Using Library Automation Software to Organize Your Church Resources - Article in Religious Product News 2012

Jul. 10, 2012


By Shara Blackmore
Published in July 2012 issue of Religious Product News
The library is a vital, yet often, overlooked church ministry. The library is not just a collection of books located in one central room; rather, it encompasses all of the resources and materials located in all of the ministries and departments throughout the church.
These ministries can include areas such as: Youth, Worship and Music, Outreach and Community, Children education, Pastoral staff, and many more. The type of resources can be very diverse, from books to DVDs, sermon notes to sheet music, and from music equipment to nursery toys. The value of these resources far exceeds their monetary worth. They help to enrich lives, develop spiritual growth, and provide guidance for improving family relationships.
What is Library Automation?
Library automation can be defined as an integrated library management system. In other words, it is a resource planning system for a library or collection. A library automation software program provides a centralized system for all of the common library tasks, such as: cataloguing, circulation, searching, and printing reports. Combining these tasks into one central program creates an efficient time saving system.
Managing Church Resources with a Library Automation Software Program
The most obvious benefit of automation is that it greatly assists with performing ‘library’ tasks. This involves efficiently cataloguing items with appropriate details and subject headings. Most library software programs have the ability to import existing data files as well as the ability to use various Internet sources to quickly import information, which greatly speeds up data cataloguing.
Once the resources have been catalogued, they can be extensively searched based on subject, author, category, location, or any other data field. This will help the congregation, pastoral staff, or community members to be able to easily search and borrow their desired items. Organizing the church’s resources will save time and lessen the frustration of having to search through stacks of books or other materials trying to locate one specific item out of many. The resources could be located throughout the church building in different ministry departments and not just in one room. 
Automation will help to promote stewardship by keeping track of the church’s valuable resources that have been purchased or donated. Unfortunately, it is common to lose items as they are borrowed without a tracing method, or simply forgotten about. Using a software program will ensure that the item can be tracked to the last person or ministry department who borrowed it, which alleviates the cost of having to re-purchase the item. Also, statistics and value reports can be printed so that the monetary value of the resources can be quickly calculated.
Benefits for Each and Every Church Ministry
Many library programs have the flexibility to allow for any type of resource to be catalogued, searched, and managed. DVDs, toys, sermons, Sunday school curriculum, music equipment, and so on, can all be catalogued, and then properly stored and organized so they can be easily located and used. Pastors can search for relevant resources to accompany their sermons, teachers can find materials to help them in the classroom, and music leaders can keep sheet music and equipment organized.
Not all aspects of a library software program have to be used. For example, the circulation or reports features may not be appropriate for every ministry or department. Most library software programs can be tailored to fit the needs of the specific collection. 
Benefits for the Community
The hope of every church is to expand past the physical walls of the building and to reach out into the community. Having an organized library or collection enables the church to promote the resources that are available, and offer age-appropriate materials for neighborhood families. This helps to create a stress-free and inviting environment for members of the community to visit and to become familiar with the church. This provides a ministry to families who may be struggling and would not otherwise have resources available to them.
Choosing a Library Software Program
There are many issues that should be considered when choosing a software program. Affordability and ease of use are usually two of the main issues that will dictate the decision. There are many great programs to choose from that are readily available and easily affordable. Search on the Internet for appropriate programs, and ask other churches what system they are using. Word of mouth is a great way to find a program that is simple to use, reasonably priced, and well supported. Often the ‘librarian’ or person in charge of the collection has no professional or technical training, and some companies take this into consideration when developing the software program to ensure its ease of use.
Also, consider the size of the church collection and variety of resources that need to be catalogued and look for a program that can catalogue any type of resource. Decide on the features that are important to your church and let that help guide the decision making process. 
There are many significant reasons to use a library automation program to organize the church’s valuable resources and materials. The benefits to the volunteer librarians, congregation, church ministries, and the community far outweigh the monetary cost of using a software program. Automating with technology can and will improve the functionality of your library or collection, and in turn, have a powerful impact on your church and community.
Shara Blackmore is the Customer Support and Administration Manager at Jaywil Software. For over 17 years, ResourceMate® as developed by Jaywil Software, has helped organizations establish efficient libraries with a cost effective solution.
Our reputation for excellent customer service and knowledgeable support makes us a trusted company with our customers located in every state and province in North American, and in over 130 countries worldwide.