Wondering what happened to the next installment in the Cops Out of Schools series? It’ll be back next week! I just needed a break from the research and heavy-duty subject – and thanks to my awesome sister and her adorable son, I got it! For now, let’s enjoy something a little more light-hearted, shall we?
When you live far away from your family like I do, it can sometimes feel like your kids don’t have many loving adults in their life. This has certainly been true for us, especially since Bean hasn’t always attended daycare and we don’t go to church. In fact, there are just four adults that Bean has known her entire life: Mommy, Daddy, “Aunty Frankie” (aka my best friend), and Miss Alei the Librarian.
Yes, you read that right. The librarian.
Bean has visited the library on a regular basis for her entire life. You may wonder why when Bean already has more than 150 books in her room; every room of her preschools is stocked with picture books; Miles and I read to her daily; we have access to thousands of kids’ TV shows and movies on Netflix and YouTube — what could a library possibly offer our family that we don’t already have?
As it turns out: A lot. And with summer break just around the corner (well, at least it is here in the South), I think it’s high time I sing the Library’s praises and encourage readers to check out their local branch!
It’s an old and tired stereotype that libraries are places you go to study in silence, borrow dog-eared books, and get “shushed” by a grouchy, pinch-faced spinster (thanks a lot, Marian Librarian). That’s definitely not the case any more!
Today, libraries are staffed by professionals who encourage patrons to learn, explore, play, and — yes! — even talk in a supportive and welcoming environment. This new generation of librarians has revolutionized public library systems. Libraries have always been designed to preserve knowledge and share it with the public – and their amazing librarians have expanded the idea of what that knowledge can be. In addition to books, music, and movies, libraries are now offering a variety of digital technologies, health and wellness programs, historical archives, civic engagement, creative work spaces, and so much more.
To keep pace with the needs of their local communities, more and more libraries are offering nontraditional collections and innovative programs. They’re becoming more intentional about including folks of all ages, education levels, abilities, and ethnicities. No matter what you’re interested in, you can probably find a way to explore it at your local public library. Here are just a few of the unique offerings I found while researching this blog:
- Genealogy classes for all ages
- Seed libraries to preserve heirloom plants and reduce the cost of gardening
- Tech Labs complete with 3-D printers, Oculus Rifts, and Arduinos
- STEM Exploration Kits for elementary students on summer break
- Read to a Dog programs to help kids improve reading level and fluency
- Peer Tutoring to academic help to kids and community service experience for teens
- Farm-to-table cooking classes that focus on affordable foods you can cook with limited equipment
- Free video visitation centers for families of incarcerated individuals
- Repair Cafes staffed by volunteers
- Small Business Counseling and Citizenship Interview training (thanks to fellow activist mom blogger Shannon)
- Cultural Passports that give patrons free admission to local museums and gardens (thanks to parenting blogger Katie)
Of course, more traditional library programs are still on offer! Here are some of the things you might find at your local branch:
- Story time for different age groups
- Special interest clubs, like Pokemon, Minecraft, or Knitting
- Play groups for children with special needs
- Musical performances
- Writing classes for teens and adults
- Arts and Crafts activities
- Board games and puzzles
- Coding (computer programming) classes for teens and adults
- Free access to e-books, academic databases, and/or online education programs
- Activity centers for preschoolers
- Visiting authors (for big kids and adults) and/or storybook characters (for younger kids)
- Foreign language, American Sign Language, and English as a Second Language classes
- And of course, books books BOOKS!
Best of all? These programs are available to everyone. Libraries and the people who support them believe that everyone deserves books, education, and fun. Are you working class or cash poor? That’s ok, you can access everything at the library for free. Are you an undocumented immigrant? No problem – a piece of mail is enough documentation for a library card. Are you homeless? Come in to the library, warm up, and know that you’re safe. Are you disabled? A librarian can help you access their resources or request braille books, and some will even deliver books to your home. Are you food insecure? The library can offer you a free garden plot, help you connect with the food bank, or feed your children lunch every day over the summer.
As public schools, utilities, and even parks are threatened by private take-overs, libraries remain open and free to all.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, try my FREE, printable Library Scavenger Hunt! It’s a great way to encourage your family to get more familiar with your local library branch.
This activity sheet is perfect for kids of all ages and encourages children to not only explore the library on their own, but also to get to know the people behind the circulation desk! If your child doesn’t write, you can help by writing down their answers, or just let them scribble the answers. Kids who are old enough can make it really fun by taking pictures of the things and people they find!
By the way, if you live in a community without a public library but you still want access to inexpensive children’s books, check out Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The Imagination Library gives children one free book every month until their fifth birthday. Some of our favorite books for kids have come from this wonderful service!