A library is infinity under a roof.
It’s summer and the library is hopping with reading programs in full swing. We know intuitively that our local library is a great resource, but let’s particularly focus on the library’s benefits for our home school. Do we fully utilize the breadth and depth of the services available during our school year? Granted, libraries vary as much as our communities do; each will have a different “flavor” depending on the demographics, the patrons, volunteer network, etc. Check out some of these ways your school can benefit from the library—and how your library can benefit from you! Then probe your local library to investigate the array of options available at your branch. You may find some untapped resources!
What can your library do for you?
Check out…beyond the building.
Learn the perimeters of your check-out options. Many libraries are linked with other systems so you can use inter-library loan to get your hands on that precious book you’ve desired. Literature-based curriculum, supplemental resources, unit studies and more can all be rounded out with this technique. Your library may also belong to a program like OCLC (Online Community Library Center) that allows you to check out materials with any affiliated, nation-wide library (check on ordering policies, terms or restrictions).
Plan a Meeting.
The library is a great place for your group gatherings, tutorials, or just if you need a change of pace. Reserve a meeting or a study room either for free or for a small fee.
Expand your Equipment.
Libraries have projectors, laptops, iPads and other tablets, microphones, cameras and other specialty equipment that can be checked out—and usually the manuals/resource books as well. Teach your children to give multimedia presentations (a valuable skill) to your family or a small group; introduce students to photography or digital recording without all the startup and overhead costs. Uses abound!
Call on Your Community.
Libraries are hubs for community activities, offerings and resources. Librarians are trained to stay abreast of their community resources and contacts. Looking for a tutor? For those with special training? For unique field trip ideas? Resource lists, bulletin boards and your reference librarian will be invaluable.
Enlarge Your Course Offerings.
Need some additional resources to fill out your class schedule? How about some reinforcement or review activities? Check your library’s options. Libraries offer free introductory courses on technology and other topics. Many libraries purchase group memberships to online courses and offer these with your library membership: foreign language, computer training, career prep or business-related classes, online or in-house tutoring, and ABC Mouse® (fun review activities for elementary ages) are just some of the possibilities. In addition, other organizations use the library to teach their courses. For example, my daughter took First Aid for Babysitters offered by the Red Cross at our branch.
Prep for Assessment.
Those formidable tests can become less formidable. You will find test prep options for grade level tests, as well as for the SAT or the ACT, (either in print or online form). Other valuable standards will be there too—such as AR reading lists, Lexile Score lists, etc.
Research the Treasure Trove.
Many libraries belong to a consortia of academic and research libraries. With these electronic databases, students can access full texts of research-based articles that will be authoritative for homework and the student’s own research—a thousand times better than Wikipedia. Learning to distinguish among research and sift through useful information is a valuable skill—enhanced by the plethora from the library.
Explore Collections and Kits.
Your library may have framed art to check out (great for next week’s art study); kits for experiments; educational toys; puzzles and other such items that will greatly enhance your home school experience. I’ve seen microscopes, cultural costumes, unit study options and more available.
Audio books, e-books, digital music, streaming … Oh my! Libraries aren’t just for paper any more. To compete with paid services and meet current digital demands, you’ll find a wide array of digital offerings that can supplement and expand your school resources.
Of course, this list does not exhaust the possibilities. The options are a veritable smorgasbord!
But homeschoolers, you are valuable assets for your libraries as well.
What can you do for your library?
Volunteer for special projects.
Libraries need assistance on anything from to reshelving books to filling bird feeders or pulling weeds. Ask for a list of volunteer needs and share it with your local home school group. In addition, the work environment at most libraries provides a great place to introduce job responsibilities to your teen and a good first-job prospect as well.
Make your home school status known. When we first started, homeschooling was a more unusual option so I was hesitant to share openly. However, I want to encourage you to not fly under the radar. Libraries purchase their holdings based on library patron demographics. In many locations, libraries will not be able to know whether their patrons actually home educate (nationwide, statistics say that it can be 4% of your town’s population). Therefore, they wouldn’t know if this population is “under served.” Letting them know who you are, that you are a frequent patron, and that homeschooling is alive and well in your community will help you and your library.
Initiate a library appreciation day.
Gather some homeschool friends or your co-op and schedule a day to thank your librarians. Make cards or thank you posters; bring in some book-themed snacks for the library break room; donate a nice book (how about a “how to start home schooling” book?). Learn your librarians’ names and let them know you appreciate them. National Library Appreciation Week is in April, but I can tell you many librarians would love to be blessed after the summer reading program’s done or at the beginning of the school year.
Spend some time this summer discovering and strengthening the unique symbiotic relationship between you and your library. It is a great place for home education!