Why Have a Church Library? Special Libraries

Flake’s first reason was the fact that special libraries were found in most institutions in his day because they cannot trust other sources for its library sevices. These institutions include universities, colleges, high schools, hospitals, prisons, businesses, and law offices all had libraries focused on their concerns and needs. He also mentions "rental" libraries that focused on commercial purposes. Church libraries are considered special libraries to this day. Leona Lavender Althoff wrote: "The church library has the special privilege of bringing books to serve people who ordinarily do not seek them in other libraries." (The Church Library Manual (1934), p. 13)

Althoff went on to write: "Every church is sorely missing a real opportunity for spiritual service until it establishes and utilizes a good library of its very own." (p. 14). 

What about today?

Just shortly after transitioning my church's library to a broader ministry called the Enrichment Center, we discovered many people in our church used the public library. They verbally would tell our team that they did not need the church library. When we shared that we offered the same services that the public library did, they were surprised. They had no idea we had an online catalog and that they could email us what they wanted so that we could have it ready for them. And they were surprised we were open all the time with our self-checkout system. They are gradually starting to use our online catalog and include our library in their routines now. 

What are your thoughts about today compared to what Flack and Althoff wrote about their day (1930s)? What about our "opportunities for spiritual service"? Are your public libraries offering spiritual reading services today?

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  • Our last director (before 2005) had a vision for our library as a community library and that's what it has become out of necessity.  There are very few church libraries in our city and those that exist are very small.  Although we are not included in the church budget, the Lord continues to bless us with incredible donations of materials, due in many cases to the advent of e-books.  Many have replaced their existing libraries with digital copies.  We are not online, but the word is out that other churches can borrow from our library.  In most cases they check out our small group DVD studies.  Two to three years ago, on this site, I believe,, there was an article where the writer was challenged along with the rest of the congregation by her pastor regarding what they had done to take their ministry beyond the church.  It basically encouraged me to do the same thing she did, contact a local ministry that was dealing with unintended pregnancies and ask them if they were interested in us providing them with copies of the Jesus Storybook Bible (I think I got the name right) for their participants.  They were thrilled.  It thrills me that we have some small part in getting the Gospel into their hands which hopefully they will read to their child and absorb the message for themselves as well.  I search online for these Bibles in bulk to reduce the cost, but it is money well spent and in the spirit of what we want to accomplish in our library.  If you are able to do this in your library, it will bless you.

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