Meetinghouse libraries are centers of activity on Sundays as teachers in various organizations utilize materials to help them with their lessons. For some Church members, teaching or attending regular classes is their only exposure to what is available from the library. But providing visual aids and resources for leaders and teachers in formal classes and activities is only one function of meetinghouse libraries.
In the Church's bulletin titled "Instructions for Priesthood Leaders and Librarians about Meetinghouse Libraries" it says, "Meetinghouse libraries are resource centers that provide instructional and informational materials to help teachers, leaders, individuals, and families learn and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ."The bulletin emphasizes that use of the library by members should be encouraged. One paragraph states: "Often Church members know little about the resources the library offers. The library can best serve members if they know what resources are available and understand how these resources can enrich scripture study, family home evenings, and lessons."
Jeff Orr of the Church's curriculum department said library materials can enhances the quality of teaching. "And that's not just limited to what's being taught in Church, but in the home as well," he added.
The only library materials specified in the bulletin that can't be removed from the building for members' use are televisions, VCRs, and other fragile equipment.
Interviews with Church members in Indiana, Vermont and West Virginia indicate that Church video tapes are the most popular family resource in meetinghouse libraries.
"As soon as someone brings back a video, someone is there to check it out," said Bishop Melvyn Scott of the Huntington Ward, Fort Wayne Indiana Stake.
More than 30 video tapes are included on the Church's "Library Start Up Kit for 1996" list. The Church-produced videos include "Book of Mormon Reader" and Bible stories for children, Family Home Evening supplements 1 and 2, biographies of President Howard W. Hunter and President Gordon B. Hinckley, "Testimony of Presidents of the Church," and videos that contain popular Church movies such as "The Mailbox," "The First Vision," "Windows of Heaven," and "How Rare a Possession."
Doug Hurst, second counselor in the bishopric of the Buckhannon Ward, Fairmont West Virginia Stake, said: "Since we have the three small children, we use the video tapes often. It helps keep the children involved in a good activity on Sundays and teaches them a better lesson than some other activities do."
Bishop Bert Vines of the Lyndon Ward, Montpelier Vermont Stake, said his family enjoys checking out videos from the meetinghouse library because "we don't allow anything except Church programs on the television on Sunday."
Other materials that most libraries should have available for family use are Church instruction manuals, scriptures, other Church books, pictures and posters. Libraries can also include copies of Church magazines and the Church News in their inventory although Church instructions say they need not be kept longer than 12 years after they are published.
Cindy Hurst, Primary president in the Buckhannon Ward and wife of Doug Hurst, said her three children, ages 8, 7 and 2, enjoy the audio cassettes of Primary songs that are available in the library. "They like to hear the songs as they go to sleep and it has helped them learn a lot of the Primary songs."
She said she spends a lot of time in the library preparing for Primary and sees other members check out various items for home use. "The flannel board stories are fairly popular, especially, for family home evening lessons about the scriptures," she said. "Old family home evening manuals help me with ideas for different family home evening lessons."
Then she added, "If members of the Church would take time, maybe 30 minutes, to go to the meetinghouse library and really look at what's available they would be surprised at the things that can be used in the home."
The Church bulletin on libraries suggests: "Libraries can hold open houses to help individuals and families become familiar with materials, equipment, and services that are available."
Bishop Scott said the Huntington Ward meetinghouse library is stocked with a good variety of items and that members are encouraged to used them at home. "We include in our announcements and our ward bulletin information about what is available in the library. Our ward promotes the use of library materials for Sunday activities to help families keep the Sabbath Day holy as well as for family night."
He said the meetinghouse library is also a resource to help with missionary work such as open houses, and for missionaries to use with investigators.
Members can check out library materials on a long-term basis, such as two weeks. With a good checkout system, materials can be called back in if they are needed by another family or a teacher.
The Lyndon Ward uses a card system to keep track of materials checked out on a long-term basis, according to assistant librarian Pam Vines, wife of Bishop Vines. Cards are included with each video tape and when someone checks out a tape, their name and the checkout date are printed on the card and it is put in a file. Books, pictures and other materials have cards in a file box and the cards are filled out and moved to an active file when an item is checked out. That way, the librarians can always find out who has library items.
All of the wards encourage members to keep track of materials they check out from the library and return them in a timely manner so that others can use them.