I mean, we agree on a lot. We agree we don't need any more Left Behind books. We agree Joel Osteen doesn't belong on the shelves. Most books are easy decisions because they fit squarely in the middle of the spectrum in our collection. It's the ones at the end of the spectrum that we disagree on.
It's not that the spectrum of books we have is narrow. Being (by all practical purposes) a non-denominational church, and a fairly progressive one, the books in the library reflect a range of Christian views. RC Sproul and James Dobson are included along with Donald Miller and Brian McClaren. The popular modern authors are alongside classics- John Elderidge and Max Lucado are included with CS Lewis and John Bunyan. There are bible commentaries on specific books of the bible, as well as books dealing with modern issues of Creationism, pacifism, prayer in schools, and social justice.
So what's the problem? The spectrum of our library collection seems to cover, well, practically everything in the "Christian" umbrella, so why would we exclude anything? This is where are personal preferences come in. I don't prefer Pat Robertson's books, and my co-volunteer doesn't prefer Donald Miller's. She's uncomfortable with books that have an 'emerging church' label, and I'm wary of ones written by outspoken members of the Religious Right. It's probably good we're both on this ministry team, to keep the library well-rounded!
Part of the book-inclusion decision teeters on the philosophy of the church library. A commenter on my last post about the church library pointed out a great article about different church library philosophies. Ours probably tends toward a "library for outreach". In fact, we just got new shelves with lots of display room! Our area has practically no seating, as it is located in a hallway, and I'm trying to make the books as easy to find and displays as pretty as possible. My goal right now is to make the library accessible, so it will get more use and reach more people.
So, my questions:
- Does every book in the library need to reflect the priorities of the church?
- With such a diverse church body, whose priorities should be reflected? The senior-citizen members? The soccer-mom members? The twenty-something, emerging types? The church leadership & pastors? Or just us librarians?
- Does every book need to be explicitly Christian? Or just edifying?
- There are Thomas the Tank Engine videos in the children's library.
- Books such as Primal Leadership and Good to Great aren't "Christian books" but are on our pastors' recommended reading list.
- By including a book in the library, does it communicate that we're endorsing it?
- By excluding a book, does it communicate we're calling it heresy?
* Backstory to these thoughts: One day this week, I saw that an Anne Lamott book was in the Free pile, where books we're not incorporating into the collection go. I wondered if it was a duplicate or if it was excluded due to ideological reasons. The same day, I got an email asking if The Shack was available at the library- it's not, yet. My co-volunteer expressed concern over reviews she's read about it. And then I got thinking about all of this