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The Impact of an Organized and Efficient Library
By: Shara Blackmore

Every church has a collection of valuable resources. The types of resources can be very diverse, from books to DVDs, magazines to sheet music, and sermons to nursery toys.  The value of these resources far exceeds their monetary worth. They provide help with spiritual growth, information for leadership development, and guidance for improving family relationships. 

What Is Library Automation?
Library automation can be defined as an integrated library management system; it is a resource planning system for a library. A library automation software program will provide a centralized system for all of the common library tasks, such as cataloguing, circulation, searching and printing reports. Combining these tasks creates an efficient and time-saving system. Instead of using a few different programs and methods, a library software program will keep track of items that have been catalogued and circulated.

Why Automate the Library?
The church library is more than just a collection of books and resources; it's a vital source of enriched information for church educators, pastoral staff, families, children and people in need. The library can provide a way to expand the church beyond the building walls, and out into people's homes and lives. Setting up and establishing the library is more than a task or job; it is a ministry to your church and community.

Benefits for the Librarian and Volunteers
The church library is usually staffed with volunteers who are committed to donating their time and talents. A library software program can greatly assist them in their efforts with easy data cataloguing methods, quick circulation, and efficient report features. Most library software programs have the ability to import data files that the librarian has catalogued at home or another location or from an existing data file. Also, many programs have the ability to use various Internet sources to quickly import the catalogue information, which alleviates the burden of typing into every data field.

Circulation can be done quickly by scanning a barcode label on the book to lend and return items. The program will keep track of who has what item, when it is due back, and have the option of printing or e-mailing a reminder notice to the patron. Most software programs have a variety of circulation reports that can be printed to show overdue items, as well as items that are not being circulated to help with weeding the library of resources that are not of interest. As well, the program should have reports to show inventory listings and accumulated replacement values that will help to assess all of the funding and effort that has gone into the resources and library.

Benefits for the Congregation
Automating the library will make it easier for the congregation to use, as many people are now familiar with using computer technology or using an online searching tool. Many software programs offer the ability to search the library online from the church website.  This offers a great convenience with being able to search from any computer with Internet access at any time.

Having the resources catalogued based on subject and content will help people to easily put their hands on the items that are most relevant to them. Families will be able to find books that will help them with parenting and on nurturing relationships. Teenagers will be able to find DVDs based on Biblical teachings, and church educators will be able to find material to aid them in their classrooms. 

Benefits for the Pastor and all Ministry Departments
Having a centralized system will help the minister and staff to organize and classify pastoral resources, such as sermons, notes and reference books. Once the items have been entered into the software program, they can be searched extensively based on subject, author, category, or any data field that contains information. This will help the minister to provide supplemental readings and resources related to sermons and teachings to the congregation.

Automation will help to promote stewardship by keeping track of the church's books and valuable resources that have been purchased and donated. Unfortunately, it's common to lose items as they are lent out without a tracing method, or simply forgotten about. Using a library program will ensure that the item can be tracked to the last person who checked it out, which alleviates the cost of having to re-purchase the item. 

The benefits of automating far outweigh the funding costs that it will take to set up the library with a software program. The time and money it takes to manually type the catalogue cards, replacement value reports, inventory and book labels will be more than the cost of a software program and computer.

Every ministry department in the church can use the library program to catalogue their resources. Many library programs have the flexibility to allow for any type of resource to be catalogued and the data fields to be named accordingly. Materials, equipment, books, videos, or any other type of item needs to be stored properly and organized so that they can be located and used.
The Challenge
Technology advancements are imperative to a functional church. It can keep the church connected to the congregation, ministerial staff, and the community. Unfortunately, at times, churches can be fearful of technology, thinking that it will be too expensive and complicated to use. This fear can be overcome with an easy-to-use and affordable software solution that is readily available to a church of any size. Ask other churches what system they are using. Word of mouth is a great way to find a software program that is simple to use, reasonably priced, and well supported.

Automating with technology can and will improve your library's functionality, and in turn have a powerful impact on your church and community.

Shara Blackmore is the customer support and administration manager at Jaywil Software. For over 16 years, ResourceMate, as developed by Jaywil Software, has helped organizations establish efficient libraries with a cost-effective solution, www.resourcemate.com.

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