5 Tips for Using the Library Successfully

Do you shy away from the library because it seems too difficult to manage having library books to keep up with and getting them back on time?

Could you use a few practical tips for using the library successfully?

Read on...

(Thank you, Amy for this contribution to the blog today)

We read a lot of books in our family. We have books all over our house, in almost every room of our house. And each week, I check out what feels like a ton of books from the library. That puts even more books in our house.

Reading good books is a big part of our homeschool. Books are just a part of our lives. And that's how we want it for our family. My husband and I each brought a library of our own books into our marriage.

Over the years we have had to let go of many of those books to make room for children's books. We only have so much room for books in our home. We try to reserve that space for books that we know our family is going to love reading over and over again - or books we will want to reference from time to time - or books that we will want to pass onto others when we have outgrown or finished with them - or books we want to savor and take notes in the margins.

But there are just so many good books we want to read! So we take full advantage of our library. Today I'm sharing some tips I've learned for using the library successfully.

I have found that the things I use most successfully in our homeschool are things I have organized.

If I don't have them organized, they end up falling by the wayside. Either I can't find them when I need them, or I don't have the supplies I need when I need them, or I don't have the right pages printed at the right time, etc., etc., etc.

Know what I mean?

So when it comes to using the library, I have learned some tips over the years to organize myself to make our use of the library successful, not stressful.

5 Tips for Using the Library Successfully

Find a "home" for your library materials

We have locations all around our house where things 'belong' and we call that their 'homes.' It helps my family know where to put things when we are tidying up. If we come across something that we don't know where it lives in our home, we need to discuss if it's something we really need or do we need to identify a home for it. Using this approach with our library materials has helped tremendously.

We have a wooden crate in our homeschool room and that's where our library materials live.

We take the books out and read or listen to them. My kids take them to their rooms. They take them in the car. But they know, through continued training I might add, that when they are done with them, library books get returned to the library box in the schoolroom. I admit, this is not something we have completely mastered.

5 Tips for Using the Library

We do misplace a book now and then. But when I look at the volume of books we have checked out of the library, I am okay with this.

Since the beginning of the school year, we have checked out close to 400 items from our library.

We have misplaced three during that time. One we eventually found. One we decided to replace because we just couldn't find it anywhere. The other one we are still looking for and hoping it will turn up soon.

Our library is allowing us to continue checking out this misplaced book unless someone else puts it on hold because they know we are looking for it. This means we are not racking up late fees on it. We will replace it soon if we cannot find it. 

But knowing that we have kept up with almost 400 library items this school year alone, I am good with having to pay for a couple of lost books if it comes to that. 

Schedule recurring trips to the library

Okay. This tip was a game changer for me.

Our schedule for going to the library used to be quite random. And that led to us racking up a lot of late fees. Because we weren't sticking to any specific schedule, we were sometimes hitting and mostly missing on getting books back on time. I hate to admit it, but our late fees were once over $50!

That hurt, that really hurt! After that, we quit going to the library for a while. 

Now we go to the library once a week. We always go on the same day of the week. We go on Mondays because we are already close to the library on Mondays, at my daughter's dance class following our Essentials class. This makes it easy for a trip to the library to be included in our weekly schedule. 

This means all of our books are due back on Mondays. This is huge for us! No more having books due back all throughout the week. Have you ever just returned from the library only to find you had another book due back in a couple of days? Not that our library is all that far from our house, but if returning books on time becomes a burden on our schedule, we won't go. 

So I suggest that if you have had trouble with owing late fees at the library, like I have, that you try choosing a recurring schedule for going to the library that works for your family and see if that helps.

There is another bonus to going on a recurring schedule. If your family is anything like mine, they love going to the library. There are books they can read, for free! There are games to play, for free! There are sweet librarians who chat with them about what they are up to. There is a nice trail outside to walk on. There are occasional activities for families at the library.

Okay, it can be a real event going to the library.

But going weekly means my children know they will get to come back in a week. That means we don't have to spend all day in there for them to get their fill of the library. Our schedule just doesn't allow us to spend hours and hours at the library. Homeschool moms, you understand me, right? Some weeks we do have some leisure time to spend at the library. Other weeks we are dropping off books, picking up those we have on hold, and hitting the road.

Since my children know we'll be back in a week, we can do those drop and run days without too much complaint. 

Identify something to carry your library materials in

We have a large, heavy duty bag that we carry our books in. As the week progresses, I put all the library books we are finished with in the library bag. It's 'home' is right by our wooden library book box. The night before our scheduled library visit, I check our online list to see what all has to be returned the following day and make sure it is in the bag. Then I grab the bag on our way out the door the following day. 

Some people carry their books in plastic totes to and from the library. Those plastic milk crates work well for some families. I like using a bag because it's easy enough for my son to help me carry books in it. And I can put it out of the way when it's empty. Just choose something that works for you. 

Find out what all your local library offers and how to use it

We are fortunate to live in an area with quite a few local libraries. But another game changer for me was finding out that some of them are connected to an inter-library loan program that covers most of our state. We can request books online from libraries all across our state. This means we can get almost any book we would like to read. Many libraries offer inter-library loan programs.

Check to see what's available to you. 

Many libraries also offer services like Overdrive, where you can check out e-books and audio books. This is another great service for homeschoolers.

There are often free family friendly events at libraries. Ours offers chess clubs, summer reading programs, occasional Lego building events, puppet shows, and more. I've even heard of some libraries that have sewing machines for their patrons to use! 

Librarians are usually eager to share with you about what all they have to offer. 

Enjoy using the library!

One last tip - - don’t worry if you don’t read every single book you check out!

One piece of advice I read early on in our homeschooling journey was to provide a feast of books for our children to read.

They may not devour each one, but that's okay. Give them a variety of good books to choose from and watch their interest in books grow.  

Book Suggestions About Libraries

So with all these tips about using the library, I thought I would leave you with some suggestions for books about libraries.

There are some interesting stories about different libraries throughout the world and history that are much different than our current weekly library experience. There are also some endearing stories here set at a the library. Add them to your library check out list or click through to add them to your personal library.

There's also a short video of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore that you can view on Amazon. Enjoy! 

Some of these tips I've learned the hard way. I hope they help you become successful in using your library.

Do you use your local library? Any other tips you have for using the library?

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