I have a slight major obsession with our local library. We’ve always used the library while educating our kids at home. But three years ago, our city got a beautiful, brand new library.
At the heart of our library is an interactive, STEM-based play area for kids to create, experiment and explore. Surrounding the Explore Area is rows & rows of literary goodness! It so pretty. 😃
While educating on a budget, we strive to get as much from our library as we can. This past school year, we easily checked out over 500 books (and audiobooks), and we racked up only $5.35 in fines!
That’s a cost of about one penny per book for the year, which I think is a pretty good deal. (Yes, I realize we pay taxes to fund the library, but we have to do that anyway — might as well get the most of it, right?) There is simply no way we could have purchased & stored 500 books this year!
We’d love to share some strategies & tips on getting the most out of your local library!
1. Plan a weekly book list while lesson planning
Most history, science, and language arts curriculum have Suggested Reading Titles. Part of my lesson planning process includes searching my library’s website for these books. If both my library network carries it and I think it’s a good fit for us, I put the title & author on my “Library Books on Hold” list that’s separated by which week we need the book.
Sometimes, our library system doesn’t have the suggested titles, so I just search by keyword for whatever subject we’re studying that week (weather systems, Oregon Trail, etc). Whichever book I choose for that topic, I add the title & author to my list.
I maintain my “Library Books on Hold” list as a Note on Evernote. If you’re not familiar with Evernote, it is an incredible tool. Look for an upcoming post on how I use Evernote to organize our homeschool schedule, lesson plans, and book lists.
Getting these books selected during lesson planning time ensures that it actually gets done!
2. Utilize your library’s Hold Feature
Most libraries have a hold feature where you can request books to be pulled from the shelves and held for you in a shelf in the library just for you. I love having my own shelf!
This saves us loads of time each week that would otherwise be spent searching up & down the aisles for books — and sometimes the books are misplaced, sending us on a wild goose chase. It’s easier & quicker to plan a bit ahead and request a hold.
My “Library Books on Hold” list is separated by week so I know which date I need to request a hold for that book through the library. I usually request a hold two weeks prior to when we actually need the book. This allows time for the library to retrieve the book (from their shelves or from a library in our network), and also for me to get to the library to check it out.
I get an email when a book is ready for pick up, and the book stays on my shelf for 7 days. We visit the library every Monday, head to our shelf, and grab our stack of goodness!
3. Download Digital Audiobooks
Libraries still carry Audiobook CDs, and we use these from time to time. However, we’ve increasingly used Digital Audiobooks and have found we listen a lot more when they’re on my phone.
We can plug my phone into our car’s sound system. We can link my phone to our Amazon Echo through Bluetooth and use Echo as a speaker at home. Digital is just much more versatile than CDs.
4. Free room rentals
About four times a year, I reserve a study room at our library for the entire day to lesson plan. My husband takes the kids on some fun adventure and I wheel my suitcase full of books into the library.
Just me, wifi, and books in a quiet, distraction-free environment. Perfection.
I get so much accomplished when I’m in the zone and not interrupted, and the best part — meeting rooms at the library are FREE.
5. Check out free classes & clubs
Our library offers much more than toddler story times. They have Lego clubs, chess groups, reading by children’s authors. While these may be limited in more rural areas, every library tends to have interest groups available.
This is a great opportunity to meet other parents & kids with similar interests!
6. Play Areas
Libraries have slowly been changing their environments from “SHHHHHHH!” to “Let’s explore!”
I’ve come to realize that most libraries and their resource staff are excited kids are at the library, and a little activity and noise is welcome. Don’t get me wrong, there is still quiet etiquette we should follow, but don’t let your active toddler keep you away from the library!
If you need to get out of the house, especially on rainy or snowy days, your local library is a great option.
7. If possible, schedule a regular weekly visit
If you’re requesting holds & checking out several books each week, that also means you’ll have several books due every week. When you’re dealing with dozens of books, fines can add up in a hurry.
Visiting the library on the same day every week keeps your due dates streamlined.
If you always check out books on Monday (for example), that means all your books are due on a Monday. As long as you keep a regular Monday visit to the library, your books will be returned on time.
Our daughter takes band lessons at our local public school, which also happens to be 5 minutes from the library. It’s been easy to drop her off at band & head to the library with the boys for 20 minutes of returns, check-outs, and some playtime.
8. Keep a (large) basket at home just for library books
This has helped us immensely with library fines! We have a basket designated for library books ONLY. Library books stay on that level of the house and don’t travel with us in cars or on trips. Our older children can take one library chapter book in their room, but other than that — library books are either being read, or they’re in the basket.
We even keep the bag we take to & from the library in the bottom of the book basket, so it’s easy to return books and we also know our new books make it all the way to the library book basket when we get home!
I could go on & on about my love for our library, but I think you get the point. 😃