Why only our second favourite place? Well because I think it’s vital to have a good stash of books at home. I really do think that your own little (the bigger the better) library is important, especially for homeschoolers. If my boys had to wait to get to the library to read their favourite book or to browse a book on their current interest, I may find that they’ve forgotten their desire or found a new interest before we’ve got there. “Not such a big deal'” you might say, “They could just browse for books on their new interest.” True….but add up all those missed learning occasions over a period of time and the neglected opportunities become a big deal!
So why do I go to the library then? Ah….because they have books there of course. Even if you have a great home library, you can always enjoy more books and you want to instill this love of reading into your children.
When is the best time to start taking your children to the library? As soon as possible! Your infants can enjoy lovely books read to them, great lullaby cds and the knowledge you gain by reading about baby care and parenting. We started visiting the library when my eldest was only a few months old. I remember toting him there in his sling while I collected all the books and resources I could manage to drag back to the car.
It wasn’t long until it occurred to me that Ethan could have his own library card but the library lady said he had to wait until he was two years old. I later found out that there was no age limit just that this lady felt that children under the age of two did not need books. Subsequently my next child got his library card much earlier. He was only young but his chubby baby hands knew very well that grasping that card meant more books for him. And no my babies did not chew books! What a horrible thing to allow children to do! Sure they tried it but the horrified look on mummy’s face put a stop to that pretty quickly. There are no ripped, chewed or scribbled on books in this house! And if your children do that please do not ask to borrow my books.
How often should you go to the library? Regularly and relatively often. We go once a week and it’s a family routine. We go on the same day each week and this really helps with returning books on time. I don’t have to think what day is it due back, only what week is it due back. We’re very lucky with our library. There are no overdue fines, although they will suspend your borrowing rights after a month which is far more effective than fines anyway.
Placing holds on books is another great feature of the library. Once again this feature is free at our library. We can use the internet to request books from any of our city’s branches and have them waiting for us at the library branch of our choice. This is a really useful service as it means that I can sit at home and search for titles and have them all waiting for me to collect on our library day. It also means that the boys can spend time browsing where they want to browse rather than wait for mummy to finish all of her browsing (which can take ages!). This is a much less stressful way to use our time at the library. Everything that we need is waiting and we can just stroll around collecting extra goodies at will.
Remember you can borrow so much more than books at the library nowadays. There are cds, dvds, cd roms, magazines and some libraries even have toys and learning materials. But do be wary of allowing your children to roam freely in the library. There can be a lot of unsavoury material for little eyes to see. It’s also advisable to preview even the children’s books you are selecting. A lot of modern books contain themes that may not please you. I know there are people who, for this reason, do not allow their children to borrow for themselves at the library but I take a different approach. I allow the boys to choose freely from the books but I guide them in their selection, reminding them of what may or may not be pleasing to God. I also preview the book myself (this is easy to do with picture books but not so easy with novels) and issue a thumbs up or down for the title, explaining why it’s not an appropriate selection. I think children need to learn the skills of how to select books but at the same time they do need a parent present to watch over those selections and to be the final say on whether that book comes into your home or not.
I also make a point of allowing the boys to check out their own books using the self-service machine. Children are not afraid of technology like adults can be and will eagerly and fearlessly step up to meet the challenge. To be able to independently use a library is important. Being able to use these machines is also a great skill to share with others. There are always lots of adults who need assistance with learning how to use the new technology. I have also guided Ethan through the placing holds process on the computer. He has several favourite books at the library that he borrows frequently (I would purchase the titles if I could find them!) and he is now able to go to the computer and pop them on hold if he decides he wants to borrow them. Don’t forget to teach the old fashioned basics too. What do the letters on the fiction shelves mean and what’s with all those numbers? You’d be surprised how many people don’t know.
What do you do with all these books when you get them home? Some people have a special shelf where they store their library books. I just don’t have any shelf space to spare so we use a low long plastic box. All library books must live in this box to make the returning process easier. We keep our library bags and cards here too. On library day it’s so easy to just collect everything we need and head out the door.
To help with making sure that all the books are collected and returned we keep the print outs of our books from the self-service machine and tick them off as they are placed into the library bags. We can also look up our booklists on the online library facilities. Being careful about booklists and returning books is really helpful. On occasion when the library claims you have not returned a specific title (which happens a lot according to our library branch) you can be certain of whether you have fulfilled your obligations or not. Many times the librarians will find the title on their shelves but they will always check with you first.
So there you have it, my tips and recommendations on using your local library. We love our local library and even though we have a massive home library, we haul home twenty or thirty items every week. Our local library is a wonderful resource but often under valued and infrequently used. If you haven’t already joined your library, make a point of doing it soon and set a regular time to visit. You won’t regret it.