Are Church Libraries Dead?

church library
photo credit: http://www.churchofisrael.info/office.htm

I can still remember the church library of my childhood (well, middle school, actually). It was fairly large, with well-stocked, orderly shelves and two dedicated volunteers every week. Often I would get there before the doors were unlocked, and would wait with several other people for the wooden doors to be opened. Once inside, I was lost in the rows of titles that beckoned me. What should I pick? One or two books this week? Sometimes it would be something already read, but that didn’t matter. It was like greeting an old friend. I loved the smell of the wooden shelves and the book ink, the feel of the soft pages under my fingertips, and the hushed sounds of people checking out or exclaiming over a book they found. The library volunteers often had to hurry people out as the worship service started up.

As an adult, I’ve attended a variety of churches, and few of them have libraries. My current church has a tiny library, which has been going for about 30 years or so. It’s only about ten feet by ten feet, with bookshelves along the walls. There used to be a lot of people who stopped in it to grab some reading material. There were even middle school and high-schoolers who came in and picked out books. Biographies, encouraging non-fiction, Bible study books, and tons of Christian fiction. Yes, business in our little library was booming.

But churches and culture have changed dramatically in the past twenty-five years. Now we have 250+ channels on TV, Amazon Prime movies, Hulu Plus, Netflix, video games, Facebook, cell phones, and Youtube on high-speed internet. These pastimes have introduced us to sensational, fast-paced excitement that is difficult to match with a book. Even among the people that still read, they seem to want more language and smutty content. They’ve gotten used to it in their movies and tv shows, and they now find “clean” reads too boring.

These days, our little church library is barely used, which I don’t think is unusual. Church libraries seem to be on their last mile, just a step behind the Christian bookstores that have gone out of business. We are told that churches have to be willing to change and adapt to reach the newer generations of attendees. That is true. We can’t live in the past. Out with the old, in with the new. But still – I feel great sadness for the demise of church libraries.

The Pigeon Wants To Know

2017 pigeon hey what are you reading

I found this bookmark in a library book, and had to smile. Ah, that lovable pigeon! The one that wants to drive a school-bus. The one that refuses to go to bed. The one that’s dying to have a puppy. The one trying to avoid the nightly bath.

The Pigeon Wants A Puppy

So what ARE you reading this summer? If you shrugged and said “I dunno”, start off by picking up one of the Mo Willem’s pigeon books and reading it aloud to a child. That’ll put you in a happy state of mind, and you’ll start looking for another book to read. And that, my friends, is the pigeon’s sneaky plan…

March Is National Reading Month!

Book Knowledge Tree NS
Photo credit:
http://www.thebusymomsdaily.com/2014/03/national-reading-month-giveaway.html

While volunteering in our local school library yesterday morning, I found out that March is National Reading Month, although I can’t honestly tell you who declared it so. Was it the American Library Association, the Head Start program, the Department Of Education, the president of the United States? But does it even matter who started it?

It’s still cold and dreary outside, so what could be better than curling up with a book, or listening to an audio-book while you’re driving, or laughing over a book with a small child? Look around your house for a book to read – or re-read one of your old favorites. If you can’t find one, log on your library’s website, and check out their e-book selection. If you want to outright buy yourself a book, there’s always Amazon’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook selections, or an actual walk-in bookstore. Whatever way you choose to do it, enjoy reading this month!

 

The Joy Of E-Audiobooks

one-click-digital

Think you can’t enjoy a great story because you’re too busy to sit down and read a book?  Try exploring the world of e-audio-books. Most public libraries now let you use your library card to check out and download audio-books to your cell phone, tablet, or computer.

Last week, I checked out “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” from my library’s website and downloaded it onto my cellphone. The book is narrated by a talented narrator whose accent is so perfect that you feel as if you’re in Brooklyn in 1915, living with the impoverished Nolan family. I would just turn on the audio-book and walk about with it in my pocket. It was great to listen to as I folded laundry, ironed, or prepared supper. When it was time to pedal a few miles on the exercise bike, the story kept me company.

Winter has eased enough to walk outside again, so I attach headphones to my cellphone and hit the sidewalk. As long as I stay away from streets with a lot of noisy traffic, listening is easy. I’m able to take longer walks, since there is something to focus on other than tired legs and feet. Today’s walk stretched into three miles, as I finished “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn”. Then I just sat out in the sunshine for awhile and thought about the challenges and joys of Francie Nolan in the novel.

If you’ve never tried an audio-book, you’re missing out on something special. Check with your local library to see what they offer. You can generally find it on your library’s web-site, under “e-books and downloads”. Overdrive, One Click Digital, and Hoopla are all companies that offer e-audio-books to libraries.

Does The Average Person Still Read?

Handsome man sitting and reading in library

from website of Mid-Continent Public Library
https://www.mymcpl.org/blog/what-are-we-reading-library-0

Maybe I’m mistaken, but it feels like people are reading less than they did ten or twenty years ago. I decided to google how much reading people do. The Pew Research Center did a great article on reading habits, which told me a lot of facts I didn’t know:

  • 73% of people in the U.S. said they had read at least one book this year. So I guess that means that 27% of people didn’t even manage to read/listen to one book (how sad).
  • Printed books are still more popular than e-books or audiobooks.
  • “Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read 4 books in the last 12 months.”
  • 28% of Americans read an e-book this year (I thought this would be higher).
  • Women read more books than men.
  • Young adults read more than people over 65 this year.

    To read the whole article, here’s the link:
    http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/01/book-reading-2016/

So I guess people are still reading, but I don’t often hear people talk about their favorite author, or rave about that fantastic book they just finished. That makes me sad, as I love to share books that were really enjoyable or moving. Do you still read?

 

 

Freeland Little Free Library

Freeland Little Free Library

I love it when someone comments on my blog, but am frustrated that the feedback does not show up very well. In small lettering at the very end of the post, it will say “1 comment”. I would like for the comment itself to be visible without having to click on the link. Some day I will figure out how to do this!

Congratulations to our literary friends in Freeland, Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom! They started their community box in September of last year. It’s fantastic to know that there are readers on other continents who also set up little libraries. Their library box looks larger than the one we have in St. Mary’s Hospital. But larger or smaller, all the boxes extend the gift of a book to read to whoever wanders by. You can check out their blog at:
https://freelandlittlefreelibrary.wordpress.com

 

Little Free Library boxes

little free library - first box

Have you ever seen a “Little Free Library?” It will be a small wooden box with maybe ten to twenty books inside. Anyone is welcome to take a book from it. They are asked to either return the book when they are finished with it, or put in a different book. You can find them in rural areas where libraries are few and far between. You can also find them in odd places, like the hospital cafeteria where I often stop to get a cup of coffee.

Todd Bol, an ordinary guy living in Wisconsin, put up the first “Little Free Library” box in his front yard back in 2009. He borrowed the idea from stories he heard about Lutie Stearns, a dedicated librarian who shuttled small batches of books to about 1400 different places in Wisconsin between 1895 and 1915. People heard about Todd’s library box, and started putting up their own boxes. Soon people all over the country, and even in other countries, were putting up little boxes of books. At the beginning of this year, there were over 36,000 registered library boxes around the world!

I felt privileged to have stumbled across one of these boxes, and donated some books to honor my son. It’s such a small thing to do, but it is a kind gesture to individuals who unexpectedly find themselves at the hospital, with nothing to do as they wait for word from the surgery room. If you stumble upon a Little Free Library, stick a book in it!