It was a time of exploring, learning, and fellowship at the 2011 Annual Conference of the Church & Synagogue Library Association. 91 church and synagogue librarians from around the country gathered in Washington, DC to tour libraries and exchange ideas. I was the only representative from North Carolina, but I met librarians from California, Ohio, Texas, Florida, and many other places. I also met librarians from several different denominations including Episcopal, Presbyterian, Jewish, and non-denominational, and enjoyed camaraderie with many Methodist librarians.
The conference began with a tour of four different congregational libraries in Washington, DC. We got off to a great start with a tour of Foundry United Methodist Church, the church home of the Clintons when Bill was President. It had gorgeous gothic architecture and stained glass windows. The church library was a small space packed full of books as is characteristic in many church libraries. Foundry participates in a Books to Prison program using a basement room full of roughly organized books to meet prisoners’ requests. It is a fascinating program that is run by all volunteers who receive hundreds of letters a week and struggle to keep up with the demand.
Next, we visited the Washington Hebrew Congregation, one of the largest synagogues in DC. They had three libraries! One for youth and children, another is a reading room full of children’s easy books and toys, and the third is a formal library for adults and researchers with complete sets of important Jewish books and a display case of archival treasures. These libraries use Weine, a classification system based on the Dewey Decimal System that is designed for Jewish libraries. All three of these libraries use a union catalog.
Our third stop was Saint Columba’s Episcopal Church. Saint Columba is a saint of knowledge and books. The chapel had a gorgeous stained glass representation of him featured with a collection of books. The congregation and the church staff are big proponents of knowledge and study and the libraries are used often. The main library space is small but packed full and gets heavy use. A few satellite locations hold the overflowing collections of reference books and Christian Education materials. They even have a small bookstore and two book sale carts placed throughout the church.
The last stop of the day was the National Presbyterian Church & Center, the famous church home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and many other heads of state have worshipped here including Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Condoleeza Rice. The church covers a large campus and the library is in a separate building where it has lots of space. This library uses the Library of Congress classification system which is differnet from most church libraries that use the Dewey Decimal System. After touring the church, the library, and the church’s bookstore, the staff provided a wonderful dinner for us followed by a presentation by their pastor on Faith & Art featuring pictures of faith-inspired art that their church members had done and displayed in a recent art show at the church.
The next day began with a tour of the National Archives where we saw the original documents of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. We also received a special presentation from Mary Rephlo, Director of the Modern Archives Institute to help us better understand the concept of archives and how archival materials are arranged. She also pointed us to valuable resources on building archival collections. This presentation was followed by a tour of the Reading Rooms where students and researchers go to learn about the holdings of the National Archives and make requests for materials. We finished up with a tour of the permanent exhibit including my favorite part, the original homestead deed belonging to Mr. Wilder, the father of Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of my namesakes. After a brief trip to the souvenir shop, we were whisked back to the hotel for the afternoon workshops.
The first workshop I attended was on writing media reviews. In my efforts to write reviews of Media Center materials on the website, I wanted some tips on how to do this more effectively. The leader, Monica Tenney, writes and edits reviews for Congregational Libraries Today, the journal of CSLA. I picked up many helpful tips, received a list of further resources, and walked out inspired to ramp up reviews of Media Center materials to help get the word out about the great resources available in our collection.
The second workshop was on writing a policy and procedure manual for your church library. Glenda Strombom, a co-author of the newest version of this CSLA guide, went over the detailed manual and scrapbook she created for her church library. I wrote down lots of ideas that I will be implementing and writing about over the next year.
The third day began with a much anticipated tour of the Library of Congress. We started with a talk by Dr. John Y. Cole, the Director of the Center for the Book. He explained much of the history and arrangement of the Library. We were able to view the Gutenberg Bible, the Great Bible of Mainz, and the first map that ever had “America” written on it. The Library has recreated Thomas Jefferson’s original library from which much of the beginnings of the Library of Congress came. We saw the Reading Room of the Library from above and toured the current exhibits of Creating the United States, the Gershwin Exhibit, and Hope for America centered around American legend Bob Hope. After visiting the gift shop, we were back on the bus for our third and final workshop.
The final workshop I attended on promoting your library involved an exchange of ideas between the participants. National Church Library Month is in October, and I brainstormed ideas to get the word out about the Conference Media Center. Tell your colleagues! Many pastors in our Conference don’t even know that we have a Conference Media Center.
The CSLA Conference also included an exhibit hall and silent auction. In the exhibit hall, I met a representative from OPALS, an open source integrated library system. This feature-rich program would catapult our library’s catalog into the 21st century, and I will be downloading a free demo soon to evaluate its merits for the Media Center. In the silent auction, many books were going for $1.00 or not much more. I ended up with six new titles for the Media Center for a cost of only $9.00! These new titles are:
- In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen
- The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics by Ched Myers
- The Gospel According to Bob Dylan by Michael J. Gilmour
- The Great Bible Discovery Series: Volume 3 DVD
- The Path of Jesus: From Bethlehem to Golgotha DVD
- Advent Calendar 2: Christmas Carols Edition DVD
On the final morning of the conference, we were supposed to tour Wesley Theological Seminary, but in the course of their renovation, they had discovered asbestos and the building had been closed. Instead, Rev. Dr. D. William Faupel, Director of the Library, and Rev. James Estes, Information Services Librarian, came to us to give their presentations. I was surprised that although both of these men are ordained, neither is an ordained Methodist! No matter though, they do excellent work for the seminary library and have been doing so for quite some time. Rev. Dr. Faupel talked to us about being a seminary librarian, how the library is arranged, and walked us through a print-out of the renovation plans which forecast a switch to electronic resources with more space for students to meet, study, and learn. In a collection of 10,000 reference books, the library weeded 5,000 books that were outdated or available online, sent 3,000 seldom used books to the basement, and ended up with 2,000 left in the library, most of which are Biblical encyclopedias and commentaries. Rev. Estes teaches information literacy to students at the seminary, and he defined this concept for us as, “the ability to recognize one’s need for information, identify sources for it, retrieve it and evaluate it, and use it wisely. Rev. Estes also talked about e-readers, tablet computers, and electronic resources and the heavy use of these technologies by students and staff in their library.
Although I was a first-timer and the youngest person in attendance, I was warmly greeted by many kind librarians and their traveling partners, learned lots about how other church libraries are run, and came away with great ideas to improve the NC Conference Media Center.