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19 Ways to Get the Most from Your Library

By PHS Staff
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #84, 2008.

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We all know the library is the homeschooler’s best friend. Where else can you go to find all those wonderful books, DVDs, and more for free?

But your librarian can be even more helpful than you had realized.

Here are some of our Top Tips for getting the most from your library.

Teach your children library manners. Librarians are usually happy to welcome homeschoolers, except those who let their kids run wild in the library. Talking softly, walking slowly, sitting on the provided chairs and at the provided tables, and talking politely to the librarian are “must” skills for children to learn.

Ask if the library offers a library skills program for children. Many do! They may also be willing to offer one just for your homeschool group, during school hours.

Bookmark your library’s home page. You want to do this, because . . .


Here is where you will find out about all the many special events your library hosts. Meet your favorite authors, see special seasonal exhibits, attend lectures by renowned experts, and take your kids to special children’s events.

Attend a class at your library! Many libraries offer classes on computer usage. Classes on local history, other languages and cultures, GED preparation, and arts and crafts may also be offered.

Join a club! Your local chess club or bridge club might meet at the library. There are usually no age restrictions on such groups, so this might be a good way for teen children to learn some additional social skills.

Join a book discussion group. Libraries usually have at least one such group. Often there are several groups, based on interests (e.g., mystery, science fiction, current events).

Research your ancestors! If your family has lived a while locally, the library might have genealogical records that help “fill in” facts of your family tree. Besides the physical records, many libraries subscribe to genealogical databases, so you can also search statewide, nationwide, or even worldwide.

Reserve books, videos, and more from your desktop. This is possibly the greatest Computer Age library feature. Just sit down with the list of books your unit-study author recommends, and reserve them all! No more hours spent searching library stacks. And, if your library has multiple branches, if the book you want is in any branch-even one you never visit-they can find it for you, and it will be waiting for you behind the counter when you visit your local branch.

10 
Hold your support group meeting at the library. Those meeting rooms are available to all local groups. The library has audio-visual equipment, so you can have speakers who project their films or PowerPoint slides up on a screen.

11 
Ask the head librarian if you can set up a display of homeschooled children’s work, including a card with contact information for your group.

12 
Ask if you can have a curriculum swap in one of the library’s meeting rooms. Everyone brings unwanted but usable items and gets tokens according to the number of items brought that can be used to “purchase” the materials brought to the swap.

13 
Research fiends, here’s a great find . . . the library’s online databases. Many libraries subscribe to online databases and allow their patrons to log on and browse these databases for free . . . from home. See above list of some databases offered through my own library system.

14 
Check out what’s new in “emedia” at your library. These are digital items available via the Internet. This might include e-audiobooks (voice recordings of printed material), e-books (printed material), and instantly watchable educational videos and feature films. Although many of these items are available in “physical” form, you might prefer a streaming Internet version of an educational video (for example), rather than the sticky, banged-up physical version.

15 
Have a tricky research problem? Ask your librarian how to find the needed information. Nowadays, you might be able to do this via online chat as well as via telephone.

16 
Request books, teaching aids, manipulatives, and other curriculum. Many libraries have a “suggestion box” feature (online or in person), where patrons can make suggestions of what they’d like the library to purchase. Be respectful of the library’s limited budget and always ask politely.

17 
Request extended loan periods for material used for homeschool instruction. This is a brand-new option some libraries are beginning to make available. Basically, items can be checked out twice as long as usual, if needed for unit studies, etc. To make this work for all of us, be careful to only check out needed items via extended loan.

Giving Back to Your Library

After you’ve asked what your library can do for you, consider what you can do for your library: fundraising and volunteering.

18 
Fundraising for the library can take many forms. In issue #50 of PHS, we reported how one homeschooler, Jason Orr, won $50,000 worth of books in a contest and donated them all to his local library. So book donations are definitely possible.

Ask your librarian if they can use any of your good-quality used books and curriculum. If they don’t want them for the collection, they might want them for the annual library book sale.

If your homeschool group meets at the library, it would be especially appropriate for you to put together a fundraising activity in appreciation. Car wash, barbeque, bake sale, whatever . . . the library might let you use their parking lot!

19 
Volunteering is a possibility for both parents and teens. Many libraries now have Teen Advisory Councils. Teens who volunteer to join such groups make recommendations about books and other resources the library should purchase for teens. They might also suggest or put together teen events, work on the library’s teen website or newsletter, and more. If your library doesn’t have a Teen Council, maybe you’d like to help start one!


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