“Can I take my drugs in the library?” I am the librarian at my church and last Sunday an elderly woman came to the door and asked me that question. She had a beeper that went off when it was time for her to administer her medication and that had just happened. She needed a place to sit down and take her pills before she forgot. I told her we were a full-service library and she should come right in.
One thing I am noticing about our church library is that it is much more than just a place to get books. For example, before the Sunday morning worship hour, there are a couple of regulars who like to hang out in the library because the noise and hubbub in the lobby before the service is just too much for them, either due to hearing difficulties or because they are of a more introverted nature. We have a couple of nice comfy chairs that provide a safe space for them.
Parents whose children are having trouble sitting through a church service also come into the library to read stories, or walk around in an open area that provides an alternative to the confining pews in the sanctuary.
We’ve just finished setting up a Kids’ Corner in the library to invite even more of that kind of use of our space.
Many people come in just to chat. They may start off asking you to recommend a book for them but then the conversation quickly veers to a family matter that is troubling them, a social issue on which they have an opinion to share, a physical ailment that is challenging or something in the church that is of concern to them. I often get caught up for quite some time in one of these conversations as do the wonderful volunteers who work in the library each Sunday helping people sign out new books and returning the old ones to the shelves.
We do have our critics, although certainly a minority. They come in because they don’t agree with the selection of books we have, or they aren’t happy with the way the books are displayed, or they are concerned about the church perhaps spending too much money on library books or they are sad that I have removed an old book from the shelves that was really important to them. I actually enjoy chatting with these folks and am pleased they are taking such an interest in the library. Their concerns have led me to develop a Book Selection policy that has been approved by the church’s education committee which oversees my work in the library.
And then, of course, there are the library patrons who are devoted literary fans. They come into the library to see if you have the latest title which is in big demand, to discuss a book from the library they know I have read too, to have me recommend a book I think they will like, to donate a book to the library, or to tell me about a book they have read that they think should be on our shelves.
And our library is used for other things too. Church committees sometimes reserve the library for meetings during the week. Families may gather there before a funeral service. People sometimes slip in to find a quiet place to take a phone call or have a one on one conversation with a friend. Folks who are visiting the church for the first time wander in because they are curious or are looking to connect with someone.
I was just asked on Sunday by our church’s gift discernment committee if I want to continue my work in the library for another two years and I answered yes immediately. I love being in the library at our church not only because I enjoy reading books and talking about them, but because I love the fact that so many other things happen in the library besides taking out books and returning them.