by Kelly Sullivan Noah
Sure you already know that libraries are good for books, storytimes, and air conditioning on a hot day. You check out DVDs, download audio- and e-books, and use their computers. But our public library system offers many more resources that any learning family – especially homeschoolers on a tight budget – can appreciate. Here are some tips we’ve learned about Twin Cities libraries over the years:
- Get beyond your local library. You can register your library cards at other library systems, which allows you to check out materials (and sometimes return to your local library) and use the online resources. Each library system seems to offer something cool that the others don’t, so explore away!
- Speaking of online resources, use your card to get past paywalls. Each system has different offerings, and some have huge lists. Hit the library website and dig; you’ll find encyclopedias and databases for kids and adults, language and typing programs, early learning, Lynda.com, and more. It may be worth driving to a branch just to register your card for one resource you see on their site.
- Think beyond storytime for events. The MELSA Datebook combines all of the Twin Cities library happenings into one calendar. Search by keywords (like chess, LEGOs, juggling, or concert) or by a date you’ll be looking for an excuse for a field trip.
- Ask your main library about special library cards for homeschooling families. Some offer an organization card with a higher limit or other features. Some can also link your accounts so you can see everyone’s accounts by logging into one.
- Remember the old Museum Adventure Pass program? It’s been replaced by the SmartPass program, which allows you to reserve date-specific tickets for museums, concerts, plays, and more in the Twin Cities. Selection varies and can be limited (most current tickets are for the Minnesota Children’s Museum or the Firefighters Hall & Museum) so check back often for new offerings.
- Your library doesn’t have the material you seek? Several systems are happy to have users place a purchase request right on the website, and can be quite responsive. It’s not guaranteed and won’t be in immediate circulation, but if you’re looking for it, so is another homeschooling family.
- Speaking of materials, libraries are carrying more curriculum. For example, Hennepin County now has Life of Fred and Beast Academy math books.
- Want your family to read a book together without sharing one copy? Check out a Book Club in a Bag, which has several copies of the same book, along with discussion questions.
- Schedule a group tour for a behind-the-scenes view of the larger libraries. (I’m looking at you, my favorite Minneapolis Central Library. Art and architecture, a cool sorting machine, special collections, a grand piano in soundproof room, and more)
- Search out special technology. Dakota County’s iLAB has 3D scanners, sewing machines, production tools, GoPro cameras, and more. https://www.co.dakota.mn.us/
libraries/Using/iLab/ Documents/ iLABEquipmentSoftware.pdf St. Paul residents can check out mobile hotspots for a week. Minneapolis Central has the Best Buy Teen Tech Center.
- And finally, during a busy day away from home, stop in the local community library for a quiet break and clean bathrooms.
Every library offers something different; just look to find what tickles your family’s fancy.
It’s your turn: How do you homeschool with your library? What tips have you discovered? How about our families outside the Twin Cities; what’s different in your systems?
Kelly Sullivan Noah lives in Maple Grove, where she and her husband homeschool their two boys when they’re not learning ‘out and about’ across the Twin Cities. She also serves as the current president of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted Talented (MGCT) Homeschool Chapter. You can contact her or the homeschool chapter at email@example.com.