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?

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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.  

I found some good bulletin board ideas on Pinterest.  My board is in the hall outside the library and I have a shallow book display shelf under it where I can showcase about 12 books.

Response to Everlie Bolton: Would you consider taking  pictures of your library to post here? We would all love to see what you are describing. When you click on reply, you will find a paper clip in the band at the top of the reply space. The paper clip is for attachments. Or you can copy your photo and paste it in the reply. OR use the "image" attachment which is the one to the right of the web link in the top band.

If none of that works for you, would you email your photos to me and I will post them for you. Morlee.maynard@att.net.

What you have written here is GREAT advice for all of us. A room of lots of shelving no longer appeals to most of our church families because of the great things happening with our public libraries these days.

This is a good question and I am running out of ideas!  Some of the things I have tried are; having the children all color a picture (during Sunday School or Awana) and displaying them in the library as an "art gallery."  Was hoping that it would bring in the parents to see their child's art.  Not too successful.  I also tried a contest for the teens, having them look up a book that was missing from a series - a Starbucks card (very popular here in the Northwest) was the prize.  No one responded.  Put it to the middle schoolers and again, no one responded.  I gave it up.  Just bought a number of new DVD's (all types) and rubber banded a bag of microwave popping corn to the DVD.  Not very successful.  All these ideas were put into the Sunday bulletin or our newsletter.  I give these ideas to you hoping that they may work for you.  My friend made a summer reading contest, I don't remember what the prize was but only one child responded.  Part of my problem is that our library is in a portable.  I keep trying!  The good news is that our board does want to keep the library!  Hallelujah to that!  I am going to watch this stream to hopefully learn new ways to promote.  Bless you!

The children in my church love dinosaurs. I handed out plastic dinosaurs one Sunday and invited them to stop by the library to pick out a book and get another dinosaur. That got some response. 

Revitalizing is a great time to connect with your church in ways that the library has not done before. Pastors and church staff use the term "align" to mean that all the ministries of the church align to the mission, vision, core values, and disciple making process of the church. If you have not seen such promoted in your church, talk with your liason staff person to see if your church has such. Ask him or her what the staff wants the library to do and be in alignment to what they are leading the church to do. Check out my story on the CLN Circle which is our journey in aligning the library now called Enrichment Center to the life of the church. Click here. Now is your chance to help your pastor and staff move beyond thinking of the library as a room of books that are never used. Check out the attachment which shows the difference between a church library and a disciple making center for the church: What is the Difference?

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Our church is even smaller (40-70 including youth on any given Sunday) and we have zero budget.  But we have donated books & I have found thrift stores to be a great place to find books - even large print.  Church of Faith serves a primarily black neighborhood in West Philadelphia so I keep an eye out for multi-cultural books. 

We have 1500+ youth books (all donated) and about 500 for adults which are mostly donated. I fund the thrift store purchases and rejoiced the day I found a $.10/book sale (I bought 183 books that day).  I bought the pockets & cards & a stamp on Amazon as a gift to the church.  Our focus has been on getting everyone to read - not on maintaining a traditional library - so we don't use software other than Excel and I hand write all of the cards.

This summer we ran a Reading Challenge encouraging everyone to read a book (any book from any library or online).  Almost every Sunday I made an announcement cheering people on to read. 3 youth & 6 adults participated.  We recognized them with certificates handed out during Sunday service.  We asked who read but didn't turn in a form, most of the congregation stood. They were actively reading - they just didn't submit their simple form (name, title, author, what did you like, would you recommend).  

For 2019-2020 year we are changing it up to be more of a competition with charts showing participants names & stickers (or check marks) for each book. Our youth seem to respond best to competition.  The same day we announced the new program, 3 people turned in forms that just hadn't gotten around to it for the summer challenge.

Our adult library is in the hallway just outside of the sanctuary & on the way to the rest rooms.  There are 2 IKEA bookcases & a 3 shelf library cart to hold the books.   I've tried to group bible study & christian thought together  & labeled those shelves. Authors Charles Stanley and Max Lucado books are grouped together as both are popular.  Marriage & Family life is the only other labeled category.  Black history, social justice, biographies (especially women)are also popular.

The youth books are upstairs in the youth room (5 IKEA bookcases lining one side of the room). Black history books are grouped together & labeled.  Otherwise it is broadly organized by age (youngest on the bottom).

The senior Pastor talks about the importance of reading from the pulpit.  He advocates Bible study, prayer, and reading.  Reading is important for the future...it builds vocabulary, expands the imagination, introduces new ideas, etc.  With advocacy for reading coming from the pulpit, people actually are getting excited.  There are now people standing in the hallway looking for a new book to read.  They tell one another about a good read.

I didn't want to manage the church library, but I did it because I was asked to.  I didn't want to run a reading program, but I did it because I was asked to.  Then God showed me it wouldn't be a burden if I released the "how it should be done" and focused on encouraging people to read which is really the goal.  No one checks to be sure the book was signed out or returned.  Our love for one another is extended to trusting one another.  Not every book will be returned, though we hope so.  But how awesome is it to have books being read, and ideas being shared.

Humbly submitted,

Marilyn Trueblood

I cleaned up the library, weeded the shelves of old books, and started making announcement in opening assembly about books of interest.  I also create a monthly newsletter highlighting books and series that goes in the bulletin. Library%20Newletter%202019-08.docx

I found that our women really love to read fiction series. The most beneficial thing I did was to put a little colored sticker on the top spine of books with the number of that book within the series and I group them together rather than alphabetical. One of our teens even brought me a list of books needed to complete some series. Something so simple has been amazing!

Sounds like a little publicity and enthusiasm has made your library a center for fellowship!  How great to have people asking for more books.  I like the monthly newsletter idea also (I will have to brush up on using print media for encouraging reading)

Marilyn Trueblood

We publish a monthly newsletter also.  I don't know how to link it here but I will add anyone who would like to see it to a mailing list.  You can leave your email here or send it to me at dtdehart@gmail.com.

Our newsletter includes a monthly feature article, book reviews, what's new in the library, a kids' corner, and an author feature.

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