Church Resource Libraries

May 25th, 2011
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What, is a church resource library? What is it really supposed to do? A church resource library is a collection of all the teaching-learning materials that are available for use in the life of the church fellowship. This includes both books and nonbook materials.

When you visit a classroom and see teaching materials in dusty piles on open shelves or in closets, you must ask yourself, What type of stewardship is practiced here? Teaching areas should have the materials and equipment needed, but when the leaders and students are finished with the materials, they should be properly stored in a place that allows other persons to find them in good condition. Thus, at any one time, all such materials not currently being used should be stored in the church resource library where they are readily available for someone else to use them.

Where these materials are located varies. Some congregations operate several mini-libraries: one in the preschool area and one each for elementary children, youth, and adults, each located in or near those classrooms. Other congregations choose a single area to house all the materials. Each congregation needs to decide what will work best for its own situation.

Thus, good stewardship is being demonstrated when you have materials cataloged in one central place. Then potential users can come and find what is available in the card catalog and be directed to the place or places where these items are stored. This is called an integrated catalog. If you have libraries in several locations, you will need additional catalogs in those rooms, with at least title cards. Audiovisual materials and equipment, as well as books, are costly to replace, so plan wisely for their storage and use.

Church Resource Library Users

To what audience are the services of a church resource library directed? Teachers and group leaders are probably the largest category of users, if they find the kind of materials they need in the library collection. You will also find children are heavy library users when there are books of a wide variety for their enjoyment.

Here are some typical examples of uses of a church resource library. An official of a local church board or committee should find the book of rules that will answer questions about church polity. A member of a senior high group will find recreation and program ideas for evening fellowship. The teacher of an older elementary class might locate maps and timelines to help children understand key biblical places and history.  A young adult planning team may look there for audiovisuals to use in an upcoming study. Young parents may choose storybooks for their preschool children. An adult class may be searching for a video on the life of Jesus. A task force planning a curriculum unit should find copies of study books and guides, ongoing curriculum materials, reference works, pictures, maps, and magazines. All these and many other persons in the church should find the materials they need in the church resource library.

Developing a Resource Library

How do you know you need a resource library?

The need for a church resource library may be seen in any of the following situations:

  • You have many resources (books, pictures, audiovisuals, etc.) in your congregation, but they are scattered about in many rooms, closets, staff offices, and shelves. How can a resource library gather these together?
  • You have resources that few people know about and that are not being used. How can a resource library help promote already available materials?
  • Persons who are looking for specific resources for their teaching sessions cannot find what they are looking for. How can an integrated catalog or filing system help busy teachers and leaders?
  • No one is giving any maintenance care to the resources and equipment. How can this be provided through a resource library?
  • Many local public libraries do not have many materials on the various aspects of Christian education and the Christian faith. In some areas religious resources are cut first in budget planning. How can your church resource library supplement these areas in your public library?
  • Few members of the congregation subscribe regularly to Christian periodicals. What can a church resource library do to make these current readings available to members of the congregation?

If one or more of these situations exists in your church, then it is time to consider starting a church resource library. For more information on the Dewey Decimal system, and a full listing of the Dewey numbers for the Religion category.

This article is excerpted from You Can Have a Church Library by Maryann J. Dotts, copyright © 1988, Abingdon Press, pp. 5-6. Used by permission.

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