8 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Local Library

8 Ways to get the most out of your local library

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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.

8 Ways to get the most out of your local library

Gorgeous, right?

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!

8 Library Tips Every Mom Should Try | Homeschool tips and resources | book lists | Reading to kids | Preschool and Elementary Education | living books

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.

To learn more, check out my posts on how we fit audiobooks into our day, some of our favorites, and also ways to use Amazon Echo while educating at home.

8 Ways to get the most out of your local library for homeschool

8 Ways to get the most out of your local library | Homeschool Tips and Resources for Moms | Education | Kids Book Lists #homeschool

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

8 Ways to get the most out of your local libraryThis 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. 😃

What are your favorite parts about your library? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. We love our library! We have used one of the small “study” rooms to do homeschooling in occasionally.
    I need to get a bigger basket for our library books….We have quickly outgrown the one we used in the past!

  2. My Library has recently implemented two apps that are real game changers for me! One is a self-checkout app: sign in using your card, then target the scan code for each item and done! This has saved me sooo much stress by enabling me to check out stacks of items while the littles are still playing rather than make them wait in line with me or try to pay attention to two places. The other app is a browser app that has usual search/place hold options, but also keeps a current checkout list of all my totals and their due dates. I can checkmark multiple ‘due tomorrow’ items and get myself more time in a single click. HUGELY helpful as we check out a lot of videos and the period is only a week. Speaking of videos, i love my local library system for wondeful cable-channel educational kid shows sans commercials. My kids have absorbed tons of useful data and attitudes about learning from PBS shows such as Wild Kratts (zoology, ecology) Daniel Tiger (social skills, holiday familiarity, self-comprehension and lots of catchy little tunes that we use in later applications).

    • Those apps sound awesome, Hannah – especially the self-checkout app! Our library recently started auto-renewals, so our books will automatically renew 3 days before the due date if it hasn’t been requested by someone else. It’s REALLY nice! 🙂

  3. Our library has an art club where they read a book and then do a related craft. They also have about 20 boxes of toys you can check out and play with at the library. Their newest thing is STEAM Crates covering a variety of subjects you can check out for the week.
    I use the online hold feature almost daily. My husband does almost daily drop-offs and pickups. In fact, he was there so often anyway he thinks that’s one reason why his company got a contract with our library.
    We love our library and frequent it often. My concern is some of the books that are being purchased are in direct conflict with my value system. I see in the future needing to be very selective about the books my kids find at the library. On the flip side I have put in several requests for them to purchase books of a Christian nature or about homeschooling and most have been fulfilled.

    • The STEAM Crates sound awesome! We don’t have that at our library, but it sounds like a great benefit! We’ve requested several book for purchase within our library system, as well, with great results. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Our library system is awful. In preparing this past year, 90% of the books we needed weren’t available in the system. We can pay for a membership in the next county over, but the ability to trek over there is small. Sadly for us in rural South Carolina, we’re stuck with buying.

    • Oh, that’s frustrating! Does your library allow you to request items for purchase? We’ve done that several times and all of them have been approved (but one – the publisher didn’t allow sales to libraries yet). We’ve been fortunate!

  5. Wow! Awesome tips. You got me bouncing to go roam our library. I’m starting our homeschooling journey this year 2nd grade, pre k, and preschool all at once ekkk excited and this helped a ton. I listen to audiobooks personally but never thought about them for the kids!!! Cuz you know a mommas gotta cook and can’t always read aloud all day. So trying that out. Thanks again from California.


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