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How to Establish a Masjid Library
By Meha Ahmad
Though many of us are on the Web, gathering information from mobile devices, and downloading e-books to our Kindles, the traditional library is far from dead. A community library defines a civilization. Youth are still assigned to check out certain titles; interfaith people are always in need of resources.
Are you thinking about starting a library in your Masjid? Every Masjid should have resources and tools available for attendants to browse through and learn from. To get started, here is our 12-step list starting and establishing a successful Masjid library.
- Write up a proposal. Submit a proposal to your Masjid board about the benefits and necessity of having a library in your Masjid. Include how people need supplemental materials to learn and build their faith, more than just a half hour lecture on Fridays. Develop a mission statement for the Masjid library. Assess how much money you will need for the Masjid library and include the budget in your proposal. Remember, you will need to cover the costs of books, other media, shelves/bookcases, even a table and chairs, etc. Look to state funding to see what grant opportunities are available. Visit other Masjid libraries. See what they do that you would adopt or improve on; include your ideas in your proposal.
- Get a space. Does your Masjid have a room that can be converted into a library? Or is your Masjid planning to expand? If expansion plans are in the works, suggest adding a room for the library. Getting the library its own room is ideal (even if it also serves as a meeting hall or conference room). However, if you are short on space, several bookcases lined up may do the trick.
- Determine your audience. Consider which different groups you want your Masjid library to cater to. That will help you in determining which books and sections you need. Break down the groups: young children, beginning Muslims, converts, teens and young adults, women, married adults, parents, teachers, elderly, etc.
- Find out where you can get books and other media. Check out local Islamic bookstores in your community or on the Web (like SoundVision.com) and sites of Islamic book publishers and see if they have products they can donate or sell at wholesale prices. Often, prominent speakers have lecture CDs or books, so you can check their web sites or contact them about obtaining some products for your Masjid library. Ask Masjid attendants, local libraries and bookstores, other Masjids, supporters, etc., for donated materials. Ask Masjid members to sponsor at least five books each, and remind them of the blessings in providing knowledge to others.
- Have more than just books. Books are the bread and butter of your Masjid library, but be sure to have a wide selection of DVDs, CDs, magazines, and pamphlets. If you are a busy Imam or Masjid administrator, you may want to hire a part-timer, a volunteer or delegate main responsibilities of the library to another person. This will include developing inventory and maintaining the library.
- You’ll need furniture. Invest in sturdy and well-built shelves, book cases, chairs and table for readers to sit and browse through the books. Depending on your Masjid, the library may also serve as a classroom for weekend schools, so plan accordingly.
- Process the books and other media. A library needs more care than simply buying books and putting them on shelves. It needs to be maintained. Take inventory of everything you have and create a database. That way, if anyone checks out a book, you’ll know what is missing and needs to be returned. Be sure to prepare and install pockets in each book, and include “date due” slips and check out cards (each card should include at least the item’s title, author, and its location on the shelf). In short, take the library seriously so that borrowers will take it seriously. You don’t want someone to take a book home and never return it because they figure you won’t miss it anyway; that will leave your library lacking resources other knowledge-seekers will be looking for. Determine if you want to charge for past-due books.
- Keep an organized library. A person looking for a beginner’s guide to prayer is going to have a hard time finding it if all the books are put on the shelves willy-nilly without any real consideration for categorizing and alphabetizing. Keep in mind that just because you organized at the beginning of the week, doesn’t mean things stay organized. Maintenance has to be kept up regularly, at least once a week (although this depends on how frequently your library is used. The more often people search the shelves, the more often items will need to be organized).
- Promotion, promotion, promotion. Now that your library is well-stocked and up and running, tell everybody about it! Have the board members, fellow khateebs or Imams, volunteers, etc., direct Masjid-goers to the library. Encourage its use regularly. Sometimes, a Masjid library will suffer a lull—but that’s often because people either don’t know about it or forget about it. Remind them that they are allowed to use it as often as they like. Masjid attendants are always looking for new reads and sources of Islamic knowledge. Another idea: start a reading program in your Masjid to encourage both youth and adults to establish regularly reading habits. There can even be a “Book of the Month” program or club.
- Reach out to Masjid groups. Got a halaqa group for brothers or sisters in your Masjid? Weekend school? A weekly night class? A book club? Encourage them to also use the Masjid library. Suggest to weekend school teachers that they bring their classes to visit the library.
- Review a book for your Masjid newsletter. Another way to get people to visit your library is to review a book (that is carried in the library) for your Masjid newsletter. At the end of the review, suggest to readers that they can browse through their own copy at the Masjid library (and provide its location). Also: include a list of new arrivals in your newsletter!
- Regularly update inventory. New books, CDs, and DVDs come out all the time, and many are must-have Islamic resources. Keep up with new releases, and update inventory when necessary.
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