I am a new member of this network so hope to gain some knowledge and insight through interaction here and looking at some resources.

I am just now, starting on a volunteer basis, taking a look at a library space in my current church in Atlanta with the hopes of building some sort of lending body of books.  There is a "smattering" of a collection to which I have the ability to add some volumes (donations).  But, a disclaimer up front, just to be clear...no money to begin with!

I welcome your advice and suggestions on how to begin to organize, and work toward a lending system, for an amount of books (not counted yet) that fill up half to 3/4 of tall shelving in approximately the space size of a large walk-in closet.

I have looked at both LibraryThing.com and Worldcat.org.  Would welcome your thoughts on the pros and cons of each.

First of all, a good way to create a shelflist and a list of books for church members to access and way for them to borrow (a "catalog" of sorts to begin with without spending money on software).

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Jessica Hudson

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Being a computer nut, the first thing I would do is get a computer. Put your request in to get a hand-me down from the church office when they upgrade.

Yes, I would definitely use my own laptop to begin with, obviously having normal Office software and internet access.

First of all, look in the event list in the right-hand column of this page and make arrangements to come to the

Equipping Church Librarians for Ministry Conference 2013

at Ridgecrest, NC (near Asheville) in early August.  There will be two and one-half days of training sessions which will cover almost everything you need to know to start a library!  Better yet, try to bring one or two people with you, so that you can split up and learn even more!


Hope to see you there! 

Weed, weed and weed some more so you know what your base collection will be.  I too would start with adding all of your inventory on the computer.  I simply use Microsoft Excel (at no expense) and it serves my purposes just fine.  With a very small collection, I highly suggest that you group your books by SUBJECTS and at this time don't try to use Dewey Decimal System.  Use Christian Life, Fiction, Children, Old and New Testament books and of course reference.  Keep it simple.  There is a Church & Synagogue Conference near Ashville, NC July 28-30 (look up website of CSLA for details).  There is a workshop called "The Little Library in a Small Congregation" to learn about serving a small membership with little space, limited budget.  Let me know if you want more details. 

You don't need to buy software; just use an excel spreadsheet!!

I put detailed advice on my church website about creating and maintaining a church library.  Take a look at www.stjohnmemphis.org.  Click on the Library tab and you'll see the clickable heading at the end of the list of "sub tabs."  I'll be happy to answer questions.  Church Librarians Network is the best place for live advice;  Bev Etzelmueller gives very practical advice!!!


Thank you for your kind words.  I've been the librarian at our church for 30 years and have learned many practical tips along the way.  Personally, I believe that some librarians are so in the mode of taking the process of cataloging way beyond what is necessary.  Yes, I've had professional librarians snub their nose at my for using categories and Excel, but I'm able to do all the tasks necessary at no cost!  Unless you are a large library and want to barcode your books, consider keeping it simple.  I would be happy to mail a list of the SUBJECTS that I use.  It all fits! I didn't originate the idea of subjects, as a professional librarian created and maintained our library about 40 years ago.  Simple ideas work! 

Thanks everyone, this is a great start.  Bev, as you've said you don't mind, would you email a list of subjects you use?  Send to:


I surely hope to attend at least part of an upcoming conference.


Hi .. I"m new to this list and not actually a church librarian. My best friend has asked for my help in re-organizing their small church library. They bought into a software and are using the Dewey system. I spent 25 years in an academic library with the LC system but I like your approach. Their library rarely gets used and only for fiction. I think if they could browse by subject they would attract more patrons. I would love to see what subject categories you use!! vljohen@gmail.com

Jessica, I'd like to make a suggestion.  You can go to www.lifeway.com/churchlibrary and you will find more than 80 articles relating to all aspects of library work.  Included are some on starting new libraries.  Trust that you can get ideas from some of these.  They may be downloaded.

Thank you everyone - it was a pleasure to hear you teach, Eva Nell, this past weekend at Ridgecrest! I am glad I was able to participate for a part of the conference.  Helpful material.

I wondered if there are any of the presentations that are made available as a file here to members of CLN?  There was one session I did not attend but wanted to, "When you are not automated" (Presenter Furr).  Thanks for letting me know if I'm able to access any of what was presented, or if someone is able/willing to share a portion of it, list of resources or tips, etc.


Welcome to the Network!  This is a great place to start in answering your questions and with guidance in your endeavors to create a worthwhile and caring library.  I would be happy to send you a few pages that address questions that new librarians have "to get started".  Just give me your e-mail address and I'll attach the document.  The first thing you need is to Weed and weed some more, so that your shelf looks clean, crisp and current.


I have been a librarian for 30 years and started with nothing!  I was on the frontier of the computer age to shift from the card catalog that we all grew up with.  I have used Microsoft Excel exclusively and it cost me nothing other than to make sure I had the "business" version of Excel.  I can also send you a sample spreadsheet of what information that I include.  I can do everything with Excel and except dance on the library tables!  In my opinion the majority of church libraries that contain 1-2 shelves do not have to have fancy software.  Also, the professional librarian that set up our library in the 1970's used categories vs. Dewey Decimal system.  This is my personal opinion and not to put down software and DD, but I don't find the need to go overboard and I have 3,000 books in my library, so it's not small by any means.  Let me know if I can offer you any other information.  Bev Etzelmueller, Volunteer Librarian at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, Wauwatosa, WI. 


Also, there are a few church Librarians' association that you may want to get connected with to help you and they offer chapter meetings 2-3 times a year.  This way you can work closer with fellow librarians.  I do know a librarian in Georgia that I could have the two of you connect if you are interested. 

I started our church library from scratch.  Use Librarything.com and worldcat; plus I also use oclc/dewey.  I really like librarything except when the internet is down.  Have had a problem with subjects, so I simply put everything into "tags" instead.  Am training my patrons to search "tags" for their subject needs.


One big problem is the catalogging. To my chagrin, I discovered that some of my duplicate titles ended up with call numbers that are way off.  Now I double check everything.  I keep a copy of the Dewey numbers printed from the internet next to my computer. Also have a copy of 200's categories by subject. It really helps.

My major complaint with librarything is that I can't figure out how to post my accession numbers.  Anyone have any suggestions?

At first I was worried about people accessing my catalog and really messing with it, but someone recently showed me how to overcome that.  Simply copy and paste your list for the patrons. They can access anything they want without messing with the data. :)

Also, I like being able to pull up specific subjects and posting a list.  When I know what the pastor is going to talk about, I can pull books related to his subject and have them ready for check out at the end of the service.

I only use worldcat to help me find subject headings for older books that do not list the info on the back of the title page.



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