There were no service groups in the church in Spokane’s early years after it began in 1970. Due to the limited availability of books we had a single table set up for display. Around 1974 we began having service groups and the Bookroom service group was very popular. We kept around 4 copies of each of the books and began adding more tables. We also ordered Watchman Nee’s books from CLC and CFP. Once the meeting hall was built in 1975 we then had a separate bookroom. For many years since the only source for the saints to obtain ministry materials we had a very busy bookroom with a service group of between 8 to 10 saints. We met weekly for prayer, fellowship and the practical service of ordering and stocking. We had a card system embedded in the book display. When we got down to 3 copies of a book a green card would display so we would re-order. A white card indicated we were completely out of that book. Eventually we had to knock down a wall and expand our bookroom area. Two things happened to decrease the bookroom service. One was when LSM began offering a direct mailing service so many of the saints no longer needed to utilize the bookroom to obtain their books. The result of this was that there was no need of so many saints serving in the bookroom. At about the same time a number of saints moved away, some of which had served in the bookroom. We still continued to keep a large inventory of books.
Our meeting hall capacity has around 250 in the main meeting area. In 1983 we built a major addition with an office, classrooms, a tape room and a smaller meeting area. Our bookroom is part of our original meeting hall and is contained in 3 separate rooms with 2 of them for books and a smaller working room with some additional storage.
We currently have about 14 3-shelf bookcases for our books, life-studies, bibles and hymnals. We also have a booklet display set up on a table. We are considering how to add additional space.
Currently the saints pay for their books either by cash or check. We looked into debit/credit card processing about a year ago and decided against it as our sales volume did justify not the cost. We have a couple of cases where saints have paid an amount up front and will come in and get materials. We keep a running account of their total.
We try to stock all of the English written materials (books, life-studies, booklets, Bibles, hymnals) that are in the LSM book catalog and keep 3 to 5 copies of each. The books are arranged in alphabetical order except we have a separate bookcase for all of Brother Lee’s books that have been published since he passed away. Every 2 weeks during service group time we check our inventory to see what we need to order. We usually order about 60 HWMR when they come out and will re-order more if necessary. We also will order from LSM any special requests for the saints like non-English materials. We price all of our materials based upon the retail invoice or catalog price. We also distribute the training outlines twice a year.
One lesson learned is to not order more books than necessary as we have limited storage space and still have some excess materials from years ago. Another lesson is to require payment when materials are purchased (with some minor exceptions). Several years ago we had a credit system where the saints could pick up materials and pay later. The accounting for that was complicated and it was very difficult in some cases to track down some of the saints and remind them to pay.
The book service currently does not have a separate meeting but the church has service groups every 2 weeks on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. At that time different service areas group together for prayer and fellowship for an hour. Then the different groups split off for service so that is when we do our practical book service.
The bookroom is open for sales during after our Lord’s day morning meeting. We will stay there until there are no more saints that come in. On the Lord’s day evening we will open it up if there are saints wishing to purchase books. We will also open up after conference meetings.
For about 20 years there was only 2 brothers serving in the bookroom. About 2 years ago we added another younger brother.
We are in the process of setting up a lending library for the CWWL and CWWN. Two sisters are starting to put that together.
In our view the key to a healthy book service is the saint’s appetite for the ministry. Another key is to have available all of the materials any of the saints might want.