I’m in love with the library. There. I’ve admitted it. I remember when I was growing up, going to the library was a huge deal. I looked forward to picking out books that would transport me to different worlds. Today I still love walking up and down the aisles of books, taking in the smell and enjoying the quiet.

But even though libraries are known mostly for the books they contain, they are so much more. They are a place for community, for learning, for growing.

So what can you do at the library? Well, that’s going to vary from community to community, of course, but here’s a sampling from my local library system. Those of you with bigger libraries will find even more.

Take Your Kids to Library Story Time

When Stargirl, my daughter, was a toddler, I remember taking her to library story time every week. The kids would listen to stories and sing silly songs. I still fondly remember “Shake Your Sillies Out”, the song they sang every week before the story telling began.

After story time, the kids would complete a simple craft. It was a great first introduction to the library for kids. It was also a much needed break for this mom of a toddler. I was able to meet and talk with other moms of toddlers. Those of you moms out there know how important adult conversation is to a mom of a toddler!

Learn a New Language

Our local library offers Mango, an online system for learning conversational foreign language. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it might be fun to experiment with learning different languages.

Even if your library doesn’t offer something like Mango, there are probably resources you can check out to help you learn a different language. I did a search for “Learn Spanish” in my library database and came up with 90 results. “Learn Japanese” didn’t come up with quite as many, but it did include some great resources, such as Instant Immersion Japanese. My kids are interested in learning a foreign language next year, so we’ll probably start with library resources, before investing in a potentially expensive curriculum.

Attend a Lecture

Who says you need to be a college student to attend a lecture? And lectures at libraries tend to be free of charge! At least that’s how it works at our library.

Upcoming lectures in Jackson County, Oregon include “Understanding Islam,” “Life in Pakistan,” “From Xerxes to Alexander: Ancient Greece in War and Peace,” and a whole series on the history of Southern Oregon. Though my son is a little young for these lectures, I can see us incorporating some of them into our little homeschool someday. I think the history of Southern Oregon series would be especially interesting.

Enjoy Art Displays

Bigger libraries often have art displays in the foyers. I always love going to the main branch of our library to see what’s on display for the month. Sometimes it’s art. Sometimes it’s a fun collection. The display changes frequently, and it’s fun to stop and get the kids’ opinions about the month’s offering.

Even if your library doesn’t offer much, think outside the box. Do you want to start a book club? Ask the librarian if there’s a place you can put up a notice or announcement. I’ve found that libraries are a place of community, and if you have an idea that would benefit the community, why not share it?

Do you enjoy going to your library? Have you used the library for something other than checking out books? Please share!

Photo by Stewart.