Friday, July 19, 2013

Church Libraries - Friday Five

Jan posts today's Friday Five, which for obvious reasons I think is a fun one:
Church libraries seem to be diminishing and even disappearing in some churches. Our church is full of scholarly books that no one looks at, and how should it change, be developed, or continue? As the de-facto chairperson of the library, I need ideas and suggestions about church libraries in this day and age. Please help!
1. Does your church have a library? What is it like?
The church I pastor has a very small library.  The shelves are filled with the novels my folks like ~ think Mitford and stories of Amish heroines ~  and a number of cheery self-help "Christian" books.  There's very little in the way of scholarly material.  I've brought in a couple of stacks of back issues of periodicals, such as Weavings, but I don't think anyone looks at them.

2. Has this church library changed in recent years? 
I don't think so!
3. Does your church library serve as space for other activities, such as meetings or as a multi-purpose room?
It mostly serves as a space for small meetings and prayer groups.

4. Is a church library necessary? What does a library need?
A church library needs people who want to use it!

5. Imagine the library your church would use and describe it.
See below.

Bonus: Any suggestions or ideas about church libraries that you'd like to offer!
A few years ago my home church (I was still in seminary) re-designed our library into a Spirituality Center.  It was the last committee I chaired there, and we had so much fun!  It's a fairly large room, so it now includes a meeting space with a beautiful oak table and chairs, another meeting and reading and conversation space furnished like a living room, a huge stained glass window (donated by members whom I think found it in their basement) as the focus of another small seating space, and beautiful art work.  (We have a separate computer room and a separate children's library with books and seating and rugs appropriate for smaller people, so we didn't need to incorporate those.)
Oh, and . . .  books!  A recently deceased member who was a spiritual director donated his wonderful collection.  There is some good scholarly material, including  a set of commentaries.  And each year books are purchased to complement the educational, spiritual formation, and pilgrimage opportunities the church offers.
The library used to be an emphatically boring room in which session meetings were held and into which a few brave souls slipped to borrow an occasional book.  Now it's such a delightful space that groups enjoy meeting there and people are excited to find materials relevant to what they've been hearing about elsewhere in the building.


  1. Your library sounds terrific. That's exactly what I'd like our library to be. A previous pastor had a humongous personal library. I used to meet with him regularly for spiritual direction, and he was always recommending books for me to read. Since his departure we were pastorless for three years, had a very short term interim, were pastorless again, and finally called a part time minister. She is a complete newbie -- this is her first call, and she has only a few books in her personal library.

    1. Yes, I have hundreds of books in my personal library -- most of them at home, since there's no place at church for them. Kind of interesting, huh -- the church created a beautiful little study for the pastor, but one without space for more than a few books.

  2. That spirituality center sounds pretty great. It makes me wonder.

    We have a library full of a mish-mash of books, but it's my pastor's office where I go to borrow anything relevant.

    Sorry about your church study. My great sorrow at not having a professorship may be that I don't have an office with shelves for all my books. Our (very Presbyterian) church offices each have a wall of bookshelves. It reminds me more of the University English Department than the (evangelical) church offices where I grew up. :-)