Formerly, I thought I had a pretty good handle on all my library had to offer:
Reading programs — great incentives in summer for individual reading and in the winter for family reading and we earn free stuff in the process of doing something we would spend our time doing anyway. And, the kids got even more excited about time spent reading.
Books — Obviously, books hold the main draw of the library. Thousands of books on any topic you could want to read on. I’m still not quite sure how I would homeschool if I did not have weekly access to the library and daily access to the Internet. I would spend a lot more money, I am sure.
Non-book items — we also enjoy magazines, CD’s, movies, puzzles, and other items the library makes available for home use through borrowing.
Online account access — We can easily keep tabs on all these items that constantly flow in and out of our house online with our account information readily available and renewable with the click of the mouse.
All those things are great. However, I recently found out I had just scratched the surface of information available to me through the library.
This summer I discovered the World Catalog (claims to have 1.4 billion items on record right now!) which I had access to from home with my library card. I can reserve a book from just about anywhere in the world and they will send it to my library for me to pick up. Now, living near a large city like Chicago, I rarely have a book sent from outside of my state, but I did recently get a book from Arkansas. If you have not learned to navigate the “World Cat” get in touch with your librarian and find out about the billions of items that you have access to through this data base.
We love audiobooks and devour a few of them each month during our errand running. Well, they come in a new format we can check out from the library as well. Playaways are preloaded auidobooks in an MP3 type device that you check out and take with you.
But, there’s more. My librarian also showed me the depths of internet options and subscriptions available through my library website. This will vary widely from library to library, but here is just some of what I can access with my library card, from the comfort of my own home (Clicking to these sites through my library site automatically enters me as a subscriber. On some I need to set up a free account to use them):
- Online language course through Byki.
- Book review sites
- Online picture books, through Tumblebooks.
- Local newspaper websites
- Premium research databases
- NetLibrary‘s 16,000 electronic version of printed books.
- Naxos music library’s recordings of 85,000 pieces. (We love this one for our composer studies, no more scouring the internet for a suitable recording or trying to remember to get a recording while at the library. Immediate access from home!)
And the list goes on and on, figured I would just share a few favorites we have already used. When she started showing us this I could not believe the information that I had in front of me. All these memberships and subscriptions that I have a part of through my library card. Now, of course, as I said this will vary widely by library, but if you want your library to offer something that they do not already offer, just ask. If they can find a way to fit it in the budget, they might just do it.
Tiny, but powerful! The Homeschool Resource Center. Four walls packed with resources.
I could not talk about libraries and homeschooling without mentioning the Johnsburg Public Library. Tucked away in this small, unassuming town library is a Homeschool Resource Center that has helped homeschoolers across the country. If you live in Illinois you can drive to the library and check out items with your valid Illinois library card. They have microscopes, models, a vacuum pump, and lots of other larger items to help teach some of those tougher topics. Those items you must physically pick up and drop off at their library.
However, they have also used this $55,000 grant to stock its shelves with books, curriculum samples, and other resources that homeschoolers will benefit from. And, they are open to suggestions for new purchases as well. It would most likely be worth your time to peruse the 2000 plus items they have specifically for the homeschooler.
One last library advantage . . . If you live in the Chicago, Detroit or Minneapolis area (click city names for various local program sites), you have the opportunity to “check out” museum passes each week. These can provide for some great, inexpensive field trips for your family or homeschool group. They are first come, first served, but make sure to look into this great program if you live in any of those areas.