Church Libraries

Today I made a presentation to the Church Library Association. I had spoken with the president, Judy, some time ago with my ideas about the place church libraries could have. As the featured speaker for the fall meeting, I had a half hour for presentation, plus questions. I made the following points, which I invited them to consider as they look at their service population:

1. The Church Library is a special library (one of the four types of libraries). It occupies the same information center place in their parent organization as a library at Mayo Medical Center (sure to strike a chord here in the “Med City”).

2. The Church Library should have a mission, that expands on or fits into the mission of its church. The Church Library should also be part of the strategic plan of the church and be part of its budget. If it has no mission, no plan, and no budget, its existence is questionable.

3. The Church Library can occupy a special place in the neighborhood in which it resides by mimicing the typical programs of a public library: storytime, book clubs, popular fiction, internet connections, E-mail, homework helpers, or newspaper and magazine browsing areas.

4. The Church Library should not seek to compete with or replace the public library. It should seek to partner with the local public library and be yet another information access point. Church libraries can enhance the image of libraries to a mutually beneficial end for both the church library and the public library, since in the eyes of the public who use them, the positive image of a library anywhere leads to support of libraries everywhere. The Church Library can be open at complementing hours to the public library, during evenings of Christian Education or weekends.

5. The Church Library might seek to be an information center, offering its services to staff and members as a place to ask questions — even if the library serves as a conduit to the local public library, university library, or regional library.

6. The Church Library must have policies: collection development policy, gift policy, circulation policy — as a beginning.

7. The Church Library should seek to collect and disseminate information about the Minnesota Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The church is in a unique position to know where those services would be useful and facilitate the process for application.

Multitype Library Regions

Minnesota established multitype regions in statute — 7 regions. Minnesota also has 12 public library regions. I wasn’t here when library regions were formed, so have no first-hand knowledge about the climate surrounding their formation. The existence of library regions is preferable to the existence of no library regions — yet I wonder if more is necessarily better.

The structure of the library regions was difficult for me to get my head around. It’s far more difficult to explain to legislators and stake holders. One of the SELCO/SELS board members said it best during the SELCO and SELS 2000 strategic planning process. The planning committee had spent considerable time in meetings, collecting data and discussing the future of the organization(s). We were in a final meeting at which the goal was to set the direction of the plan, and he, like the child in the Emporer’s New Clothes, said he still didn’t get it. What was this multitype region? In truth, he was probably the one participant (of the many who were grappling with the question) who had enough bravado to raise the question. Those who know again explained the structure as it exists. An epiphany dawned, as he said “I get it”. He recapitulated his newly developed comprehension as a comparison between SELS and the “watering hole” in a primite culture where the residents share communication and information around that gathering place.