I am in charge of starting up our church's very, very small library. Any suggestions? The collection will consist of materials that members donate. Does having a check-in/check-out notebook seem to work out okay in cases like mine?

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  • Hi Michelle

    I'm in charge of starting up a very, very small library, too.

    Are you still with CLN? I hope so. I'd love to have the benefit of your experience. Any advice would be most appreciated!


  • Congratulations, Michelle, in starting a church library.  I would just like to make a few suggestions.  You have already been given some good advice from others.

    Isn't it great that librarians can share ideas on this web site?  Thanks, Morlee Maynard, for creating it for church librarians!

    First, you need to make out a collection or selection policy.  This would include the type of books you will include in the library.  Our selection policy is on our church library website.  You can see it by going to:  www.cbcd.booksys.net.  When someone wants to place a book or other media in memory or in honor of someone, we suggest a monetary donation and let us select the media according to our needs and policy.

    If someone wants to donate books, we tell them how we handle them.  Actually, when someone gives you something, it's yours to do with it what you would like.  We tell them if we already have a copy, we donate it to another church library.  If we feel that it's not suitable for a church library, we donate it to the public library for their library book sale or to places like Habitat stores.  Most of the time people are just trying to get rid of books.  We do not place books in the library which are written in, yellowed, outdated, etc.

    I have seen many books being given to new libraries when they were weeded out of other linraries.  The only books that should be given to new libraries are those good second copies of a book not needed any more.  It is better for a new library to have a few books that people would like to read than to have hundreds that no one wants.

    A book fair is an excellent way to begin a library.  Check with Christian bookstores in your area.  I know that LifeWay book stores do this.  Go to the store and select books that you would like to have in your library.  They would temporarily charge them to your church.  You could keep them two weeks.  On Sundays and/or Wednesdays, set up tables in view of the most people.  Designate some to be purchased for memorial books, birthdays, honor books, etc.  You might suggest that parents purchase a book to place in the library in honor of their child's birthday.  At the end of the two weeks the unsold books can be returned and credited to the church account.  Many Christian bookstores  will give you a 20% discount on the books which were purchased.  (I suggest that if a book is $14.95, charge $15.00 to help with making change.  After you receive your discount, you can purchase more of the books with that discount.  This book fair can be done every year if you like.

    I would also suggest that regardless of size of the library, always start with the Dewey classification.  As the library grows in size and better classification is needed, workers will not have to start from the beginning to classify material.  There are Dewey numbers for the categories which have been mentioned as groups.

    I am aware of the expense of the Dewey Classification book which is well over a $100; however let me tell you of another help which is geared toward church libraries.  It can be purchased on line from LifeWay.com.  It is "A classification system for church libraries" and is much simpler to understand.  It is a book which can be downloaded and can be hole-punched or spiral bound for easier using.

    Thanks to everyone who responds to help others with their libraries.  

  • We started the library about 3 years ago. How do we promote it? No one comes in. Most of the book have been donated.  Many members trade books among themselves. Also the library has since become a multipurpose room. Several groups use the room. 

    Any ideas?

    • You said most of your books were donated. Are they any good? Do you have both fiction and non-fiction? Anything for children? Is your library easy to see or find? Ours is right in the main area near the sanctuary and that is a huge help. If yours is farther away, you'll have to work that much harder to attract people, I'm afraid.
      I guess I would try some of the following:
      *bulletin announcement, if it's allowed - remind people that you have a library and encourage them to come. Maybe mention a few titles which might be of interest.
      *Make your library space look fun, interesting, and bright. All very tasteful, of course, but use color and other ways to grab attention. Make sure various areas in the libary are well-marked so people can easily see what you have to offer.
      *We started a story-hour, during Sunday School, for the younger set. Each of the following groups comes once a month, for about 5-10 minutes: 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds and Kindergarten class. We have some volunteers who read to them, or a library committee member does it.
      *Sponsor some sort of reading challenge.
      *Do you have a budget of any kind? If you do but you're not sure how to spend it, would the church allow you to pass out or send out some sort of survey, to find out what kinds of books people might like to see in the library?
      *Is it easy for people to borrow books? Do you have a sign in the library indicating what needs to be done?
      You said your library has become a multi-purpose room. Does this mean the shelves are not easily accessible? If so, can you move tables/chairs around to make the library part of it more attractive?

      I'll think on this some more but that's what comes to mind just off the top of my head.
      I hope you're able to find some ideas that work!
  • Michelle,

    LibraryThing announced today that they have added a lending/circulation feature. You can read about it here: http://blog.librarything.com/main/2015/02/new-feature-lending-a-k-a...

    Charles Campbell
    GracePointe Church Library
    Montgomery, Alabama
  • Good! I already have their catalog. :-)
  • We use www.librarything.com as well (we have over 7000 items) and we LOVE it.  It is so easy to use and easy to tailor to how you want to see things set up when you look at your collection.  Very, very handy and much better than two previous systems which involved more  money.

    I also agree with Bev's comment about being fairly discerning about what you accept.  When we receive donations at our library, we always ask if people care what we do with the books we can't use.  If they do care, we give them back (this has happened exactly once, and it was one book), and if they don't, we set them aside to include in our sales, which we have several times a year (proceeds are put back into the library).  What doesn't sell goes to the Gospel Mission.  So look carefully at what people give you and think about whether it is likely to be taken out.  What does the cover look like? How old is the book? Is the print too small?  All these things make a difference, in my experience.  

    You might also frequent library used sales and see if you can find anything there for your library; the prices are usually good and you never know what you will find.

    As far as checking out - we use the standard book-pocket with card approach.  If your budget can't sustain that, I think starting with a notebook might be okay but I suspect it will become cumbersome fairly soon.  We have a card box where we put the cards of books which have been borrowed, which allows us to easily find out who has a particular book (or if it has been borrowed or lost, if we can't find it on the shelves!!)

    What a cool thing you are doing! I hope it goes well. 

    • Thanks, Debbie!  We may do the pocket/card route instead.  

      • We get our supplies from Demco.  They are pretty quick and very easy to work with.  Highly recommend.  We get card pockets, cards and cataloging labels from them - they have one that allows you to print a spine label, label for the card and label for the pocket for each book. Very handy!

  • Our church uses LibraryThing, www.librarything.com, as an online catalog. It's free, and church members can see what you have in the library from home. It doesn't have nearly the functionality of a catalog software program, but it's good and the price is right.
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