Did you know that we can walk to our local library? It’s at the end of our street. How wonderful is that!
As an adult I never really used the public library that much. Just an occasional book here or there. Mostly I used my college library for research or bookshops and my Kindle for books.
Since having kids, and moving so close to the public library I have been challenged to fully take advantage of this wonderful, FREE, resource.
This is what I’ve learnt so far.
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Know what you want
I don’t know what your trips to the library are like, but mine are often spent trying to stop my four year old picking and reading up some inappropriate book about farts and trying to stop my two year old sneaking out the front door or into the bathroom to play with the soap dispenser. Trying to effectively navigate the sheer quantity of books available while at the same time trying to make our visit safe and enjoyable for our family and not horrible for others at the library as well is a challenge. There is an overwhelming number of children’s books available today and many of these are, well, to use a Charlotte Mason word, “twaddle.” Finding quality books can take time. Time that, as a parent, you often don’t have. Find some books lists that you trust and begin there. This is not to say that you won’t find a lovely surprise by browsing, but simply that having a place to start can be a big help.
Here are some children’s books lists that I recommend:
- My Top 101 Picture Books – I’m totally biased, but these are our favourites.
- Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival Booklist and monthly booklists
- Ambleside Online booklists
- Homeschooling Downunder Booklists
- Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt (Amazon)
- The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (Amazon)
- Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin (Amazon)
- IEW Books for boys and other children who would rather make forts all day (PDF)
- Plumfield and Paideia
I have also heard the suggestion of making a tailored catalogue of your favourite and recommended books for your children and printing it out (with pictures) so that they can choose what they want to borrow. I think this sounds like a wonderful idea and would love to try it at some point to encourage my son to choose his own books. At the moment I am still choosing most of the books for him.
Know how to find what you want
Ask a librarian. It’s not so revolutionary. The librarians at our local library are amazing. They are so kind and friendly and always go out of their way to try to help us. They know my boys by name, know what their interests are and know their reading levels. They give me recommendations and help me find books and resources.
Use the online catalogue to search, place reservations and make to read lists (saved lists). This is so much easier than shelf browsing and gives you the complete collection across the different branches and what is currently on loan.
Or, if it suits you, see if your library has an App. Ours uses Library Anywhere. It’s super easy to use and I can easily look up and reserve a book recommendation wherever I am.
Knowing the Categories used to sort books and resources into different Collections makes finding new books so much easier. Our library uses Leapfrogs to signify Early Readers, Kangaroos for Australian Junior Fiction and also the different levels for the Premier’s Reading Challenge. So I can browse the catalogue by K-2 level for example.
Reservations are amazing! I can reserve a book (either online, from the app, or when I’m at the library) from any of the libraries within our service and within two days I have an email telling me it’s available for me to pick up from my local branch. One quick walk later and I have my book. So easy. Ours used to be $1 per book and free for children but now they’re all FREE!
You can even borrow books (or DVDs, CDs etc) from libraries that are not in your service. I haven’t used this but the option for interlibrary loans is available for a fee.
If you still can’t find what you want you can always suggest a purchase either online or to your librarian. I have recently suggested that my library purchases The Green Ember series by S.D. Smith. I hope they do!
There are more things to borrow and explore than just books.
Libraries have a huge range of physical resources available – music CDs, DVDs (especially since video rental places are closing down everywhere), audiobooks on CD, magazines, educational computer games (eg Reading Eggs), cook books
You can also borrow digital resources such as eBooks and AudioBooks using the apps BorrowBox and OverDrive. We often borrow an audiobook to listen to in the car, I download it from the App onto my phone, which I can then play through the car speakers using Bluetooth. So easy.
Local History – Our library has the most amazing collection of local history books, articles, artefacts and photos.
I am told that some libraries also lend out board games, museum passes, tools and instruments so make sure you check the full range of resources available at yours!
Every now and then libraries have sales to reduce some of their surplus and unused books and resources. Sometimes you can pick up wonderful books super cheap and support your library at the same time.
It sounds so simple but sometimes actually going is the hardest step, especially in the busyness of life today. We have made going to the library part of our routine and every second Wednesday (and often times in between) you will find us walking down the hill to the library.
Visit often, be comfortable and get to know your librarian. Our library has little children’s sections with toys, puzzles and colouring in. They often have little find and seek games set up. Sometimes we go just to play with toys other than our own. The librarians are lovely. My boys are comfortable there. They are excited to go. They know the librarians and the librarians know them. An added bonus is that the librarians know my little one is an escapist and will help guard the front door when he makes a run for it.
Attend the programs that the library puts on. Our have regular programs during the term – we go to Storytime which is a preschool program but they also have baby, primary and even high school programs available (free tutoring!). They also host special events – speakers, workshops, trivia and themed activities which can be lots of fun as well. The best time for special kids program is during the school holidays when they have a full schedule of different activities for children of various ages.
Borrow and Return
Get your children their own memberships. Firstly, it makes them feel all important and independent but also, because then you can borrow more books. Our limit recently went up from ten, to one hundred and now it’s limitless (wow!) but not all libraries are like this and so more cards means more books!
Use the right card – at our library, fines on my children’s cards are less than on adult’s cards so we borrow all the books on their cards haha.
To avoid fines, create a system to keep track of your borrowed books. I put the borrow receipts in the back of my diary and note the due date in it. When I return the books I check them off the receipts. We have a basket next to the bookshelves which is the home for the borrowed books. My account is set up so that I automatically get a reminder email a couple of days before my books are due back. Another option could be to use Library Elf which is a third party company which you can link to your account and they will send you reminder emails or RSS alerts.
I hope you have found this helpful. I would love to hear what your best tip is for using your local library?