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Shhhh! Briarlake’s Draper to retire after 25 years of quiet ministry


DECATUR — When Mary Ellen Draper began her tenure as librarian for Briarlake Baptist Church in Decatur, the library itself was about the size of your typical middle-schooler’s bedroom.

That was 25 years ago. Since then, the number of volumes has tripled. The card catalogue is now electronic. Newfangled gizmos such as computers, CDs and DVDs are the norm. All of it needs space, as the library now has 4,000 square feet of it.

In honor of her work and ministry, Draper was presented with the Church and Synagogue Library Association’s 2005 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Congregational Libraries. The award was given July 24 at the CSLA’s 38th annual conference, held this year in Portland Ore.

Scott Barkley

Mary Ellen Draper puts back one of the 15,000 volumes in the library of Briarlake Baptist Church in Decatur. Draper has served as librarian of the church for the past 25 years.

“Lives can be changed because resources can help people define and solve problems,” said Draper. “The church library is a selective library in that items are chosen that would be uplifting and lead people to seek answers about Christian living.

“We’ve had people through the years start coming to the library for the services we offered. Many of them eventually attended church here and got saved. It started with having a safe place for them and their kids to come and spend time together.”

Briarlake’s library started in 1962 as the Roy Walker Memorial Library and was already well established when Draper came on board in 1980. Additional space had been granted in 1978 and again in 1996. Presently about 15,000 titles are housed there.

Draper, who will complete 25 years as Briarlake’s librarian with her retirement March 31, 2006, says more important than the media in the library are the people who use it.

“People feel at ease here because their children are not going to pull a book off the shelf with a questionable title. Seminary students have been here for research and to use one of our computers,” added Draper.

“One of the great things about working here is having contact with all age groups at the church. Over the years I have had many volunteers who help with the processing of materials for circulation, working at the circulation desk and promoting the ministry through displays and bulletin boards.”

The largest number of volumes in the Briarlake library is concentrated, not surprisingly, in the Bible and Christian Living section. Other sections touch on topics such as family, marriage, finances and child rearing.

Sports volumes include biographies of famous athletes. Visitors have the opportunity to dig into biblical history or geography. Biographies cover a diverse number of subjects from Johnny Cash to Barbara Bush.

Draper said one of the more popular sections are the ones reserved for young children and movies. The number of Christian fiction titles is increasing, as are the feature films for families.

Sue Landrum Rother, library promoter for the Georgia Baptist Convention, nominated Draper for the CSLA honor. She spoke about Draper’s dedication to her work at the CSLA banquet.

“It is hard to imagine an individual more deserving of this award than the [one] we are honoring today. Members who are relatively new to CSLA, like me, may have assumed that she had been previously recognized for her many contributions to the field, had we not been advised that her long-term service on [CSLA’s] Executive Board had consistently made her ineligible for nomination. Now … it is her turn,” said Rother.

“I felt really honored that my fellow church librarians in Georgia nominated me and that the awards committee chose me for the award. The CSLA is a national organization made up of church librarians from many churches. I’ve been involved with them for more than 25 years,” said Draper.


Did you know . . .

Resources are available through the Georgia Baptist Convention for those wanting to start a library in their own church.

Sue Rother, GBC church library promoter for the past 18 years, says that the first step is to establish a basic library staff.

“Three people are required for this,” she said. “A director, assistant director and technical person are needed to meet and develop a mission statement that complements the church’s vision.”

Rother said that training of library staff will direct leaders in such areas as how to develop interest and locating appropriate resources.

Rother may be contacted through or by calling (800) RING-GBC ext. 291 or (770) 936-5291.