Hello everyone

I'm the library ministry leader at a church of ~2-300 people in Sydney Australia, but I have zero training in the area - aside from experience as a library desk worker at high school and university. And a love of books :) Our church library was only started about 7 years ago by some keen fellow book lovers, who sourced a small collection of books and installed some shelving into one of the classrooms. Unfortunately this classroom was tucked away from the main worship spaces, and could only be accessed for about 30 minutes after the main service ended. It saw very little traffic and when I took over as ministry leader, it was hard to find volunteers to help keep things ticking along. Weeks would go by without anything being borrowed except by the volunteers themselves.

But! We are building a new church, and I've been able to advocate for the library being kept, and it's ended up being given a fairly exciting prime position - right in the foyer! We hope that members and visitors will be able to browse freely throughout the class and main worship times, and fellowship lunches etc. It won't be a very large collection, but I'm hoping to rotate relevant materials according to sermon series etc, as I believe we have storage elsewhere in the complex. We also have a separate section for children's ministries materials. I couldn't tell you how many items we have already, no one has taken an inventory, and it's all in storage now because we're in transition from our old building...

This week we're at the stage in the planning process where I need to provide feedback on exactly how we want to fit out the library. Key things I'm thinking about already:

1) how secure do we need the shelving to be? The facilities will be hired out sometimes (weddings etc) so I'm inclined to have some kind of folding door that can keep the collection safe, but can fold away neatly and easily.

2) I'm also wondering how much I need to think about exposure to elements... We will have big glass windows/doors into the foyer area so there will be lots of natural (strong, southern hemisphere!) light. I'm not sure what moisture levels would be like, it can be fairly humid here though.

3) What experience do you all have with an "honour system" approach? Is that typically done with a paper loans book where individuals are responsible for writing in what they borrow, but volunteers clear out a returns tub and re-shelve? Anyone tried to have a self service approach but using a laptop with software? (I would LOVE to actually have a catalogue compiled and available online for members to search.) OR do I need to plan to "staff" the library every week, so someone is operating software to do loans and returns, and to help people find relevant resources etc? (all of which will guide us in terms of making provision for laptop power and safe storage, and a desk/seat for the volunteer to use)

4) Can anyone recommend software worth looking into? Free/Open source is fine (we would probably use a windows laptop but can't rule out Apple or even setting something up in a linux flavour) but I do have a budget of some kind, so paid software is also within reach, depending on the initial set up cost and any ongoing fees.

5) ebooks! Anyone set up some way of doing ebook lending??

Ok, this has turned into a very long post, thank you for reading this far, haha! Look forward to hearing any wisdom on the above points, or anything else relevant you can think of :) Thank you!

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Sounds like some exciting times coming for you library. What we do may not fit your library but here we go.

1, We have a locked door for the library when we are not here. Unfortunately things disappear and never show up again.

2. Sunlight and humidity are deadly for a library. Covers will fade and humidity results in mold. Need to keep the temperature around 70 degrees and the humidity levels in the low 40's. We had a disastrous experience with mold. We learned the hard way.

3. A lot of libraries use the honor system but based on the books we check out that we know who has them and they won't return them I don't feel too good about the honor system. It may work in a smaller library though.  I would try for a volunteer to man the library when you are open.

4.  I would suggest getting Concourse from Book Systems for your catalog and circulation system. It is a wonderful system and not overly expensive. Their Atrium program is web based and ever better.

5 We have ebooks and it is extremely popular. Unfortunately it is very expensive. Contact Overdrive for information.

Feel free to contact me at (901)347-5261 if you would like to discuss anything further. 

We use librarything.com for our catalog.  It is a very inexpensive on-line catalog that is perfect for small collections.  I have a personal account (which I opened to test it) and one for our church library, which consists of about 10,000-11,000 volumes.  I find it easy to use and their customer service is great.

Our library is in the foyer also, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, even though we would love to have more space!  We staff the library when the church has services - Sunday morning and evening, and Wednesday evenings.  But we don't lock the door and I know sometimes people will stop in mid-week to check out a book.  So far we have not had a lot of trouble with this but then we expect that a certain amount of loss is just part of running a library.

We have not bothered with ebooks.  I personally have no experience with it, but my husband has done it through the local public library and he says it's a pain.  I don't know that we've ever had anyone even ask about it but if they do, I will suggest they check with the public library.

Our library used to have bookcases quite near the windows, and they got terribly faded.  When my friend and I took over the library, we moved the bookcases farther away from the window and put a desk there instead.  It has made a big difference.

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