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Library News

By: Laura Lawrie, Board Member
For: Red Rock News
Date: December 11
, 2009

Library Services for Homeschoolers

The most recent survey undertaken by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2003, asked homeschoolers about their main source for books and curriculum; 78% named their public library. This same survey stated that at that time over 1.1 million children in the United States were homeschooled, and the number was expected to rise. Libraries can and should meet this growing population through programming, resources, and specialized services.

Adrianne Furness, the author of “Helping Homeschoolers in the Library” (2008), lists 10 ways to help homeschoolers:

  1. Talk to homeschoolers who visit the library and find out what they are looking for.
  2. Make a special section for homeschooling materials, and make sure that the materials are up to date.
  3. Learn what homeschooling groups are active in the community, what their missions are, and who is running them.
  4. Allow and encourage homeschoolers to use library meeting room space.
  5. Display projects created by homeschooled children and teens.
  6. Create handouts of the state laws and regulations pertaining to homeschoolers.
  7. Maintain a file of catalogs from companies that sell materials and supplies of interest to homeschoolers.
  8. Extend any privileges made for public and private school teachers to homeschoolers: remember that homeschooling parents are teachers, too.
  9. Consider the needs of homeschoolers when creating library policies such as meeting rooms, loan periods, item limits, interlibrary loan fees, overdue fines/maximum fines, and volunteer programs.
  10. Attend local and state homeschooling conferences, lectures, and curriculum fairs, and also make sure that information about these events is readily available.

An article in the “School Library Journal,” A Home Away from Home: Libraries & Homeschoolers (8/1/2008), suggests that libraries should create a homeschooling section on their Web site. This is an ideal place to list resources, events, and links for parents and children. Some libraries offer a collection service for homeschoolers; this can be helpful when the library is small. In Yavapai County, however, we are lucky to have so many diverse libraries in one group, everything from public libraries to school and university libraries. For a homeschooling family in Sedona, taking out materials from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, for example, is as easy as taking something out from Sedona Public Library (SPL). Parents can search the Yavapai Libraries database, place items on hold, and then pick them up from SPL or from SPL in the Village.

The American Library Association (ALA) published “Helping Homeschoolers in the Library” in 2008. The ALA feels that it is very important for library staff to bridge the gap between librarians and homeschoolers. This book covers the history and background of homeschooling as well as the needs and viewpoints of various homeschooling groups. It also gives ideas for building programs and services for a local homeschooling population.

Homeschooling families cannot always purchase 12 years’ worth of schooling materials and curriculum, so the public library system is an indispensable resource. Without the library system, the functionality of home schooling would be greatly threatened.

Many libraries have an area, generally in the children’s section, consisting of a few titles on a designated shelf; some may even have a more complete collection that includes textbooks. Homeschoolers frequently focus on a specific topic for several weeks, and families often will check out a large number of materials on, for example, life in the Middle Ages. It can be helpful for libraries to have a list of specialized books alongside new-media sources such as magazine database links, CDs, and videos and DVDs.

Library staff also can invite homeschooled children and teens—and even their parents—to volunteer. Involving homeschooling families in day-to-day activities at the library can help to develop links. When homeschooling groups try to get their own programs going, it can be helpful to have that contact with the library. The children’s librarian can publicize homeschooling events, and every family that comes into the library can find out about these events easily.

SPL has supported homeschooling families in Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek for many years. The Youth Services Librarian usually has a contact name and number for the leader or some members of the local group. There also is a collection of materials in the children’s room, which has grown over the past few years, and there are many families in Sedona who have been able to take advantage of the materials offered. SPL also hosted the Verde Valley Homeschoolers Association Spelling Bee for several years, in the Si Birch Community Room, and members of staff volunteered to help with pronouncing words and also acted as judges. And homeschooled children have been encouraged to volunteer and be involved in the Teen Council.

Library staff should continue to work with homeschooling families to help make the library offer the best that it can, while helping to develop policies, programs, and services to support homeschoolers in the communities. This partnership can be beneficial to everyone involved.

Laura Lawrie
Laura Lawrie , author of this week's article,
is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.