There have been times in my life when I've been an avid library user and other times when I have lacked the library love! But ever since I've been a stay-at-home mom on a budget, I have really come to appreciate the vast array of services offered by my local county library system. Here are just a few of the perks I've come to love, and if you're on a "library hiatus" then I would recommend checking with your local library to see how many of these services they offer...
1. Online catalog and request service- This is the BEST for those of us who are time-crunched! Whenever I hear of a good book or I find an author I really like, I can just hop on the internet in my free time and see if the item I'm looking for is in the county system. Then, if it's there, I can request it with a click, and regardless of the library where it's located, I can name my preferred library for a pick-up location. The library calls me when it's in, and all I have to do is pop in, grab it off the hold shelf, check out and I'm done. No more dragging kids through the stacks to find what I want! (not quite as fun as perusing the shelves, but decidedly faster)
2. Online account services- I love that I can see what I have checked out online and renew items when I'm not going to have a chance to take them back to the library before they're due. It has definitely saved me a late fine or two!
3. Story Time- My kids love to go to the library for the weekly story times and other programs offered by the library. My local library offers different times for different age groups, and it has helped my kids develop their "sitting and listening" skills from a very early age. The childrens' librarians know them by name and are always happy to see them, which makes the library experience even more fun and special for my kids.
4. Unlimited books!!- Often with life on a budget one of the biggest struggles is constantly having to tell your children 'no.' I love taking my kids to the library because I can tell them 'yes!' My book limit is usually determined only by how many books they can carry and the number of books I think I can safely keep track of (cars and bedrooms seem to swallow books around here).
5. Multimedia Choices- It's easy to forget that a library is not just about books- these days, your local library can be your free movie rental store! Many libraries carry recent releases, and as long as you get them back in a week, they're as free as they come.
I also love to stop by the library before a long car trip to choose a good book on cd- I'm leaving on a trip next week and I got The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to listen to on the way to my destination. Trust me, it makes 6 hours in a car a LOT more bearable!
The library is another great place to get some fun kids' dvds. Each week my kids and I pick out a dvd (or two or three...) to watch. We've been able to enjoy a lot of shows that we aren't able to normally watch on tv.
One of my other favorite non-book choices to check out at the library are the wide selection of magazines. I especially enjoy the home decorating and craft magazines, because I can get some great inspiration from looking through them.
6. Fun contests and reading programs- Last summer my kids and I enrolled in the summer reading programs at our local library and we all won books! They also had fun mini-prizes that the kids could pick out each week from a "treasure box", which was a fun added bonus to our weekly library trips and it encouraged us to read together.
These are just a few perks for a library cardholder, but they are just the benefits I've appreciated most- the library experience is different for everyone, and everyone can find something to love about the library.
A few more tips:
- We've found that it helps to have a set library day every week. That way our book selection stays fresh and we're more likely to stay on top of returns and avoid late fees.
- Don't be afraid to contact the library to request materials that don't appear in their system. Libraries are paid for with your tax dollars- they answer to you, and they need your input to serve you better!
- Get to know your librarians. They are great resources for recommendations and information about library programs.
- If you have family members who don't come to the library with you on a regular basis (like Dad or an older child in school), pick up something for them while you're there- it's like a little treat to let them know you're thinking of them. I used to go to the library while my son was in preschool so I'd pick up a few books for them and leave them on his seat in the car. He loved the surprise!
Are you a library lover? Leave a comment and let me know what you love about your local library!