If we want to really succeed in the New Evangelization, we have to go where the people are.
New Media is huge in this--Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites and so forth are vital. We're doing decently well on that front, which is to say, we're here and we're making converts. Well and good. Other people are working very hard on what comes next on that front. I direct you to them for further thoughts.
But people aren't only online. I used to teach in West Virginia, and I had a number of students who didn't own a computer until they started going to community college. A lot of people are still stuck on that old standby--the public library.
Now, a lot of libraries these days are part of networks. A book in one physical library is available to people across most of a state. A lot of public libraries accept donations of books and will put them on their shelves. A lot of public libraries also have limited selections of books on Catholicism. This is an easy fix.
I've put together a list of books I think should be in every public library network (see below.) It's not a complete list, and there are certainly other excellent lists to choose from (Father McCloskey's Lifetime Reading Plan, for example, or this list by Father Gary Coulter), but I think I've got a good mix of books in there, most of them relatively easy reads for most people.
The plan is this:
- Check through your library's catalog online to see if they already have copies of the books on the list on their shelves. Remember to search the whole regional library network and not just your local library's collection--a book doesn't have to be on the local shelves for patrons to be able to get it.
- When you've marked off on the book list which books your local library has and which they don't, ask your local library if they be willing to put books into their system if they were donated.
- If they say yes, then approach your parish, local Knights of Columbus council, or other Catholic organization about fundraising to cover the costs of the books. People can choose which books they want to pay for and donate specific amounts to cover specific books, or you can just figure out how much money it will cost to buy the missing books and fundraise until you've met your goal. Remember to raise money to pay sales tax and shipping, as well!
- Buy the books (buy new, not used!) and donate them to your local library. Any money left over after the books are bought should be donated to the KoC Council, the parish, or the diocese.
We would like to assist in this project. Anyone who wants to donate titles can use coupon code "catholiclibrary" to take 15% off a purchase. The coupon will last through the end of February.We get all the benefits of a good parish library spread amongst the Catholics and non-Catholics of the area. If Protestant ministers are looking for sermon material or people are looking up subjects related to the Church, they'll encounter some solid books. We have enough excellent material in print conveying deep and life-changing truths about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything capable of blowing the doors off of most people's minds. It's our fault if they never hear about it.
Aquinas And More
UPDATE: Input from a reader:
This is a praise worthy endeavor. Some insight into how public libraries evaluate donations might help make a good idea even stronger.
The librarian you contact to ask about your list of prospective donations might be very busy and say "we will evaluate whatever books you give us and incorporate them as we see fit." In such cases, it can help to know what public librarians looks for when sorting donations.
Public libraries have very limited shelf space. They have to throw out books every year to make room for new ones. The decisions are usually made based on how often a book is checked out. These are called the circulation stats. If a book circulates often, it is likely to be kept on the shelf, and even to be replaced if it is damaged.
Likewise, when donations come in, libraries ask "Will this circulate? Can I justify the space it will take on my shelf." The librarian then looks up the book in a journal or other source that reviews books for libraries. If the book is sufficiently popular and gets good reviews, it is more likely to be kept. Books that don't meet the cut are usually sold at Friends of the Library book sales.
The good news is that Catholic books are reviewed in these sources. However, their popularity varies. For example, "By What Authority" has three out of four popularity stars, but "The Works of Mercy" has none.
The age of the book is extremely important in public libraries. 10 years is REALLY OLD for a non-fiction book in a public library. Focus on things published in the last three years.
Hardcover books are more likely to be kept than paperbacks.
Showing librarians that there is a demand for Catholic literature is just as important as offering to pay for it. The next time you see a book in the Ignatius Press catalog that you really want to read, search your library catalog for it, and if they don't have it, request it through inter-library loan. This way, the title shows up in statistics on what's popular, and librarians will be more likely to purchase it or similar titles.
Similarly, because public libraries are patron interest driven, many public libraries have a policy of purchasing books if they are requested by a patron and meet certain criteria (recent, relevant, reputable, etc.). Your library probably has a purchase request form that you can fill out. It may carry more weight than a donation because the library knows that at least one person wants to check it out. Try requesting a single book, recently published book that you will actually read. A librarian will usually contact you about whether or not they can purchase the book.
Here's my list (subject to additions/alterations).
1. Father Thomas Dubay, Prayer Primer
2. Father Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer
3. Father Thomas Dubay, Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within
4. Ralph Martin, The Fulfillment of All Desire
5. Father Robert Barron, Eucharist
6. Father Robert Barron, Catholicism
7. Father Robert Barron, And Now I See...
8. Father Robert Barron, The Strangest Way
9. Dr. Scott Hahn, Covenant and Communion
10. Dr. Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises
11. Dr. Scott Hahn, Kinship by Covenant
12. Dr. Scott Hahn, Rome Sweet Home
13. Dr. Alan Schreck, The Essential Catholic Catechism
14. Dr. Alan Schreck, Catholic & Christian
15. Dr. Alan Schreck, Jesus Christ: What Catholics Believe
16. Peter Kreeft, Catholic Christianity
17. Peter Kreeft, A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist
18. Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion
19. Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock
20. Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering
21. Abby Johnson, UnPlanned
22. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind
23. Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse, Love and Economics:It Takes a Family to Raise a Village
24. Dr. William May, Marriage: The Rock on Which the Family Is Built
25. Carle Zimmerman, Family and Civilization
26. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth
27. Pope Benedict XVI, Salt of the Earth
28. Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World
29. Pope Benedict XVI, Ratzinger Report
30. Pope Benedict XVI, God and the World
31. Servais Pinckaers, Morality: The Catholic View
32. Catholic Catechism for adults
34. Catechism of the Catholic Church
35. Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
36. Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church
37. Mark Shea, Making Senses out of Scripture
38. Mark Shea, The Work of Mercy
39. Mark Shea, This Is My Body
40. Mark Shea, By What Authority?
41. Mark Shea, Mary, Mother of the Son
42. Jeff Cavins and Dr. Tim Gray, Walking With God: A Journey through the Bible
43. Edward Sri, The Bible Compass: A Catholic's Guide to Navigating the Scriptures
44. Edward Sri, Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary's Queenship
45. Carl Anderson, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love
47. Carl Anderson, Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body
48. Carl Anderson, A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World
49. Carl Anderson, Beyond a House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street, and the Media
50. Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist
51. St. Francis de Sales,Introduction to the Devout Life
52. Roy Schoeman, Honey from the Rock
53. Rebecca Cherico, Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion
54. Donna Steichen, Chosen: How Christ Sent Twenty-Three Surprised Converts to Replant His Vineyard
55. Donna Steichen, Prodigal Daughters: Catholic Women Come Home to the Church
56. Dr. Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist
57. Dr. Lawrence Feingold, The Mystery of Israel and the Church (3 vols.)
58. Eugenio Zolli, Before the Dawn: Autobiographical Reflections by Eugenio Zolli, Former Chief Rabbi of Rome
59. Karl Adam, The Spirit of Catholicism
60. Walter Miller, Canticle for Leibowitz
61. Ronald Rychlak, Hitler, the War, and the Pope
62. Righteous Gentiles: How Pius XII and the Catholic Church Saved Half a Million Jews From the Nazis
63. Joseph Bottum & David G. Dalin, The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII
64. George Weigel, Letters to a Young Catholic
65. George Weigel, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II--The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy
66. George Weigel, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II
67. George Weigel, The Truth of Catholicism: Inside the Essential Teachings and Controversies of the Church Today
68. George Weigel, The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform And The Future Of The Church
69. Hal McElwaine Helms, Saints Alive
70. Mark Miravalle, Meet Mary
71. Robert Hugh Benson, Come Rack! Come Rope!
72. Michael O’’Brien, Father Elijah
73. Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ
74. Fulton Sheen, The World's First Love: Mary, Mother of God
75. Fulton Sheen, Way to Happiness: An Inspiring Guide to Peace, Hope and Contentment
76. Fulton Sheen, Peace of Soul
77. Fulton Sheen, Life is Worth Living
78. Patrick Madrid, Any Friend of God's Is a Friend of Mine: A Biblical and Historical Explanation of the Catholic Doctrine of the Communion of Saints
79. Patrick Madrid, Where is that in the Bible?
80. Patrick Madrid, Why is That In Tradition?
81. Patrick Madrid, Answer Me This!
82. Janet Smith, Life Issues, Medical Choices: Questions and Answers for Catholics
83. Mary Eberstadt, Adam and Eve After The Pill
84. Father Robert Spitzer, Healing the Culture
85. Father Robert Spitzer, New Proofs for the Existence of God
86. Father Robert Spitzer, Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues
87. Regine Pernoud, Those Terrible Middle Ages!
88. Thomas Woods, How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization
89. James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution
90. Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery
91. Rodney Stark, God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades
92. Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success
93. Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity
94. Philip Jenkins, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South
95. Philip Jenkins, God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis
96. Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best
97. Steve Ray, Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church
98. David Currie, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic
99. Michael Barber, Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying Its Lessons Today
100. Ruth Pakaluk,The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God
101. Rev. James T. O'Connor, The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist