Beyond Books

Jan 30, 2020 | Posted by Jennifer


Last week I visited my local library—one of my favorite places to be. On this particular occasion my daughter came with me. She was going there to meet with other homeschooled high schoolers for an afternoon of old-fashioned gameplay and had brought along her favorites: Jenga® and Uno™. While I frequently travel to the library, I tend to be focused on the purpose of my visit (typically picking up books that I’ve placed on hold). On this day, though, I had brought with me some work to occupy the three hours that the event was scheduled to last.

With so much time spread out before me, I felt reluctant to sit down to write. On a lark I set my bag down on the table and gazed around, actually paying attention to the activity bustling around me. Immediately to my left was a small grouping of ladies, moms to the aforementioned teenagers, who were enjoying some rare and precious conversational time with each other. I heard them quietly chatting and laughing about some funny event.

I began to stroll around. My library is fairly typical in size for a suburban city area. Near the back was a collection of computers. Seated at one of them was an older man accessing to do some family research. The librarian at the desk informed me that it was free to access while in the library and that the Friends of the Library had fund-raised to provide the computers.

Tucked away in a corner near the graphic novels were two ladies sitting and knitting. I recalled how just a few days prior, I had come to the library with one of my spinning wheels and met a friend in that same spot who had also brought her wheel. We whiled away an afternoon spinning wool and enjoying each other’s company shielded by the quiet cover of the stacks.

Next I turned and moved towards the middle section of the library. In that area I spied one young woman combing through a large collection of DVDs, hunting for just the right movie to check out and take home. Across from her were large sections of music CDs organized on a massive rack. I recalled that one of my daughter’s favorite CDs was possibly available to check out: the Orange & Green album of Irish folk music by Fannigan’s Isle. Should I look for it? I wondered.


On the other side of the CD rack was a half wall that separates it from the children’s section with its soft pillows and comfy spots for sharing one of the many picture books that sit on the low shelves. There were two children there that afternoon who looked to be visiting the library with their dad. They had a small pile of books between them that they were working their way through.

On the far side, away from any noise was a quiet, glassed-in section. Today it was darkened as nobody was in there. I have enjoyed that space many times. It is a designated quiet room. Many times I have gone into that room with grading or a book or magazine and sequestered myself in one of the comfy rocking chairs or plush couches to enjoy some stillness as I read or worked.

Gazing around me, I noticed a few posters on a pillar. One of them announced that the library, through the generous donation of a patron, had a pair of glasses that corrects for color-blindness. Library card holders can check them out for two weeks at a time. My husband is color-blind. I made a mental note to request them. In the past I have also requested the library’s astronomy box, which contains a rather nice telescope and binoculars, perfect for a night sky viewing party. Additionally plastered on the pillar were program announcements for patrons of all ages.

I saw plenty of people, all of us there for various reasons. It was Friday, just past lunch, and the place was hopping with activity. I began to meander back to my spot. As I approached, I could hear the teens’ laughter from behind the closed door of the conference room. They were having a good time, which made me smile.

Across the nation in many communities, there is a library. Each library is unique, but they all have services they offer that benefit the community. Beyond books, many libraries also provide resumé building courses, job applications for census work, tax forms, chess clubs, local speakers on various topics of interest, online databases and media (e.g., Hoopla, etc.), book clubs, and crafting clubs. My library even has an collection of interview clothing available to check out for job seekers who have interviews. And many of these libraries survive on a shoestring budget, frequently relying on donations, “Friends of the Library” organizations, and volunteer labor. My own son enjoyed volunteering at the library, serving most of high school by reshelving materials and pulling book requests.


Have you visited your local library lately? If not, I encourage you to schedule a stop there soon. If you own the resource Timeline of Classics, bring it along with you. It has fabulous book suggestions that will keep you and your students happily reading for years to come. The book provides some great downloads as well, including the full PDF of the text (great for printing out for your students to use as a personal reading log), descriptions and examples of the reader response journal, and examples of vocabulary cards.

Fortunately, even if you don’t have the time to make the journey to your neighborhood library, you can instead visit it without leaving the comfort of your own home. These days many libraries offer online access to audiobooks and other digital content such as ebooks, magazines, music, and databases. Libraries open their doors to their patrons, who find in return an entire world open to them through the resources the library provides. Libraries empower and educate. It’s a resource that you risk losing if you don’t use it, so spend some time at your local library soon. You will be glad you did.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

Live Chat with IEW