By Sharon B. Fields
You have probably heard the words from the old folk song, “the old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,” applied to various things. Well we can also relate those words to public libraries. Libraries have changed dramatically, especially with the worldwide introduction of computers, shifts in our economy, and an ever mobile population. But for centuries, public libraries have learned to adapt to new situations, trends, and circumstances, always with the goal in mind to offer the best and most cutting-edge services possible to the general public. Today, libraries are so much more than just books and magazines, which makes them perfect for homeschool families.
As a circulation clerk at the Paris-Bourbon County Public Library, in the heart of Bluegrass Country, I see first-hand families who’ve made the decision to homeschool their children for various reasons. The numbers seem to be increasing each year. Many of the parents are young, but in our community, we have also seen an increase of grandparents and other family members’ homeschooling youngsters as well. They often come to the library to gain access to information, services, and hopefully ideas, which will help them improve their teaching skills and enhance their children’s learning experiences.
Listed below are just a minimum of services libraries offer to homeschoolers and their families. Of course, all the services might not be available in your area. What your library can offer will depend on your library’s size, budget, personnel, etc. If your library does not have some of these things, perhaps you can work with them to help bring the needed services to your area:
- Space for meetings - libraries can provide meeting/networking/study space for students and parents. Libraries can also offer display space for homeschool student project
- Audio books - popular, classic, and non-fiction titles
- Local and state history collections
- Genealogy materials - these normally include microfilm and digital, as well as artifacts
- Internet-ready computers that are usually upgraded every six months to a year
- Photocopying/scanning equipment
- Special interest lectures/programs - libraries are also open to your suggestions for speakers and programs
- Guest author visits
- DVDs - popular movies, classics, non-fiction and documentaries
- Book discussions and book clubs for various age groups
- Bookmobile service - materials can be brought to your home or school if you are unable to visit the library
- Art exhibits - libraries often display the work of traveling exhibits and local artists
- Foreign language materials: materials can be offered in whatever format you need (books, DVDs, CDs, flash drives, etc.)
- English as a second language classes
- Summer reading programs for all ages
- Interlibrary loans: Can’t find the book you need, locally? Your library can obtain materials from other libraries
- Story time for younger kids
- Volunteer opportunities for adults and kids: libraries can always use an extra hand
- Music - CDs, cassettes, LPs, popular MP3 music
- Electronic books and other devices
- Volumes of books, magazines and newspapers
- Board and electronic games/hand-held devices
- Computer classes
- Test proctors
- Online practice tests
- Diversity materials (ACT/SAT)
- Friends of the library groups
- Homeschool material
Again, depending on the size of your library, it may have personnel that are specialized to help you meet your needs (teen/young adult librarians, children’s librarians, etc.).
Libraries can and do provide the resources that homeschool families need in so many different ways. By establishing a partnership with your local library, you can receive the services your family needs, and also help keep the library in the loop as to what is taking shape in the homeschool world.
Sharon Fields is a retired public high school teacher and is presently working as a part-time circulation clerk at the Paris-Bourbon County Library in Paris, Kentucky. She has been a tireless advocate for children and youth through her work as a teacher, her church, and various community advocacy opportunities. Within her library work, she has seen firsthand over the past five years, the number of families who are exploring homeschooling options for their children. She and her library colleagues are always willing to assist families in finding resources that best fit the needs of their children.
Copyright, 2015. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, Summer 2015. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.