On any given weekday you can find her…a diminutive, white-haired lady moving quietly amongst the large oak bookcases of the Stow Presbyterian Church library. There Joyce Kight, director of Christian resources, spends countless hours diligently managing one of the largest collections of Christian reading and viewing materials available to the community.
It is a job she came into unexpectedly, but almost certainly by God’s design.
“Joyce is truly a blessing to our church,” said Pastor David Weyrick. “She brings a sense of order to everything she does, and she has a genuine calling to help people grow in their faith through reading.”
Her library tenure began in the late 1970s when Mrs. Kight was a busy mom to four children and a member of another church. The Christian education director called her at home to ask if she would re-alphabetize the cards of a card catalog that had been overturned while being moved. Her love of books, reading, and organization soon had her serving as that church’s volunteer librarian. Having no formal training in library science, she studied everything she could find to help her manage a significant collection of materials that had been acquired from a closed Christian college.
She brought that knowledge to Stow Presbyterian Church in 1994.
“On our first visit to the church, I asked if they had a library,” Mrs. Kight said. “Dr. Weyrick was proud to answer in the affirmative and showed me 244 books on two metal shelves that were attached to a wall in a downstairs classroom.”
The library had been established three years earlier by two church members who had been desperately praying for someone to come in and help. Mrs. Kight’s arrival heralded a new way of doing things.
Upon being named the new church librarian, she immediately made two changes. First, she had all of the existing books covered to protect their shelf life; and second, she switched the cataloging of materials to the Dewey Decimal system. Through her savvy purchasing efforts and the generosity of private donors, the library quickly outgrew its original shelves and moved to a dedicated space adjacent to the church worship center. That space tripled in size during a building addition in 2008 and now includes a children’s library and a teen library in addition to the main library.
The library houses approximately 6,800 items and subscriptions to sixteen magazines, making it one of the largest Christian lending libraries in the city.
“We offer a well-balanced collection of Christian fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, and audio/video materials for all ages,” Mrs. Kight explained. “Our book collection includes: board books, picture books, easy readers, chapter books, teen interests, and books on all educational levels for adults. Our audio/video materials are mainly CDs and DVDs, although we still have some audiocassettes and videocassettes that are circulated.”
The library also serves as an informational archive of the church’s mission work and a resource for the church’s educational ministries.
“I think we have one of the best church libraries that I have seen,” said Mark Wiley, an active church member who also teaches an adult Bible fellowship. “It has a broad range of material. Just last Sunday I found a book that should help with my adult Bible fellowship. Joyce has even helped me obtain resources not in our library by researching other libraries in Ohio.”
Other patrons make use of the library for their personal reading pleasure.
“I use the library weekly,” said church member Betty Webber. “It is always accessible and has a good bit of historical fiction.”
Materials are available for loan to anyone in the community. Non-church members may borrow materials simply by providing contact information on a patron information card. The library is open any time the church building is open, which is normally school hours during the week, Sunday mornings, and during evening community events. Loan periods are three weeks for books and one week for other items. Tours of the library are available by appointment.
Mrs. Kight spends numerous hours each month purchasing and cataloging new materials, recording circulation statistics, and developing new ways to promote the library with the assistance of a small committee of volunteers. She publicizes special selections each month to supplement the pastor’s sermon series, coordinates reading promotionals twice a year to encourage use of the library, and hosts a bi-monthly book discussion group.
It seems like a lot of work for someone who is technically “retired,” but for Mrs. Kight, who will celebrate twenty years as a volunteer in library ministry at Stow Presbyterian Church next year, it an essential part of providing opportunities for people to deepen their spiritual journey.
“The Church Library is a place to relax, to browse, to find materials to help you connect to God and His Word and grow in your faith,” Mrs. Kight said. “It’s an important part of what we do as a church.”
A lifelong learner and educator, Mrs. Kight has made connections to other librarians through the national Church and Synagogue Library Association (CSLA). She has served in all of the elected offices on the board of the Northeast Ohio chapter and often spends her annual vacation at the national CSLA conference.
“CSLA’s membership represents many Christian denominations and Jewish communities,” Mrs. Kight said. “We can come together in harmony because the association has an educational emphasis. I always gain some new ideas from each gathering.”
In addition to her involvement in CSLA, she has helped to establish libraries at the Cathedral of Tomorrow Church in Akron and two Presbyterian churches in Albany, Ga., and consulted with members of other churches to help them start or enhance a library ministry. She also has coordinated book drives to support a library-building ministry in West Africa. In 2003, CSLA presented Mrs. Kight with its National Award for “Outstanding Contribution to Congregational Libraries.”
“Joyce’s dedication to improving and promoting library ministry goes above and beyond,” said Dr. Weyrick. “She has created an incredible resource for people in our community to know Jesus Christ and grow in their faith, which are two key components of our church’s mission statement.”