9 Great Ways to Use the Library
I have always had great love in my heart for the library. Long before I was grown and had a family of my own, a weekly trip to the library was the adventure I took with my mom, little brother, and sister. The librarians knew my name! There were books about everything—books about a friendship between a spider and a pig. There were books about magical kingdoms and boys who never grew up. There were books about girl detectives and adventurous stories where a little girl found her way into another world through a wardrobe.
My library adventures continued on into my adulthood; so it was only natural that I eagerly embraced the best resources on the planet for homeschoolers—the LIBRARY!
It has been said that all you really need to homeschool effectively is a library card . . . and I believe it! Of course, I would need a supply of my favorite gel pens thrown in there, as well—and some good tea.
During the winter months, especially, the library can be a haven and refuge from the frigid weather and cabin fever.
Most homeschoolers are well aware of some of the treasures the local library can provide to their schooling experience. Today, I’m going to talk about those, plus a few more.
1. Inter-library Loan
The first item on my list has to be the inter-library loan. Did you know you are not limited to what you can check out at your own library? This takes some planning, but you can request materials your local library does not have. I have personally gone through whole author studies just using the inter-library loan. Talk to your librarian about this service. They will hook you up!
2. The Book Hold
This also needs to be at the top of the list. Whenever I sit down with my lesson plans, I will make a list of specific titles the curriculum might recommend OR I jot down a specific genre or subject matter I think would enhance a lesson. I then get on my library’s website and place a HOLD on any books I think we want to read. So when we start discussing, for example, animals hibernating in winter, I have a whole pile of books for free reading and to enhance our lessons.
Again, this takes some planning, especially if you like to plan seasonally. Most likely you will discover that other homeschooling families also like to use A Cranberry Thanksgiving during the month of November (speaking from personal experience).
3. Audio Books
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love audio books. My son is dyslexic; so we have used read a-loud books extensively. While we have amassed a good collection of our own over the years, I rely on the library to provide many hours of wonderful listening. Typically, I check out whatever great work of literature we are reading at the time. I also like looking for fun reads to listen to in the car.
We have also listened to historical accounts, how-to’s and autobiographies. The options are endless. I do have a list of audiobooks we enjoy on my blog.
4. DVDs and Videos
I love adding a movie or documentary to any lesson. For example, if there is a movie made from a book we’ve read, we most always will watch it after we’ve read the book (depending on how appropriate it is). I am also a bit of a documentary fiend; and while there is a good selection of documentaries on the streaming services we have, I can usually find exactly what I’m looking for at the library.
I also like to check out videos of concerts, ballets, musicals, and Shakespeare plays. Watching the full length production is so much better than seeing clips on Youtube. Here again is a list I have of favorite movies and documentaries that I’ve listed on my blog.
Did you know that you can often check out back issues of magazines? Most often you have to look at current issues in the library itself, but back issues are generally treated like books—AND many libraries will give away older issues of their subscriptions. I use magazines for all kinds of projects. When my son was younger, we used them for art projects, word games, etc. Now we use them for research projects, writing assignments, and more art projects.
6. Library Story Time
The Library Story Time is a gem for the littles. It is generally held at the same time every week and will often include a craft or activity, as well.
Some libraries also have scheduled activities for older kids and teens. Sometimes there are talks scheduled for adults at the library during the day that are appropriate for some of your older students. For example, we sat in on a local history series a few times. Just check with your librarian for all of the information.
Our local library currently has an art class activity once a month on a Saturday.
7. Summer Reading Challenges
Summer Reading Challenges are awesome! They not only provide motivation for reading, but they generally have fun classes and activities to accompany them. This past summer we attended a workshop on local bees. We also got to learn about monarch butterflies and brought home a milk thistle plant for our front flower bed.
These challenges aren’t just for the littles. Teenagers and adults are given their own challenges. One year I won a whole set of office supplies! I was thrilled! Only a homeschooler, right? One day somebody is going to come up with the idea of having a winter reading challenge at the library. Sign me up!
8. The Local History and Genealogy Section
Almost every library has one. We generally think of them as resources for local history buffs or folks looking to find ancestors on their family tree; however, I think of them as a treasure chest of projects. I don’t imagine your littles will get much use out of the dusty annuals of census books and memoirs—but just think of the possibilities!
Some libraries have ancestory.com free on their genealogy. They also might have that long ancient research tool called microfiche. Local and state papers from ages past can provide excellent firsthand witnesses to historical events.
9. Library Extras
Every library might have something extra to offer your family. Some around the country offer Mango Languages on their computers. This program helps willing participants learn a second language. Here you can see if a library near you has Mango. Many libraries will feature local art shows or historical exhibits. Pay attention to what they are featuring and do some extra enrichment activities.
Study rooms at the library are perfect for a change of scenery for your students. I used to take my son and a friend to a study room once a week for a writing class. Most can be reserved for an hour or so at a time.
One of my favorite “Library Extra” resources has to be the little room where they sell books for next to nothing. I have found great classics, science journals, cookbooks for home economics, and just plain fun reading.
So I could keep going, but I think we can all agree—obviously, libraries aren’t just for the bookworms! Consider the library as a vital part of your homeschooling experience.
Rebekah Teague is the homeschooling mama to one busy and beautiful boy. She is married to The Muffin who is a pastor and a really great guy. In her spare time she can be found with a book and a cup of tea. She blogs at There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining.