Assembling and managing a picture book library takes time and resources, but it can be joyful work. Here are a few things I have learned as I have grown the library of picture books for my congregation, Nativity Episcopal Church:
Read, read, read.
Always have a stack of books at hand ready to be explored (the local library is a good source) and a long request list at the library. Read books by a single author or illustrator who catches your imagination. Read books featured on blogs like this one or booklists from booksellers. Read what your local librarian, bookstore employees, congregants and friends recommend.
As you read, experience the books as yourself, as an adult. Great picture books speak to all ages.
Record the titles, authors, themes and possible applications of the books you imagine for future use in your ministry.
Build a library.
Propose a budget. Maximize any available funds by shopping at local bookstores that offer discounts for educators or non-profit. When you can, buy gently used copies.
Post an annual wish list. At Nativity a bulletin board is displayed in the Gathering Room every spring. Paper cutouts of flowers and butterflies are pinned to a background of a tree and sky. Requests for specific books are written on the cutouts. For each book, a title and author are written on the front of a cutout with specifications such as hardcover, new or gently used. A date requested by is written on the back. If a book is out-of-print, information is included about where to buy an affordable gently used copy. Announcements in our weekly publications announce and explain the tree. Congregants who want to donate a book take a cutout home with them, purchase the book listed and donate it to Nativity. I encourage people to read the story they donate before giving it to the church.
An online version of a book drive can be done with websites that offer wish lists, like Better World Books or Amazon.
Organize your library.
As you acquire books, label them with your church’s information. (I have lost very few books due to this practice over the years.) On the inside book cover record dates you have read the book, context, liturgical seasons, themes and anything else that will be helpful for you in future as well as a successor in your ministry.
As your library continues to grow, create a database including book information and everything you have written on the inside cover of the books. (Creating a database is a potential ministry opportunity for a gifted organizer in the congregation.) A database will ease the search for the right book, provide a way to easily share book ideas with colleagues and friends and provide continuity for successors in your ministry.
Display books after reading.
A small bookshelf outside my office displays a month of stories read during worship at Nativity. Above it hangs a sign reading, “I wonder where God is in this story…” I notice adults stopping by to write down titles to recommend or purchase, children sitting to reread the stories and church building users stopping to read a book that caught their eye.
And lastly, enjoy!
This is one of my favorite parts of my ministry.
We welcome back Anna Ostenso Moore as a guest blogger today. Anna formerly serve as Director of Faith Formation at Nativity Episcopal Church, Burnsville, MN, where one of the greatest joys of her ministry was reading storybooks to her congregation, young and old, during worship every Sunday. Anna currently serves as Associate for Family Ministry at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis, MN. Anna enjoys reading books with a combination of humor and wonder, especially those by Peter Brown, Mo Willems, Shannon Hale and Lane Smith.