What is the scope of your church library?

Hello everyone, 

I'm new here and I've love to hear about the libraries you manage. Who do you serve (your church or the public?) and by extension, what do you collect (Christian materials only, or non-objectionable materials by any authors)? When are you open, and what is your purpose? If your location does not house a school, who are you reaching and how? What materials get the most use and why? Any new goals? I know that we all oversee/work in church libraries, but these can all be very different!

I'll get us started. I believe that I am the first layperson given oversight over our church's library, but it was reasonably well-established when I began. It's hosted in an open room at the back of our sanctuary, and its primary intent is to contribute to the growth of our members (and their children) in spiritual health, biblical truth, and the doctrines of the church. As such, the adult collection does not contain fiction. As the budget is limited, I generally don't purchase titles that can be easily obtained for free through the public library system (which,living in Rhode Island, is very robust). It is only accessible during our public gatherings. 

When I began about a year ago, there were picture books and adult books, with little in between. The picture books definitely get a great deal of use from our many families during the service and through borrowing. But I noticed that many chapter book readers had secular books in the service, and wanted to make quality materials available to them, as well. So my priority in the last year has been maintaining and consistently adding to the adult collection while also quickly building a youth/YA collection.

I'm also going to make a plug for 10ofthose.com here; they were a great resource when building up the youth collection. They were the only place I could find new editions of Patricia St John novels that weren't edited beyond recognition from the originals.

So tell me where you are, what you're doing, and how you're doing it :-)





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  • We are still kind of finding our way.  back before 1983 when my family started atending Good Shepherd Lutheran we had a school and a library.  there were papers in a library box mentioning a library Committee even.  By 1983 it was just a meeting room with books.  there is one long table in the middle and 10 to 12 people can sit around it.  on two walls there are 9 almost cieling high bookcases and a short wall with wall to wall window counter and two cabinets and 2 open shelves under the counter.  over the years people would add books that they thought should be in there or dvds or vhs tapes but there was no rhyme or reason to it.  My mom and I would each have a book for church book club then when we were done with it and didn't need 2 copies any more one would go into the church library.  a couple of former church pastors thinning out their libraries added books to the library wherever they could find space for them for example.  I inherited this fun project last fall when I was going to school to get a certification that would let me help take up the slack if our pastor needed help for instance she just gets back from vacation Thursday and is ready to lead worship but would find it easier to not preach since she only had a day or 2 to come up with a sermon I could preach for example since i had a class in preaching or could lead a non comunion worship service if she can't find a supply pastor.  I had to have a contextual project of some kind and my pastor and I both agreed that something had to be done with our library to make it functional.  So that was my project and I stayed on as librarian after it was finished and we opened last January.  I had to sort through our Diverse collection I pulled out anything that was falling apart or was out dated then figured out what each thing was and put it into a pile then I had to reshelve every pile some how so I came up with 8 Categories and sorted the piles that way.  In Fiction we have Essays, Poetry, Plays, and Adult fiction a combination of what my mom and I call wholesome books like the Elm Creek Quilt Books, or the Aunt Dimity mysteries a series of puzzle mysteries no blood or gore the only one where someone dies the main charicter's family is in america visiting relatives they are american but live in England.  when they get home it is weeks after the death and the main charicter figures out what happened after the fact.

    In Non Fiction we have Non Fiction, Religious non fiction, Art and Music, Grief and Loss, Death and Dying, Getting older, Substance issues, Phylosophy and Science to name some of the topics there.  In Church we have the Church history materials, photo albums etc.  Books about Lutherans since we are lutheran, books about lutheran History, books about Martin Luther and the shelf of cook books.

    Multimedia has CDs both for adults and for children, DVDs for adults some are movies some are documentary movies some are documentaries, there are also family movies which are movies I would watch with my elementary school Child, including a couple of Scooby doo movies.  and Childrens DVDs.  when I took over we had no Childrens DVDs but I donated some Baby Einstein and potty training DVDs my 6 year old had outgrown.

    Family is where we have the teen and children books i have them sorted into picture books, bible story books, begining readers, and chapter books there is one shelf for each.  I also have a shelf labled Family and that has 2 different bible story a day for a bedtime story books, and devotionals that parents can read with their kids, and there are 2 shelves for teen books but I am currently only using one since that is all the space I need.

    Piety is where you can find books that have something to do with your relationship with Christ.  So our Hymnal Collection, books about worship, devotionals books on prayer, Auto Biography and Biographys,  Study is where we have study books Study aids, education books books of crafts and activities to supliment sunday school lessons that sort of thing as well as books about the bible, Bible commentaries a couple of concordances and an assortment of unusual bibles and a copy of  every translation of bible that we have in the library.  thats also where I have the 3 shelves of Childrens non fiction a mix of religious topics books about famous people and books about animals and books of activities to do with kids.  Study is the biggest section there are 2 bookcases needed for it. 

    Action is the last Category and thats books that help us to be Christs hands in the world.  thats where you'd find books on pastors some for pastors some for people trying to discerne if they have a call.  there are also some books on Pastoral Care, Evangelism, Stewardship, Conservation and Gardening 1 book on conservation and 3 on gardening so I lumped them together they kind of go hand in hand anyway.  There are also some sermon collections and books that help with sermon writing as well as parenting books.  there is also a Relationship Section and no its not just marriage or dating guides from a christian stand point there are some books on how to get along with other people including a book called Irregular people about finding and Identifying irregular people those people that for some reason you just don't like but keep getting thrown together with on church commiteees or family gatherings and how you can get along with them since you kind of have to but you just don't like them for instance.  there is also a section in action I call Other Beliefs basically anything that anyone might believe in that isn't Lutheran Christianity.  We have books on religions we have books on denominations, we have a book about pagan religions and cults, and 3 or 4 books about Pentacostals they all seem to more or less go together so I put them together and called it Other Beliefs.  we also have 3 or four books on Nuro diversity.

    So as I said very diverse.  My take on the library is that we can't compete with the public library on size or inventory so the more variety the better.  The library is always open I have a clipboard for check out a spot to return books and since I know books and materials tend to show up in our library I have a donation box inside the door for any thing that decides to randomly turn up.  Since I am the only librarian I am in the Library for 2 hours the first Tuesday of the month in the afternoon when we have a bible study group that meets across the hall, and 2 hours the first Wednsday unless its the same week as the first tuesday in which case it is the second wednsday in the morning when we have a quilt group meeting across the breeze way. 

    this way there are 2 times when I am there during the week for maintenance and in case anyone has questions.  I have a buletin board in the other building I change out every few months, and our church has a news letter that comes out every other month and I write an article for that and mention some of the donations that have turned up or in the last news letter for November and December I listed the 2 dozen or so Advent and Christmas materials we have in the library just to let people know what we have.

    I am most interested in adding to our children collection since that is getting used fairly  often especially the begining reader shelf since that started with 3 items and all 6 kids that are likely to show up at church are 7 or 8 or younger.  and my son and a lady with 2 grand daughters that she sometimes brings to church tend to use it.  There are also a couple of people who use the fiction section.  The nuro diversity section could also use some more books my son is autism spectrum and our pastor was recently diagnosed with ADHD or ADD one of those so that is a handy section in our library.


  • We have a location issue.

    Several years ago when the Sanctuary was remodeled, the library was moved from the educational building to a location adjacent to the worship center. This was a good location until: The evening services were stopped; the choir (which met on the floor above the sanctuary) was dissolved, & Wednesday activities were all scheduled in the educational building ... therefore the sanctuary building remains locked except on Sunday mornings and during the week. We purchased an on- line type catalog support to allow access but as a mostly senior church, no one uses that access. 

    We could use some ideas !!!

    • Anyse, what kind of ideas are you looking for? This does sound like a hard situation to promote a library from!

  • How do you know this about the Patricia M. St John books? I am finding nothing on their website and am just curious.


    • Hi Debbie! Someone had recommended I buy them and loaned me her old Moody Publishing copy of one. When I went on Amazon and read reviews of the titles, I saw several angry reviews from people outlining how they had been changed from the originals. I searched for her at 10ofthose and saw that they had different covers from every other distributor, so I wrote in and asked. This is how they responded:

      "While our titles are not the ones originally published by Patricia St John, they are also not the Mary Mill’s edited editions that came out later. These particular versions on our site were edited by Patricia St John herself and we have had them confirmed by the St John family that our editions are indeed the final editions Patricia wrote, not edited or adapted by anyone else. The original versions are no longer in print and these editions are the official editions from the St. John family at this point."


  • I help run the library at our church in Portage, MI.  It was well-established when we took it over and we have happily built on the work of the previous librarian.  We have about 11,000 books and we cater to all ages and interest levels: board books, picture books, children's fiction and non-fiction, young adult fiction and non-fiction, adult fiction and non-fiction, study helps, audiobooks, DVDs for children, a small collection of DVDs for families/adults.  Our library is open to church members and anyone who regularly attends something at our church mid-week, for example Awana or our young moms' ministry.  We don't lock the door so it can be accessed at any time, but we only staff it with librarians on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evening (Awana). 

    Our primary goal is to equip followers of Christ, but we also seek to provide good fiction to encourage, uplift and entertain.  Ever since we took over ten years ago, we've had people tell us how glad they are to have a library where they can find books that aren't full of "problem areas".  This is becoming more and more the case, especially in the case of children, as public and school libraries are becoming more culturally diverse, shall we say.

    Fiction gets the most use in our library.  Non-fiction use varies hugely; often new books which are being mentioned on podcasts or by a pastor or in members' circles of contact will get borrowed for a while.  Older, classic authors don't get used as much and even many newer ones don't unless someone specifically recommends them.  It's a real mix.  We just do what we can to promote non-fiction materials and authors, and then rest in the fact that we have a good and varied collection, so when someone comes looking for something to help in a particular area, we will likely have a book that will meet their need.

    We do have some books which aren't specifically Christian, particularly (though not only) in the children's area.  Some are classics - think Peter Pan, Wind in the Willows, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Anne of Green Gables, etc.  Some are books which we believe to be excellent, well-written stories, which, though not by Christian authors, do exemplify biblical character qualities and growth processes.  Some examples would be Echo by Pamela Nunoz Ryan; Lloyd Alexander's Prydain chronicles; Marguerite Henry's horse stories, and more.  We have created a small "Good Read" spine label to put on these books, making them easy to identify.


     I love 10ofthose but didn't know that about Patricia M. St. John's books, so THANK YOU for that piece of information!

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