The Pierce County Library is living up to its “cutting edge” spirit by piloting a Christian fiction collection at the South Hill branch, the largest of its kind across the entire system, standing at more than 1,700 titles.
And patrons are taking notice.
In each of the past four months, nearly 400 Christian fiction titles have circulated at the branch. Library staff piloted the collection and located it at the front entrance starting last December following 18 consecutive months where patrons asked staff specifically where they could find Christian fiction titles.
“At about month five we have had a very positive response from the community,” said Judy Nelson, a customer experience manager at Pierce County Library. “There is a group that very clearly is looking for these materials. They know these titles and know these authors.”
To test the Christian fiction collection concept even more, Nelson and the library staff decided to present a Christian author panel. The program will start at 7 p.m. Thursday (May 21) and will feature four published authors with Northwest ties: Karen Barnett, Sandra Byrd, Cindy Martinusen Coloma and Laura Frantz.
Barnett, who grew up in Parkland and now resides in Albany, Oregon, was honored by Oregon Christian Writers with its Writer of Promise Award in 2013.
Byrd, a Gig Harbor resident, has more than 40 books to her name and is well-known for her Daughters of Hampshire gothic romance series. Coloma, a resident of Federal Way, was a Christy Award finalist for Young Adults for her book, “Beautiful.” And finally, Frantz, a resident of Port Angeles, who publishes historical fiction, a popular subgenre of Christian fiction.
Nelson enlisted the help of Judy Gann, a published Christian nonfiction author, to organize the program. Gann will also moderate. She worked 20 years as a youth services librarian at Pierce County Library.
“Because we’re highlighting a new Christian fiction section, we’ll be discussing what Christian fiction is and what some of the trends are that the authors see,” Gann said. “People will also want to know more about the author. The discussion will be on how each author got into writing. (It will ask) how do they incorporate the elements of faith so it doesn’t come across as preachy.”
Subgenres of Christian fiction include romance, contemporary, historical, mystery, suspense, science fiction and fantasy, Gann said. A Christian worldview isn’t blatant in the book but rather woven into the plot, she said.
“These are well-written stories and are character driven,” Gann said. “It’s become such a popular genre because they are good stories.”
Gann is in the early stages of writing her first Christian fiction novel.
Nelson said the library will complete the pilot program on July 1, at which point it will be determined whether the collection should be made permanent.
Meanwhile, Publisher’s Weekly, a trade journal, has taken notice. Because the South Hill Library is one of the first libraries in the United States to establish a specific collection, Publisher’s Weekly is featuring it in an article. The article will publish in the journal’s May 18 edition.
Nelson said a significant number of patrons at library branches such as Buckley and Eatonville, located in the eastern boundaries of the Pierce County Library System, are also showing an interest in Christian fiction titles.
“We think it probably has a place in public libraries,” Nelson said.