The library is basically my favorite place. Not only here specifically, because I have loved the libraries in every place which we’ve lived with an equal fervor. My library growing up was the quintessential small-town, county library. All the librarians knew me, and though the selection was somewhat limited, it smelled like books. It was the library where I first learned to check out towers of books–if the stack you’re carrying isn’t relatively level with your eyeballs, you’re doing it wrong.
After the small-town county library, it was a larger town library, and after that I fell in love with the wonders of University Library. In Hawaii it was the library that was less than a mile from my home, where I checked out oodles of books when my Superman was gone, and walked Sophia to her first toddler story-time. In Washington, there was the Mount Vernon Library, with story time and great kids activities. In Everett, there was a big, beautiful library with a coffee shop, and views of the ships in the harbor from the parking garage. Back again to Kentucky, we live less than a half mile from a wonderful new library with so many resources that I haven’t even begun to use them all yet.
Here is my list of my favorite library resources that you should be using–or at least checking to see if your library has them available.
- Mobile app. Smartphone apps for the library are basically the best invention ever–especially if you have little kids that make it difficult to browse for your own tower of books. From my library app, I check for books off my goodreads list, put them on hold, and the library fairies get them all ready for me so that all I have to do is grab them off the hold shelf en route to the kids section. I can also double check due dates, make sure I have all of our books accounted for BEFORE I get to the library, and renew books right from my phone, at any hour of the day or night. Yes, I have taken great delight in turning midnight baby feedings into Mama’s Library Time…
- Hand in hand with your mobile library app are your library’s eLibrary resources. Overdrive and Hoopla for me. This is where it gets really handy in those late-night feeding sessions. You can check out and download an ebook or audiobook (or ten), and start reading right away. The selection is sometimes better than others, but I’ve never NOT been able to find something to read.
- Kids puzzles and games. Everybody knows you go to the library to borrow and read books, but most of the time now, you can also find a wide selection of puzzles and hands-on toys that your children can play with IN the library while you’re looking for books. They rotate through them, or constantly add new–I’m not sure which, but there’s always something new for the kids to see.
- Story time. Library story times for kids are one of the most fun, free ways to get out of the house and meet new friends. We haven’t actually gone to story time since we moved here, but I know that once the weather starts to get worse and we’re having to find more indoor activities, we’ll find ourselves attending again. They tend to have story times for the different age groups up through preschool, with slightly different activities. I usually just pick a single one to go to, since hitting 3 events for my kids’ different age groups is a bit much.
- School Supplements and Curriculum. This might not be such a big deal if you’re not homeschooling, but most libraries have some amazing resources, especially for encouraging literacy in preschool and early elementary ages. Granted, if you are homeschooling, you probably will still want to get your own copy of a textbook, but it can be a great tool to try out different approaches. I tried out ‘Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and a Hooked on Phonics kit before settling into the 100 easy lessons. If you are just looking to supplement your early reader, a library borrowing period will probably save you from needing to buy your own set.
- Genealogy Databases. Okay, so genealogy might not be your thing, but it’s one of my favorite hobbies. Unfortunately, subscribing to a database like Ancestry is pretty essential to genealogy work (if you can’t go driving around to courthouses and graveyards all the time) and it goes to the tune of $60 bucks a month UNLESS you use your library version. You usually have to be in the library to use it, but I’m more than happy to settle for that.
- Research Databases. Writing a paper? Reading scholarly articles for the heck of it? All the best databases are probably accessible from your living room. EbscoHost, Newspaper Source, Worldcat… if there’s an article out there that you can’t access through one of the library databases, I don’t know what it is…
- Rentable devices. This is my latest discovery, though it’s not a particularly new program at my library. We checked out a tablet last week that was preloaded with semi-educational apps for the 3-5 age range. S and K loved it, and it was something new for the all-powerful witching hour between dinner and bedtime. I’ve heard that you can also check out kindles… Whichever device really floats your boat though, it’s a pretty cool feature.
I’m sure there are other features that I’ll come to know and love over the years, but these are my favorites for now. If you haven’t looked into your library’s additional features in a while, look them up! It’s a veritable treasure trove of free programs and resources 🙂