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. 

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

Join Church Librarians Network

Email me when people reply –


  • For overdue items our church sends out 3 reminders via e-mail after that it is considered lost.

    We do check for lost items at our local public library and school libraries. Seems that patrons who use the church library  are library users. They often return to the wrong place and then ignore the e-mail because they can't find it at home. 

  • We have clipboards with two coumns Name and book number . Besides the main library we have a check out carts in Sanctuary and fellowship hall no cards every book has a number It works well Yes there are those who don't return books and some that are picked up and not written down. The doors to these building are kept locked however the secetary and matinance man have keys and often hand them over and people let themselves in

    • Thank you for your posting Adair.  I am interested to know how you actually attach the number to your books.  I love the idea and want to do this as well.  Just re-doing our small library and looking for new ideas such as this. Thank you.  Photo of your system would be great. Pam.

      • Created a spread sheet then started with number 1 writing it both on outside cover and inside On dark books or DVDs use silver/gray marker otherwise black



  • Whold I do have an automated system, Atrium, with barcode check out , most of my people are intimidated by it so I have maintained the cards in the pockets. We are on the honor system as well. Although I find that somethings do disappear For the most part people bring them back sometimes it takes a while but they do usually come back.   If you lock your doors and put a lot of restrictions you may find that your library clientele may dwindle.  I have a number of people that are in and out of the church during the week and they like to come to the library and browse and check out books... just a thought.

  • I use a sign out method....clipboard on desk. I do have an automation system and just enter the sign outs manually. If you have even a basic computer you can create a spreadsheet to keep track...a spreadsheet is searchable so you can find anything in the list. You can also enter your library holdings in a spreadsheet just to easily know what you have and don't have. It can then be used as an inventory control. Just have ti think outside the box.

  • We will soon have a very small library for our Pastoral Care ministry. Books on grief, loss, healing, memoirs, etc.

    It's just me and the books will be in a high traffic area on a single bookshelf.

    My thoughts about getting the books back are:  put the Healing Hearts logo inside the front cover, with the message, "If this book has helped you and you would like to keep it, please place a donation in the box by the library shelf so it can be replaced". I'd like to have bookmarks with the smae logo and message. And I'd place a professionally produced sign with the logo and that same message in a prominant location--maybe two locations :)

    The priest heading up this ministry has agreed that we won't have expectations about the books coming back. We wil have a box for monetary donations at all times.

    Comments, suggestions are very much appreciated!

  • Over the many years of working in libraries and bookstores, I understand that you wont your materials returned.  I have come to think of it more as a ministry to their hearts.  If they keep the book/movie, etc., perhaps they will reuse it often enough to come back to the God of the Bible.  Or, that may have been God's plan all along, that someone  needs to keep the very book that we purchased so that someone else might read it who would never come into a church.

    Just my way of looking at this issue.

    • While I do inventories, I don't chase missing items. I feel much the same way as you in the church library setting. 15 years in a junior high school library was a different story! I houndef those kids to return even damaged beyond repair books. Tried to teach responsibility and make them understand that tax payer dollars were for the benefit of all students. Some admins even withheld grades and forced parents to make sure they were returned or paid for. Different worlds.

    • Jenn, that is a good way to look at the non return of items in that perhaps something helpful to someone will come of it and I hope that happens. Of course there are other ramifications too. While this patron is holding on to a title and not returning it there may be another individual or even a line of people waiting to gain benefit from that title too that are prevented from doing so because someone else will not follow the library guidelines that seek to administer a ministry in a decent and orderly manner that will benefit all patrons.  Then too there may be some titles from an entertainment perspective that will probably not have any spiritual benefit even though it is good family oriented entertainment. But as you say if they simply will not return the title we can pray that the Lord will use the title to work in their lives or the lives of someone else and that the individual will eventually understand the importance of returning in good faith items that are borrowed and are there for everyone and not just them.  

This reply was deleted.