate use, as well as resources for personal prayer, meditation, and challenge.  We frequently have lay-led services so it would be helpful to have resources for us to use when we are planning services. 

It should have some resources about other religions and religious practices and some religious history.  During some prayer group meetings a few years ago, some questions arose that we had a hard time finding answers to because there was nothing available.

It should have copies of books that are used in a book study group, and copies of current faith formation programs.

We also need a librarian - someone to weed out outdated material, choose new material, keep track of what we have or would like to have.  Somebody to  periodically pose these questions and review our needs/desires.

 5.  Imagine the library your church would use and describe it.

My ideal library would contain things I've described above.  I'd love to have a library where I could borrow a new book - my local library rarely is able to get me new publications unless they are also popular secular type spiritual books.  (Gratitude, for example). I'd be able to find some resources for guiding personal meditation or devotions.  We'd have a shelf or 2 where folks could share their books with others, with perhaps some sort of recommendation or comment log.

Bonus: Any suggestions or ideas about church libraries that you'd like to offer!

This was an interesting prompt, especially since we are beginning this discussion in my church!


Robin said...

I hope you'll read mine, Deb. It took us about two years, but the results are wonderful.

You have SUCH fabulous resources. Very envious!

Wendy said...

What you're envisioning sounds about right to me. I laughed at your fiction. I think we have the same books in our library.

Anita Coleman said...

I love it, Deb! Well-written. I especially love that you expressed the need for someone to function as librarian! I've yet to do my post but I'm a former librarian and library school prof (education for librarians). I created a Digital Libraries and Library of Grace pages that you might find interesting :). Grace and peace, Anita

Jolene said...

Thanks for your comment about the need to have a librarian to weed the collection (among other things). In the past, I've been in churches that had very large libraries, but they were so full of "weeds" it was hard to find the "wheat." (I work as a librarian, so I'm very sensitive - in a positive way, I hope, to the issue of weeding to keep a collection useful.)