Friday, September 18, 2015

Church Libraries

You'd think I'd be a great librarian. I'm addicted to reading, and possibly to acquiring books (we once lived in a house with a library room and everyone was happy). But sadly, I am not. (Humans of New York posted this recently. I do admire real librarians!)

I've spent a good chunk of my life in libraries (especially this one: hi, Bo!) I've gotten to work in four libraries: two in schools, one in a Bible publishing company's donated books room, and the library at Healdsburg Community Church. I was pretty bad each time, and with the church library, I gave up completely on the checking in/checking out of books. I figured that if somebody wanted a book and forgot to return it, what difference did it really make? All the books were donated, and it was better for a person to enjoy the book than for the library's records to be accurate. As I said, I'm not a good librarian.

Many of the churches we've visited have libraries. At some churches, it's obvious the library is used, maintained, and appreciated. Some church libraries are in a room set aside for that purpose, while some libraries are in common spaces with high visibility.

Not all churches have libraries -- some can't, some shouldn't. If we've learned one thing in our church touring so far, it's that different churches serve different people. But this weekend we saw a church library that was amazing.

The library shares space with The Well, a coffee and pastry shop. So there are chairs and tables that have adults and children eating and drinking. The room flows from the cafe area into the library, which has book stacks like any real library (or bookstore, for that matter). It has a real checkout counter, with real librarians (maybe some are just book-loving volunteers, but Val, who's in charge, definitely knows her stuff).

We offered her some Bill the Warthog books we happened to have with us and made plans to get her a couple more. Meanwhile, the other man working in the library (TWO people working in a church library, and neither of them were nice retired schoolteachers) helped a few other people find and check out books.

The books on the shelves looked fairly new. They looked tidy and well organized. Sections were labeled by category. There were places to sit and read. It wasn't a dim, quiet place. It was wonderful.

Later, I looked at the library section of the church website. It felt like looking at a really good school library website, with "top ten books" and "newest arrivals" and a searchable catalog. Wow. And I noticed that the library is listed in the "connect" section of the site...so the library is considered an important, useful part of the church's ministry.

Not all churches have the resources, of course, to have a church library website. Most churches don't need them, and lots of churches don't need a library. And different church libraries can serve different needs, but somehow, by combining location, atmosphere, organization and content, a church library should be a useful place that shares useful resources in a way to further the Kingdom of God.

I wonder how I could have made a difference in the opportunities I've had so far. How can I do it now? What good are the books and other media in my house doing?
-- Mindy