“Behind the Dutch Door,” Ensign, July 1983, 25
And the lament went up from Israel: “What are we going to do for family home evening?”
Sound familiar? Are you sometimes at a loss for exciting new ideas to enrich that ever recurring, fifty-two-weeks-out-of-the-year, year after year home evening lesson? What about those family activities that need to be cleverly planned and satisfying enough to hold the teenagers’ interest?
And what about all of the other occasions that require members of your family to seek inspirational material aside from the scriptures? Are there no other sources besides quote books for preparing a talk? Must one always fall back on the old missionary slides when asked to organize a fireside?
The answer, of course, is no. There are hundreds of sources of inspirational and educational Latter-day Saint material lurking around out there, waiting to be used. Let me announce joyfully that a great treasure has been found close to home—a literal reserve of family home evening lesson and activity material; a storehouse of lesson, talk, and study resources; a blessed bonanza of refreshing balm for idea-starved families of the Church. And best of all (a miracle in present economies), it’s all free!
Sound like a claim that only a weekly gossip rag sold in grocery stores would dare to make—an advertisement with a hidden catch? Well, it isn’t. This great find is already underfoot of every member that has ever stepped into his local meetinghouse. It’s found behind the Dutch door just around the corner from the drinking faucet and down the hall from the children’s meeting room. I refer to the venerable but sadly misunderstood and lamentably underestimated meetinghouse library.
The very first thing that every member of the Church should understand is that “Yes, we can use the meetinghouse library for our own personal use.” (To many of us, this is a startling revelation.) What’s more, we are actually encouraged to use the library for that very purpose. Since one of the great purposes for the consolidated meeting schedule is to provide more time for teaching the gospel in the home, it is now even more important that families use the library.
Kent and Sheryl Martineau of West Bountiful, Utah, are regular patrons of their local meetinghouse library. They especially like to use the filmstrips, tapes, and 16 mm movies available. With their large family of eleven children, they find many more occasions to use these materials than just family home evening. For example, after taking the Family Relations class in Sunday School, they later checked out two or three of the filmstrips used during the course to reinforce their learning. They have checked out tapes of conference talks for their personal study as well as for family study.
“Often, we have special family hours when we have shown The First Vision and The Lost Manuscript [two excellent 16 mm movies about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon],” says Sister Martineau. “The kids especially love The First Vision. And a filmstrip that has had a real effect on our older kids is the one called The Very Key, with Elder Boyd K. Packer. It’s on morality, and it really helps us in our discussions about that subject and dating.” [Another filmstrip on the same subject now available at meetinghouse libraries is Morality for Youth.]
Since many Church motion pictures are now available on video cassettes, families with access to video equipment can borrow wholesome movies—rent-free—to show on their TV screens. Imagine: video cassettes and other media resources worth literally thousands of dollars are available for the borrowing—and the returning, of course.
One need only to think in terms of dollars and cents to realize that these great resources would be next to impossible to buy personally. Even supposing one could afford to stock his own library comparable to the meetinghouse library, where in the world would he put all of the stuff? And then, how much time would it take to organize it and keep it constantly up to date? Practicality stamps an almost sure “impossible” on the project for most Saints. Yet, this valuable resource is there, or should be, in every meetinghouse.
Sadly, the library lies idle too much of the time, used only one day a week by a handful of teachers seeking pictures and chalk and eraser.
What are the requirements for using the library? Only two. The first is utmost courtesy on the part of the user. The meetinghouse library is run on the honor system. With the knowledge and help of the librarians, you check out what you need, when you need it. No library card is required. Usually you sign your name on a check-out sheet and bring the material back as soon as common sense, courtesy, and concern for others dictates—usually within a few days.
The second requirement is utmost care of the items borrowed. They must be returned in the excellent condition in which they were borrowed so that the next family or class who uses them won’t have to suffer for someone else’s carelessness.
But what if a projector lamp burns out right in the middle of your missionary fireside and the extra lamp in the case is missing? Are you responsible to replace them? Or what if, under normal use, some item like a record player or an overhead projector breaks down? Do you pay for its repair? The answer is no. The librarians are instructed to make sure that anyone using any equipment is carefully oriented to its use, and that items are inspected and tested before being checked out. Then again, all of this failing, most librarians are truly gracious about an emergency call at home from a panicked member in need of a projector lamp pronto! Most are pretty obliging to meet you at the meetinghouse library to get a replacement in such an emergency.
The meetinghouse library system is set up with one library facility in each meetinghouse. The library housed in the stake center is equipped much the same as those in ward or branch buildings but may contain more material, especially more expensive items purchased for use by the stake as a whole.
When you wish to use materials from the meetinghouse library, arrange to check out what you need from one of the librarians. Sometimes families or individuals do not understand how to check items out of the library and contact the bishop or his counselors when they want something. But bishops and all other ward leaders are expected to follow the same procedures as any other member. They, too, should contact one of the authorized librarians in order to check out desired material. Meetinghouse librarians find it mildly unnerving to discover that their perfect system has been altered by some well-meaning person who has borrowed a library key and helped himself without going through proper library check-out procedures.
Just what does the meetinghouse library hold behind its bulging door? There really is a lot more than a can of broken crayons, a box of stubby pencils, a drawerful of pictures, and a regiment of dusty erasers lined up on a shelf with a piece of chalk sticking up out of the ribs of each one. Let’s take a look at the things the libraries are authorized to acquire:
1. Instructional Materials. One must not underestimate the valuable treasury of pictures, posters, and flannel board materials; charts and maps; video cassettes, motion pictures, filmstrips, tapes, and overhead transparencies available in the library.
2. Periodicals. The library should have the Index to Periodicals of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a cumulative author and subject index to Church periodicals. It covers the years from 1961 to the current year. Along with this, the library should have copies of the Ensign, New Era, Friend, and Church News for ten years after they are published.
3. Books and Music. Through library funds or gifts, the library should obtain copies of the standard works, books on Church history and doctrine, dictionaries, concordances, hymnbooks, and Primary music books. Gifts or donations of useful LDS books and materials are very welcome in the meetinghouse library.
4. Curriculum Materials. The meetinghouse librarian should automatically order from a Church distribution center copies of all the curriculum program materials to be used during the current year. Each year the Church sends bishops and libraries a catalog of the materials available for every lesson in the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood study guides and all of the Primary, Relief Society, Sunday School, and Young Women lesson manuals. The meetinghouse librarian acquires copies of these materials for the library. Librarians may also order other materials upon request by teachers or auxiliary leaders.
5. Equipment. Many meetinghouse libraries have an impressive collection of “hardware.” The library may have obtained, with Church participation, a video cassette recorder, television set, and mobile cart. Although video recorders may not be taken from the meetinghouse, families may check out Church video cassettes for home use. The library may also have four kinds of projectors (16 mm, motion picture, filmstrip, overhead, and opaque), record and tape players, microphones, a dry mount press, spirit duplicator, infrared copier, and a paper cutter. In addition, it will probably have extension cords, replacement lamps, splicing equipment, screens, easels, microphone stands, mobile projector carts, projection stands, and a typewriter for use in connection with library materials and equipment. There could also be a microfiche reader and storage cabinet. All of these things are stored and maintained by the meetinghouse librarians.
“Librarians are more than picture dispensers,” says Jack Pickrell, coordinator of meetinghouse libraries. He and his staff direct the meetinghouse library program of the Church and manage the model meetinghouse library, located on the main floor of the Church Office Building. The model meetinghouse library is open to visitors for inspection as an example of what meetinghouse libraries can become. (General Conference visitors are especially welcome.) One need only glance around that well organized, well stocked room to realize what a haven a meetinghouse library can be for parents, teachers, students, and families.
Elder Howard W. Hunter has spoken on the importance of teaching with instructional materials and using the meetinghouse library. (See Ensign, June 1971, pp. 51–52.) Just as the cherry and nuts on top make the ice cream taste better, he says, teaching ideas in visual and appealing ways makes them more comprehensible and memorable. “The teaching may be excellent, but the materials from the library make it better.”
Elder Hunter continues, saying that we “should be teaching by the example of living the gospel; also through words, learning experiences, and instructional materials. … The meetinghouse library program is designed to help us be more effective in our teaching responsibility.”
Teaching in the home is not something to be taken lightly. The Lord has said that parents are to teach their children “to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands. …
“And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” (D&C 68:25, 28.)
Using the resources of the meetinghouse library, parents can become more effective in this responsibility. “The well-organized, adequately stocked, and competently staffed library will become the nerve center of the ward or branch for more excellence in teaching,” says Elder Hunter. “I testify to you that the meetinghouse library program is divinely inspired. It is guided by the hand of our Heavenly Father to make teaching in the Church more effective. It has the immediate promise to increase the activity of the entire membership of the Church through making the messages of the gospel more vital in our lives.”
So, the next time family home evening comes along, or a baptism or ordination approaches, or the nonmember relatives drop in and start asking questions—don’t panic! Remember that your meeting-house library is there—for you!