Church Library Basics
By: Vernita Kennen
Our church library needs a mission statement? You must be joking. It’s no joke! Much like the old wisdom says, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you have arrived?” Every church library needs a reason for existing and a plan for the future.
Writing a mission or purpose statement is not an easy task, but it is one that makes all operations of the library much easier. With such a statement, everything that is done in the library can be easily evaluated in terms of that statement. Is the library fulfilling the mission? Does the library know its purpose and serve that purpose?
Gather the members of the library committee and the library’s liaison person(s) on the church staff (clergy and laity). Work together to list the reasons why your congregation should have a church library. Consider questions the following questions.
Draft some wording…the simpler and more direct, the better. And, remember that you want a mission/purpose statement, not several sentences or paragraphs about the library. Ask the rest of the staff to review it. Ask some of the most faithful users of the library to review and critique the statement. Refine as needed, and then have the statement adopted by the library committee. Ask the church council to affirm the adoption of the statement.
Communicate the statement to the congregation in a variety of ways. Post copies in the library. Always include the statement in any newsletter, booklist or publication of the library. Read it at the beginning of each of the library committee meetings. Pray about the mission and how the library might better fulfill that mission or purpose. Don’t forget to evaluate the mission/purpose statement periodically; everything changes over time, and the statement will need to be updated eventually, too.
Designing a Materials-Selection Policy
Begin by considering these basic questions:
Just as the needs of each church library differ, the enormous amount of material available for inclusion in the library differs greatly. Each deserves to be evaluated on its own merits.
Here are some hints that the library action group in our congregation developed. You may want to make them part of your policy that will guide library purchases and decisions.
* Does the item help fulfill the mission statement of the congregation?
Write the policy and refine it with the help of staff and library users. Follow through by having it affirmed by the staff and church council. And, most important of all, use it as you evaluate and select items for the library. Your library truly deserves to be a selection, not simply a collection of materials.
Library Donation Policy
Your best bet is to develop a donation policy with the help of your library committee. Then have it approved by the pastor(s) and church council. Tell the congregation about the policy through a newsletter article or postings in the library. Be sure the office staff knows about the policy, too.
Here are three tips to help protect your library.
1. Tell people how the donated items will be evaluated.
2. Explain how the item will be processed and added to the collection.
3. Explain what will happen to items that are not appropriate for the library collection.
A small amount of planning can save many headaches. A simple policy with only these three points can make the life of church library volunteers infinitely easier.
Weeding Library Items
Our church’s library committee has determined that no more than three years will pass between each weeding, which we do in conjunction with a total inventory. Date records are kept of each inventory/weeding. Our library uses the following criteria to determine if an item will be weeded or retained.
* What is the physical condition of the material? Tattered? Yellowed pages? Is it worth the time/effort/money to repair?
When deciding to withdraw an item, here are some rules we follow.
Remove all ownership information from the material itself—card/pocket or electronic barcode information—and black out all ownership stamps. Write “discard” or “withdrawn” in heavy black ink very visibly on the material.
Delete all information from computer records and/or pull all catalog cards.
If your library uses an accession book, note there the date the item was withdrawn.
Be sure to delete all information about this material from any library bibliographies, such as special lists of holiday and festival books, special collections, or special subject area lists.
Get all weeded material out of the library and out of the building. If the item was donated, be sure to refer to your library’s donation policy for further guidance.
Dealing with Challenged Materials
Our church library has chosen to have a very specific form on which the challenge must be specified in detail. The request must be submitted to the pastor on staff who works with the library. He/she will then seek input from others on the staff and discuss the challenge and his/her recommendation with the members of the library action group
before a final decision is made. The decision shall be based on the selection policy of the library and the specific of the challenge. The final decision is that of the pastor.
The pastor is the person who discusses the decision with the person(s) making the challenge or request for consideration. If the challenge is upheld, the item shall be removed from the library collection, not just from circulation.
Don’t be caught in the unfortunately situation of having something challenged without both a policy on challenged materials and a selection policy that spells out in detail the criteria on which the library chooses to add both print and non-print materials. We all hope that we never have to use these policies, but it is far better to be proactive and prepared.
This article is courtesy of the National Church Library Association, www.churchlibraries.org. Vernita Kennen has been a chapter president in California and has served on the National Board of Directors of the association. She is a retired school librarian and has served several church libraries.
Library automation software, especially with an automated catalog, is a powerful way to communicate your library ministry.
Encourage congregants to see your library as a source of wholesome, uplifting entertainment. Provide suggestions for family movie night, books on tape and novels that don’t compromise your values.
If you have an automated catalog, links to these lists are available to users accessing the catalog. Invite church leaders to create lists, too. They use the automated catalog to create a bibliography to submit for approval and posting.
Word Processing and Page Design Software
Flyers hung in education buildings, family life centers and church offices can publicize new materials, library hours and your online catalog. Purchase an inexpensive CD of religious-themed clip art to add visual interest.
Use your automation software to generate a report of materials to promote. Format the information attractively with your word processing or page design software.
You may even want to hang flyers right in the library. Highlight new materials, promote library events and encourage with favorite scripture verses.
Web Page Design Software
Include library hours, basic information and a link to your online catalog. The Web site is a great place to provide information about materials relevant to current sermon series or study topics.
You might maintain separate sections of interest to children, adults, teens and church educators--post resource lists to the most relevant areas.
Remember that teens and tweens are media savvy, and they enjoy getting information from the Web. Your use of the Web tells them you are in tune with their lifestyle.Diane Volzer is the communications director of Surpass Software, www.SurpassSoftware.com. Surpass CL Church Library Edition was developed especially for church libraries.