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.
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
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.
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.
Ask the head librarian if you can set up a display
children’s work, including a card with contact information for your
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.
Research fiends, here’s a great find . . . the library’s online
. 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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!