I am the sole librarian for my church's small (>1500 volumes) library.  Currently, the library is housed in a large common-area room with no way to control access.  We use the honor system for checkout, with a card in each book for people to drop in a secure box when they check out. There is a high rate of late/no returns.  Today, I went into the library to find that the book cards had been removed from several shelves of books and are nowhere to be found.  Needless to say, I am discouraged that so many people can't be bothered to return the books so others can read them, and also that someone decided to undo several hours of my labor by taking the book check-out cards.

The bright side is that the building that houses the library is going to be replaced, so I find myself in a unique position to establish a new system and possibly break some old, bad habits.  The library will be packed up and stored for 6 months to a year, then housed in a large adult classroom when the new building is complete.  

 Automation is not a possibility, nor is staffing the library for check-outs.  The new space will have a door, and I can request that it be lockable to maintain control over when the library is used.  I'm considering asking that children under a certain age be accompanied by an adult when using the library. Also, perhaps a check-out binder rather than cards. Thanks in advance for any ideas and suggestions. 

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  • As a retired librarian, I am wondering if the local public library check-out time would be a good choice for a church library. In our library system, that is 3 weeks. Would patrons of a church library have an easier time remembering the check-out time if it was the same as their local library's?


    While I'm here, could I get some advice about where to set up a church library? Our priest suggests that we start out using a bookshelf in a hallway that is heavily used. The small collelction ( 100 books +/-) will grow over time. I think his idea is good for publicity. Walking by the little library would keep the library uppermost in their minds. Maybe people will be more likely to return a book in this location.  Am I being naive? I'm a very practical person, but totally new at this. Part of this plan is very appealing but I sure would like some feedback.  Thank you! 

    • We made the adjustment to the public library's check-out time (3 weeks) some years ago for that reason.  I can't say for sure that it's made a difference, but it makes sense to me.  Regarding your question about location, I was reminded of something I read years ago about the 3 things you should consider when purchasing income property:  location, location, location!  It's equally true when it comes to church libraries.  Definitely better to start out in a high traffic area with great visibility.  If you outgrow that space eventually and have to relocate, those used to checking out will be motivated to find you and hopefully will tell their friends.  You might want to check with the local fire department to ensure whatever you do won't be in violation of the fire code or the ADA, something we had to do when we moved to a new room..  Our library used to be in a room off of a recessed alcove.  Adequate space at the time, but you had to be highly motivated to find it.  When we relocated 11 years ago to a much more visible space across the courtyard from the worship center, it made a world of difference.

      • Susan, thank you for writing! Now I feel confident that this is a very good place to set up. 


    • I like your priest's idea.  Our library is smaller than we would like, but whenever we think about a more spacious location in the church where we could move it, we decide against even asking because the number 1 thing about our current space is that it is in the foyer, near the sanctuary.  Also between the sanctuary and one of the exits, and near the hallway that leads to the bathrooms. This gives us great visibility (to the people who leave that way, anyway!) and we're not willing to give that up. 

      • Debbie, so great to hear from you--thanks for that feedback and affirmation. I'd like to communicate more as we have a similar situation and a small library, though yours, everyone's is bigger than us at this point!  :)


  • My church has two libraries a school and church. When I took over from our prior church librarian, I also inherited a policy on overdue items that had been actively followed and enforced for many years. Because she did the ground work I have been continuing it with good success.

    An item can be checked out for three weeks, then a phone call is made, if item is not returned another phone call is made, then a letter is sent, then another with the Pastor’s signature. Finally, if none of these actions work the individual is asked to reimburse the library (I’ve only had to ask for reimbursement once for an expensive item). In most cases a phone call is all that’s needed. This policy is at librarian discretion, I can adjust the sequence at will.

    The majority of the materials I receive are donations and memorials. I feel I have a responsibility to honor the donors by making the items available to all our church members. I also have a budget from the church which I would prefer to use for new items. So, I try to gently enforce our past due policy.

    • This sounds great - but I have an honest question (as in, I'm not trying to be snarky): are you a volunteer or is this your (paid) job?  

      • No offense taken, I worried that I came across judgmental, I should have done a better job communicating.

        I am a volunteer of an adult church library and was blessed that my predecessors established a policy that has been firmly in place for many years. I’m actually much more lenient than she was with the past dues, luckily the congregation hasn’t caught on yet.

        I always check the shelves before I call to see if they reshelved the book without the card. Sometimes they try to be helpful by putting the card in (wrong card) and reshelve the book. In that instance I won’t know until I call them.

        I do have an issue with one person taking 3 of my books on teenage apologetics, a subject I’ve been trying to grow. I’ve been trying to get apologetics added to the school’s curriculum or at least the confirmation classes and I’d like to have the material available for other parents. Like many others I’m torn between treating the overdue as a ministry. I’m going to replace the materials, hoping that she’s using the materials to prepare her children for high school or college.

        • No no, you didn't sound judgmental at all!  I'm just stunned and impressed!  When I think of the overdue situation at our church, it would be a BIG job to do this on a regular basis.  Although I suppose one could hope that after a year of doing it, people would be more careful about returning their books....


          • Overdue items can be a problem. Keep in mind that you will get more of whatever you put up with. When people know what is expected they generally follow those guidelines. 


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