homeschooled teen in library reading

Library Resources for Homeschoolers

Library services for homeschoolers and how to access resources.

For those of us old enough to remember flipping through card catalogs on the old wooden desks in the library, we may wax nostalgic about the days before the Internet when the local library was the go-to place for educational resources in the community.

Libraries have kept pace with developments in the digital world, however, and they are just as helpful today as they ever were! In this article, we will explore several ways you can utilize your public library to access resources for the benefit of your homeschool or co-op.

Order Books Online

While there is a certain charm to slowly meandering through library aisles looking for books, it’s not necessary to do so. If you already know what you need, libraries have online portals allowing you to locate and check out books online. All you need to do is run in and pick them up. This is ideal if you are short on time.

If you have a short-term or physical disability that makes getting to the library difficult, many larger districts offer book delivery services. However, these services usually come with qualifying conditions, so check with your local district.

Inter and Intra Library Loan

Though interlibrary loan programs have been common since the 1970s, they are one of the most underutilized aspects of public library systems. Inter library loan is when one library borrows materials from another at the request of a patron. It allows you access to the collections of other libraries, sometimes within a limited geographic region, sometimes across the entire nation. This is a fantastic resource; it essentially multiplies your borrowing power exponentially. Essentially, any material that exists anywhere in a library becomes available to you. The delivery times are also surprisingly swift, with many libraries receiving interlibrary loan deliveries daily. I have been pleasantly surprised at getting a call from my library letting me know something I requested from a library 85 miles away had arrived less than 24 hours after I requested it.

Intralibrary loan is similar to interlibrary loan, but on a smaller scale. With intralibrary loan, you are borrowing from libraries in your district. This generally applies to larger municipal library systems that have multiple branches. For example, in my county, six libraries are all part of one district. It is common for me to look for a material and be told, “It’s not at this branch; it’s at the other branch.” Intralibrary loan allows you to request materials from one branch be sent to another for your benefit.

As I said, inter and intralibrary loans are not new; they’ve been around for decades, and they’ve only gotten more efficient with the digital age and the increase in delivery services since the pandemic. They remain underutilized, however, as most people tend to only give up if the book they want isn’t available at their location. If you aren’t sure how to access interlibary loan, ask your librarian.

Audiobooks and eBooks

In recent years, many homeschooling families have been turned on to the opportunities for accessing ebooks and audiobooks through their library network. The entire Kindle ebook catalog is available through a service called OverDrive and its corresponding app, Libby. Most libraries will have a desktop portal allowing you to access OverDrive from a desktop or laptop. Once borrowed through OverDrive, you can read on your desktop/laptop or send them to an e-reader like a Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo. The Libby app allows you to borrow ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines to read on your phone or tablet. You can even send and read your borrowed ebooks to your Kindle e-reader (currently, this feature is only available in the U.S.).

For audiobooks, video, and other digital content, you can leverage various options through your library, including services like Hoopla and Kanopy (the so-called “Netflix for learning”). You may also be able to access a substantial portion of Amazon’s Audible catalog through your library, and all for free! Here’s a helpful article from How to Geek on the different services for digital and streaming content available through your library.

Teacher Borrowing Privileges for Homeschoolers

Most libraries offer special borrowing privileges for teachers. If you are a homeschooling parent or participating in a homeschool co-op, many libraries will also extend these privileges to you! While every library’s teacher privileges are different, some common teacher privileges include:

  • Increased borrowing limits for how many materials you can check out at once
  • Extended borrowing periods (ex. 48 days instead of 21 days)
  • Access to teacher technology kits
  • To place requests for materials/reading lists to be gathered by library staff
  • Reserve meeting rooms for school-related activities
  • Keep copies of required reading lists at the Kids’ Desk for easy reference when students come to visit
  • Take items from the Friends of the Library Book Sale room free of charge
  • Add new titles requested by teachers
  • Free or reduced charge for copies/print materials
  • All overdue fines waived

If your library is willing to extend these privileges to your homeschool or co-op, it can benefit your homeschool tremendously! Whether your library allows this is at their discretion, but there’s no harm in asking!

Purchase Requests for Favorite Books

Libraries are open to patron requests for new acquisitions. If you think there is a book or resource they should have in their collection, make a request for it. And have your homeschooling friends do the same. Then, when the books come in, make sure to check them out! Libraries like nothing more than knowing their collections are being utilized. This practice will encourage your library to think more about homeschoolers’ interests.

As you can see, libraries are still a fantastic resource that can greatly benefit your homeschool.

How do you make use of your local library? Keep the discussion going on the Homeschool Connections Community.

Explore more articles in these related topics:

Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

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