Helpful Advice

Hello my new friends! 

I have just newly taken over our church library (roughly 3,000 items in our collection).The library has been run the same way since 1987.  Everything is done on paper, EVERYTHING.. I have been typing accessions on a typewriter (I'm 24 years old, I had to teach myself how to use said typewriter :) ). SInce I took over I have been trying to "modernize" our library. Is there any way to easily make a transition from paper accession/inventory to a more digital friendly method. I started using a spreadsheet for my accessions. What is the best way to orgaize it, by date the accession was added or by the authors last name?  Also, since the library has been run that way for a long time, a lot of my congregation has lost interest in it, and new memebers don't even know about it. But before I try to promote it, I feel like I need to be able to run it effectively first. Any advice you can give me with transitioning and managing my library more efffectively would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks Friends, 



You need to be a member of Church Librarians Network to add comments!

Join Church Librarians Network

Email me when people reply –


  •  This is my problem also.  The church uses a MAC system and the entries are in Excel but has not been updated in four years.  I use Excell on an HP.  The system is quite complex, two cards in each book, each book is categorized by content, author, title.  I want a simple system, take the card out of the book put it in the bucket in the library with your name on it.


    Do I reenter all the books?  Some are old, old books, reference books that are out of date, authors who are not reliable anymore.




    • Morning Peggy,  Like I mentioned to my reply to Nicholas on February 16, I would do a hard Weed of the existing items.  If you are the new librarian, before the weed, I'd set up the policy on how you plan to weed, and let the church know in a business meeting to gain their approval.  My current church library is very small, and my pastor wanted to review the weeded books. You and your team need to decide what your congregation wants in the library - how many sets of reference books have been used in the past, do they want items 10-15 years old, how much space do you have, etc.   Weeding will also cover removing books with yellowed pages or underlining.  These can be given away to church members for their library.  As you remove the book, remove the cards, and mark the pocket "Discard".  Then use the cards to mark thru the computer library's accession record.  On completion, I would suggest making a second copy on another tab in Excel, then delete the lined items, and save again as 2021 Master.  I tend to be a bit detailed.

      I have worked on an associational and state level in helping churches weed their items, and I wish I was closer to you!!   If you want to talk over the phone, you are welcome to call me on my cell at 703.244.4625.  It is sometimes hard to type a lot of suggestions!!

      Blessings, Jackie Harris, Beulah Baptist Church, King William, VA


  • Nicholas,

    We use an "open source" library software which I have found extremely helpful.  You can preview it at this site. .  I came from a school system that had automated and could not imagine TYPING spine lables let alone cards.  We do not use the patron management system but do have our catalog online and available from home which allows me to update the site and do much of my work from home during the pandemic.


  • Hello Nicholas, You probably have a good handle on your church library by now...I pray that you do.  In my opinion, if your library budget can afford a library software, that is the best bet for a library your size.  I retired and moved to a small church and revitalized their library.  We are up to about 750 books...and out of space.  I set it up with MS Excel, and use the MS Word mail merge to print out the pocket and card labels.  I used different tabs on the spreadsheet:  Master (by date entered), Author Order, Dewey Order, Title Order, new labels tab.  BUT....I did a hard weed of all items, before beginning to enter.  I believe some Library software might allow a spreadsheet import, but don't quote me on that.  I pray you have a library team working with you, and you are enjoying the library ministry!

    Blessings, Jackie Harris, Beulah Baptist Church, King William, VA

  • Charles and I are on the same page. I guess the term "hybrid" makes sense. Dewey works great with our church family  and our team because everyone can easily find what they are looking for each time. But we also have all the fiction in one place. Same for biographies, parenting books (we use 649 which is one of the Dewey designations for parents), and marriage. But Dewey really does the same by putting all the items related to a topic in the same place. Signage on shelving is key to help people find what they are looking for as well. However, there are other systems used by librarians with great success. The book Charles and I use makes Dewey easy to use. Find out what your public library uses.

  • Many of us use Dewey, but for Fiction we use what your previous library leader set up. Did you find the book A Classification System for Church Libraries in the desk area of the library? It includes a page on formats and age groupings. My predecessor in our library still had lots of fiction in the Dewey 900s. We are in the process of moving all fiction to the following format as you have in your library:



    We single space it but no luck doing that here for some reason!

    Charles is recommending software for libraries. Dewey is not a software. It is a classification system for libraries. 

    A Classification System for Church Libraries, Revised
    A Classification System for Church Libraries, Revised, is an easy-to-use volume that contains the Dewey Decimal Classification System numbers used mo…
  • I have used LibraryThing and TinyCat in our church library and have really liked them. They're pretty inexpensive and allow you to have an online catalog. Are the books organized with Dewey Decimal or by genre?

    Charles Campbell
    Grace Pointe Church Library
    Montgomery, AL

    Grace Pointe Church Library | TinyCat
    Grace Pointe Church Library
    • Hey Charles! The Religious section of my library is organized using the Dewey Decimal, the rest of the library is organized by the letter of genre with the first three letters of the author's last name, example Fiction by Karren Kingsbury is labeled (F, Kin). 

      I did not do it this way, I took it over like this! Should it all be labled using the Dewey Decimal system or by genre, instead of having both systems? 

      • You'll here different opinions on Dewey versus genre, but I like Dewey because it can make locating a book easier. Having the Religion section already set up in Dewey is a huge head start. I recommend the book Morley Maynard mentioned very highly.

        In our library, we use Dewey for everything except Fiction (F) and some Biography (B). That's pretty common in school and public libraries, too.

        • When I started at my church library 11 years ago, there was program in place but the database had been created by non-librarians after a church fire 7 years before. There was cataloging module and no budget to add one to the system. These lovely ladies had little to no computer skills and were still using cards to do check outs! Without a budget, I found a site called The Library Thing. From this I was able to get cataloging and better call numbers.  And so I started totally revamping. They were handwriting spine labels! I had a very supportive pastor who helped me get funds into the budget after a year. Then I added a cataloging module to the library software, bought a scanner and went to work. I  could not justify the price of an  online lookup module from the software company the church wad already invested for patrons do their own searches, I subscribed to a module from onevof the supporters of this site. All of this to spreadsheets are labor intensivr even for a small collection. The Library Thing was only $25 when I was using it. It is a starting point. You need to make plans to automate ASAP. It can be done for less than $600/yr. for the size library you have. One of the sponsors of CLN is able to help you. If you have little or no budget, maybe a fundraiser could help. There are ways out there that will make running the library a little less frustrating than using spreadsheets. And I am a huge fan and user of spreadsheets. In fact, the software I am using now does not print barcodes and spine labels in size or orientation to match what we have had for 10 years...a very  neat and uniform presentation. So using downloaded files from my library software, I can use spreadsheets and Mail Merge to create labels and machine readable barcodes that blend almost flawlessly with our established collection. I could not have done that without my spreadsheets! Think outside the box. Find some techie in your congregation to help. Good luck.

This reply was deleted.