Churches as Communities of Practice and the Place of Libraries in Information Sharing
Research problem: Churches are communities of people who journey together, to grow in knowledge and understanding of their faith. One way churches can support this journey is through a library service. In this project, churches are viewed as a Community of Practice; they are united under a “domain of knowledge” which sets the community apart, their identity as a community, and the pursuit of tacit knowledge- sharing and developing knowledge with each other in order to put knowledge into action. Church libraries were researched to determine the role of libraries in church CoPs, whether libraries are fulfilling their purpose in this role, and to identify best-practice solutions for CoP libraries. Methodology: Seven churches in Wellington City who have libraries were chosen for this study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants from each of the seven churches. Results: Church libraries have a lot of old content, as the majority of stock comes from donations- collection development is influenced largely by donations. Resources are modest or non-existent, which means that any best-practice solutions have to accommodate these resources restrictions. Libraries are used to a moderately satisfactory level, but all could benefit from best-practice suggestions. Implications: Unlike other types of libraries, church libraries are not considered to be essential to the running of the organisation, so there is little input or expectations from management. They are not business-driven entities, nor should they be. CoP libraries are one of many possible ways to share knowledge and information and support their communities. Having said this, there are some practical, economical steps that can be taken to improve the service: formalizing policies, procedures and a mission statement; making collections accessible in a database format; exploring web 2.0, social media and cloud-based technology to promote and/or facilitate libraries; undertaking informal user-needs research by asking community members what others in the community are wanting from a library service.