I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

8 Homeschool Helps You Didn't Know Your Library Offered

looking for a book in the library

With the recent rise of irreverent, sexualized, and agenda-laden books being added to the juvenile sections of local public libraries, you may be tempted to cut up your membership card and abandon the stacks. 

I don't blame you. Several years ago, when my then-preschooler and I were perusing the "new to the children's shelves" section together, he stumbled into a forward-facing picture book with a blood-thirsty zombie on the cover and naturally began crying. I made an immediate bee-line for the circulation desk to lodge a verbal complaint with a librarian. Over the next few days, the conversation continued up the chain of command until the book was eventually re-shelved in the YA section.

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I'd be lying if I said that nothing like this has ever happened again. Truth be told, there was an entire season of our homeschool when I opted not to bring my children to the library at all, but instead, pre-ordered all the books I wanted and then picked them up when they were culled from the shelves and ready to be checked out. 

But, I've never stopped utilizing the public library. Not even once. 

Why? Because I know that when armed with discernment and good book suggestions, a mom can use the library as a one-stop shop for everything they need to teach a child. (This is one of the primary reasons I started the Biblio-files community--to provide book lists that other Christian parents can trust.)

8 Homeschool Helps You Didn't Know Your Library Offered #shelfie #library #homeschool #homeschoollife

Here are 8 homeschool helps you may not have known your library even offers:

Interlibrary Loans

Most public libraries have reciprocating relationships with other public libraries within a region or state. Here in Minnesota, patrons can access the MNLink, an online card catalog system of every single open-to-the-public library in the state, including college libraries, mobile libraries, and some school district libraries. 

When my local branch does not carry a book, movie, or magazine I am looking for, especially older or hard-to-find materials that are no longer in print, I check the stacks across Minnesota and request that the item be sent to my library. 

Unfortunately, there are a handful of states that do not currently have reciprocating systems; but most do. So, it is worth asking your local librarian for more information about interlibrary loan opportunities. 

Please note: because of the additional shipping time, the interlibrary loans process can be slow and the loan times are shorter than normal to account for the return-shipment process. 

Hold shelf at the library

Request to Purchase Orders

Critics of the public library complain that there aren't any decent books on the shelves anymore. What they often forget to acknowledge, however, is that every tax-paying citizen has the power to do something about that. Here's how:

Since they are publicly funded by tax dollars, libraries receive a monthly budget for buying books. Typically, librarians would rather use their book-buying funds to purchase materials that people want to read instead of just eeny-meeny-miny-moeing their way through a book catalog and picking something at random. So why not make a suggestion for how they should use the book budget?

A Request-to-Purchase form can be found on the websites of most libraries and is easy to fill out. (My library system features it on the "contact us" page.) When requesting a purchase, you'll need to provide a few simple details like your name, your library card number, and the title, publisher, and publication date of the book. It's also helpful if you can supply the ISBN number. If your librarian approves of the purchase, she'll place you at the top of the hold list for that particular book and will notify you when it arrives.

After two decades of putting in Requests to Purchase, I've only been denied one or two times due to extenuating circumstances. (My current branch will not purchase books that were published over two years ago.) And my kids and I have read dozens and dozens of hot-off-the-presses books for free.

I often put in Requests to Purchase for books that I'm considering buying but would prefer to look through first like On This Day. Additionally, I petition for books that I already own and love like the newest Little Pilgrim's Progress so that I can help stock the public shelves with better offerings for others. 

boy reading a book in the library stacks

Book Clubs in a Bag

Years ago, when I was in a book club, I had two options for procuring the monthly title. I could buy it and run the risk of wasting precious dollars on a book I didn't end up liking or I could arm-wrestle my other club members for the one copy of the book that the public library owned. 

But now there's a third option thanks to Book Clubs in a Bag. For the last few years, most public libraries have been stocking tote bags with 10-12 copies of a popular book along with a reusable discussion guide to help book club leaders direct the monthly conversations. Leaders can request book bags online, make one loan for all 12 books, and distribute them to club members for the entire month. 

Borrowers are obviously limited to titles that have been curated by others. As with general Requests to Purchase, however, librarians are open to suggestions whenever the budget allows. Please note: the books need to be returned collectively in the bag, not separately by individual members. 

boy reading at the library

Free Meeting Rooms

Most libraries have large conference spaces that can be reserved for public gatherings by patrons. Over the years, I have hosted New-to-Homeschool informational meetings, Homeschool Mom's Group meetings, co-op gatherings/parties, end-of-the-year homeschool programs, writing groups, and kids' book clubs in the free meeting rooms of my local branch.

picking a book of the library shelf

Kid Kits

During my early homeschooling years, I used to check out Preschool Kits from the library each week. These were book bags filled with learning manipulatives, puppets, and games that complimented one particular famous picture book like Blueberries for Sal or Officer Buckle & Gloria

In addition, many libraries offer the following for short-term check-out: 
  • STEM kits
  • nature backpacks
  • educational toys
  • board games/puzzles
  • puppets
  • crafting tools
  • musical instruments
  • cognitive resources for special needs kids
  • large science equipment (telescopes, microscopes, models, etc.)
  • 3D printers
  • tablets
  • internet hotspot passwords for those in rural areas
  • fishing poles & tackle boxes (with a reciprocation through the local extension office)
  • baking equipment
  • heirloom seeds for gardening

Boy looking at videos at the library

Digital Media

During those early years, I also borrowed picture books on CDs for my kids. I'd pile the CD packets in our quiet time basket each week and let my Littles rummage through the selections on their own. Now that my kids are older and technology has come a long way, I still check out audiobooks for them to listen to at their own leisure like Echo and The Invention of Hugo Cabaret, but I queue them up on Libby and Hoopla, two library apps that provide the following to library patrons: 


A digital rental from Libby is similar to an analog rental from your brick-and-mortar library branch. You can request media from the app and if it is available, you can listen/view it immediately. Otherwise, you can add your name to a waitlist for the item and receive an alert on your phone or in an email when it's your turn to borrow it. Please note: borrowed books and magazines usually return to the Libby "shelf" automatically after 21 days. 
  • audiobooks
  • Kindle books
  • magazines


Unlike Libby, Hoopla doesn't have a waitlist which means you can borrow any resource immediately. However, only a particular number of items may be checked out by any one person each month. (In our area, patrons are limited to 5 check-outs every 30 days.) Once you've reached your limit, the app will remind you to come back at the start of the new calendar month to reserve more items. 
  • audiobooks
  • comics
  • eBooks
  • movies
  • music
  • television shows
  • binge passes that give you unlimited access to certain streaming content 

Library stacks

Extension Services 

Libraries have always been public hubs, providing things like summer reading programs, story times, and book clubs to encourage even the most reluctant readers to turn pages. But now with the help of special grant money, most public libraries also offer classes, activity clubs, and special extension services to the communities they serve. Over the years, my family has attended many free events at our local branch including:
  • read to the dogs
  • historical presentations
  • magic shows
  • puppet shows
  • kid comedians
  • travel logs
  • cultural presentations
  • author signings/readings
  • Lego clubs
  • robotics clubs
  • crafting days
  • zoo mobiles

stack of library books

Destination Passes

Consider taking the learning on the road by reserving free one-day passes to state parks, local museums, zoos, theaters, and art galleries through SmartPass or another similar reciprocating program. Most participating libraries give a limited number of passes out each day and some do not allow passes to be reserved ahead of time, but instead offer them on a first-come, first-serve basis. For families on a tight budget, library destination passes can be a great way to attend events and locations that would otherwise be too expensive. 

In addition, many institutions within the art community offer discounts and coupons for library card holders. The next time you visit a museum, gallery, or concert, be sure to ask for a potential discount before purchasing a ticket. 

boy checking out books at the library

A Final Word

Yes, public libraries have become increasingly liberal. If entire sections within my own local branch suddenly went up in smoke, I wouldn't be sad about it. But that won't stop me from utilizing all the free services I do value. If you were to put a dollar amount on the hundreds upon hundreds of books I've checked out over the years, not to mention the events and special services my family and I have participated in, you'd find that I've been able to give my kids a million dollar education entirely for free! I'll gladly side-step a few vulgar and inappropriate titles, if I must, knowing that our homeschool just wouldn't be the same without the generous offerings of our public library.


  1. This was really helpful! My son has been wanting to 3D print something and now I see that our library has a machine! Thank you!

    1. Our library invested in a couple of 3D printers a few years ago, but we've not used them. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. We had all of these things at prior libraries, in large cities that were definitely more liberal. Now we're in a small town that's overall more conservative and we definitely don't have many of these options. :/ I did just request them purchase some books though, and one of them was Holy Hygge! :)

    1. Thank you! I hope it encourages you as your read it and that it will continue to encourage others as they check it out.

    2. We'll see if they buy it! The librarian said today to bring any ideas that would serve the homeschool community better, so that's something!

    3. Sounds like there's potential for more requests in the future.

  3. Thank you for this article! I recently became the librarian of our small-town library and appreciate all your ideas for families to take advantage of the library.

  4. I'd add to this list to take advantage of any printing services. Our local library system lets you print 30 pages per week, per card. I just throw the curriculum/worksheet book on a zip drive (or even upload before I go in) and it saves ink and wear and tear on my printer for no extra trip since we are going anyway!

    1. That's wonderful! Our library doesn't have the same service, but colored copies are a lot cheaper at the library than at a copy shop. So, I often go there instead of wasting my own home printer ink.

  5. One of our favorite libraries has a room with craft supplies, sewing machines, cricut machine, 3d printer, and much more. All can be checked out except for the cricut, 3d printer and sewing machines. They also over sewing lessons.

    1. Wow! That is amazing! I hope you take full advantage of all of those.

  6. Jamie Erickson,a difficult challenge is threatening my son's education and lifestyle. I am in need of the expertise that I believe you may be able help my sons with. Can you help me prove the benefits of homeschooling?

  7. Hi, I bought the subscription for your monthly email with book recommendations at the end of last month. Got nothing on April 1st. I was also trying to get your No Twaddle Book List, didn't get that either. How can we clarify this? Yes, I checked the spam folder.

    1. So sorry about this, Marina. Can you email me at jamie@theunlikelyhomeschool.com so I can rectify this?

  8. The great thing about libraries is that there's something for everyone and we don't have to check out materials we don't want.

  9. I knew about some of these, but definitely not all. Thanks for sharing! Our libraries are such a wonderful resource!