How to Start or Renew a Church Library

Beginning a library ministry or reviving a dormant library is an exciting time in the life of a church. In the beginning stages of planning a library, many questions must be answered.

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Beginning a library ministry or reviving a dormant library is an exciting time in the life of a church.

Planning with the pastor and other church leadership just how this vital new ministry will enhance the life of the church family can be a great experience or a hectic one. It all depends on how you prepare. 

  1. Follow the mission statement of your church. Everything done by a church library team needs to carry out the mission of your church.
  2. Ask the right questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? Explore the answers to these questions as you apply the mission of the church to the ministry of the church library.
  3. Organize your library's information. Consider the types of spiritual gifts needed by individuals on the church library ministry team. Identify the types of positions for team members. A team leader is one position. The other positions need to relate to responsibilities assigned to team members. For example, your team may have a technical specialist and a promotion specialist.
  4. Train a team. You can purchase and download excellent training resources at LifeWay's church library page
  5. Know the criteria by which you select media. The church library ministry has the responsibility to serve as steward of media resources that strengthen and support the total church ministry. A selection and gift policy is suggested to help guide the library team with selection decisions. This policy is also very important to help when unsuitable material is donated. The selection policy needs to be voted on by the church in a business meeting, thus reflecting the desires of the church rather than the opinion of one individual. 
  6. Plan a budget. Budget planning is an important task that impacts everything else through the year. 
  7. Establish an appropriate space. Look for a location with high traffic flow, where people gather, and that is easily accessible. A separate room is best but a table or a mobile shelving unit works well. 
  8. Circulate your media. Develop policies regarding the hours the library will be open, length of time media can be borrowed, the use of fines for past-due media returns, and other circulation concerns. The technical tasks of accessioning, cataloging, labeling, storing and shelving are important parts of the preparation of media. 
  9. Encourage people to use the library. Promoting the use of the library involves planning for the visual, verbal, printed and activity-oriented ideas. Begin circulation as soon as media processing has begun rather than waiting until everything completed. Help people feel they are part of the new library ministry. This approach will generate excitement and become a great promotional tool. The resource Church Library Ministry Information Service can provide you with ideas for a great start in promoting your library. The online book Creating Promotion That Communicates (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4) by Charles Businaro can guide you in designing promotion materials.
  10. Provide the right services. The basic service of the library is to provide easy access to appropriate media. As personnel and resources are available, add services such as story time for children, media clubs, book reviews, and special support activities for age-group ministries. For guidance, use the resource Church Library Ministry Information Service.

As your church launches this fantastic ministry, take each step with prayer. Each phase is very important and organization will be the key to getting a quality ministry up and going. Never forget the most important key is prayer. Remember, every church library had a beginning.

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Sue Berthelot is the church library team leader for Ascension Baptist Church in Gonzales, Louisiana. She is also a national church library ministry specialist.