To support this conversation and give parents a reference for what the library offers to their children, my library district came up with a Menu of Library Services for Children & Teens. This one page, front-and-back document highlights the variety of programs and services available to all families and groups in the community. It mentions preschool, school-age, and teen programs that the library offers on an ongoing basis; reference and interlibrary loan services; meeting room reservations; and downloadable resources ranging from ebooks and eaudio to magazines and music.
The part of this menu that was of most interest to the parents with whom I met, however, was the section describing available programs for groups. Every parent in this meeting had been unaware of the types of programs the library is equipped to offer upon request (with some restrictions for availability and staffing). We can offer:
- Library Tours -- We can customize a tour to fit the ages and needs of the group, throw in a story, and wrap everything up with a learning-reinforcing scavenger hunt.
- Book Group Events -- We can facilitate a discussion where every child has read the same book; we can facilitate a discussion wherein children talk about the different books they've read (peer reviews are great for inspiring reluctant readers!); and we can host events bursting with librarian-led book talks to entice readers.
- Electronic Resources Workshops -- We can offer information- and resource-specific workshops that give children exposure to and practice with any of the library's diverse electronic databases.
- Speakers -- Three branches in my district boast librarian specialists in health resources, business and nonprofit resources, and genealogy and local history, and these specialists can give presentations on their subject areas. We also have librarians equipped to talk about storytelling, early literacy, and finding "just right reads."
These a la carte menu items, if you will, were a delightful surprise for the homeschooling parents with whom I met. These are the sorts of library services they want--getting their kids acclimated to the library and how it works, exploring in-depth research options--but had previously been unaware of.
I'm excited that my library district now has a formal, printed menu of services that librarians like me can use as a reference when having conversations with caregivers interested in finding out what's available for their kids. Even more than that, however, I'm excited that we've opened the lines of communication between the library and a core group of our heavy users, homeschooling families. The more we understand one another, the better our relationship will be.