Hello! My name is Becky Isbell. I recently volunteered, along with two other ladies, to help with the church library. I think it’s become a bit of a forgotten nook of the church, and we’re seeking to revitalize it. I hope that my colleagues will join me at this site so we can learn together. I’m excited about our team—we have a homeschool mom, a former school librarian and a current public library director! I hope our mix of experiences will really add value to our library.
We are with First Baptist Church of Santa Anna, Texas. The library room is small (but what library space is ever big enough?). I think we may have about 100 people in attendance on a Sunday. We are in a small community (1100 people). Our public library recently closed—for lack of interest. But I think there were other factors involved, such as lack of a budget (few new materials) and volunteer staff (hours made it difficult to get in). I wonder if providing some library materials to the community might be a draw to get new people in to the church.
So, I have a lot of questions about best practices for a church library. Coming from a public library background, perhaps these are a lot of things that are not relevant to church libraries, but since that’s my background, that’s my thinking.
I will try not to bombard the list with too many questions at once, but one for today:
For those of you who have successfully revitalized your church library and gotten renewed interest in it, what strategies worked best? Are there any best practices for church libraries?
When our church building was undergoing a remodel that included a new library space, I was very lucky that our community was also building 2 new public libraries. The public library consultant visited our library space while it was under construction and it was a game changer for us! The best advice she gave was to create a welcoming space where people will want to enter. Get them in the door for any reason. Then, once they are inside, they will look up and find a book that interests them! I had planned to fill our library space with shelving and books. But only about half of the space has books. The other half has an open area with comfortable seating and a large bar height table. This has become an invaluable gathering space. I always keep some sort of activity going on the table (usually a puzzle but also coloring books or a Bible trivia game). I have also found that having a variety of volunteers helps. Our teen volunteers draw other teens into the library. Likewise, a young mom with her baby in the stroller serving as the librarian of the day brings in lots of people who want to kiss on the baby and they grab a book while they are there. Also, use social media, the bulletin, or worship announcement times to highlight new materials. Good luck!!
You have some great ideas. I too have recently joined a church that has a "forgotten" library and I'm going to try and give it a kick start (with God's help!) I'm just now in the process of getting books in order to do inventory and then weed out old outdated books and put second copies away in a cabinet to free the shelves for other books. I'm trying to get ideas of a great bulletin board to draw interest. I also want to have a place to post free/discounted e-books that would interest e-readers.