Now, how hard can it possibly be, you think? You just go to the library and ask for books on rain forests, right? Well, our local library is pretty small and has a very limited selection, so I learned that ordering the books on the library district's website is the best way to go. In our district, you can order books from any district library and have them delivered to your local library. You just drive over and pick them up.
Still seems pretty simple... why do we need a whole blog post about it? Well, after doing it for the past 5 months, I've learned some tricks that can make it easier and I also have some tips about how to find books that will provide the best experience for the little ones.
Figure out how to:
- Search for a title or author
- Filter the search results
- Order books or put them on hold
- Cancel holds
- Suspend holds (if they have this feature)
- See all the books you have on hold
- See all the books you have checked out
- See when your books are due. If you're really lucky, your library might have a way to email you when your books are going to be due. Mine automatically does this the day before they're due.
For preschool, I like to filter by Shelf Location - Children's Easy first. If I don't find enough, I'll start the search over and filter by Shelf Location - Children's Non-Fiction, Audience - Children, or Material Type - Children's Book. The latter ones will return results for all ages, so there's some sleuthing to be done to find books that are geared toward preschoolers.
When I find a book that I think looks good, I'll look it up on Amazon to see if I think it's a good fit. I look at the recommended age range, the reviews, and the book preview if there's one available. This way, I can see if the book is written at an appropriate level.
If the search results don't return enough books, I'll try to search some other terms. For example, when I searched for "Native American", I got almost nothing that was age-appropriate. But when I searched for "Indians", I got more.
I also try to step outside the box a little bit, knowing that my daughter's teacher reads every book herself before she reads it to the class. When she told me they were doing "winter and Christmas", I thought, hmm, there are other holidays around this time besides Christmas. So, I looked for books on Hanukkah and other holidays. I also looked for books on how other countries celebrate Christmas. When she said they were doing Africa, I easily found books on African animals, but then I tried hard to find books on the African people and culture. If I find a really good book that's maybe a little bit too old for the class, I'll get it anyway. I figure the teacher can decide herself if she thinks it's a good fit.
One new thing I learned this time is that you can suspend your hold. For example, if you are on a long waiting list for a certain popular book, and you are afraid your turn will come up while you are on vacation, you can suspend your hold for the time you're on vacation while still keeping your place in line. This can be helpful to me in two ways:
- I can do my searches early, say the middle of the previous month, put everything on hold and then suspend my hold until a week before I need the books. That way I'm not checking them out too early and by the time I get them, the new month is starting and the class can keep them for a full three weeks of the month. I usually renew them so the class can keep them for the whole month, but it won't let me renew if there's someone else waiting for it.
- I can put Christmas books on hold in October and then suspend my hold until a week before December. That way, I am first in line for the Christmas books I want and I won't find myself 3rd, 4th, 5th in line for the good books (like I was last Christmas.) This will work for any theme that has to do with a time of year when everyone else is checking out books on that same theme. I really, really wanted Madame President for President's Day, but I never got it :-(
One thing I have started doing is taking a picture with my phone of the spines of the books while I am in the classroom dropping them off. This way, I know that all the books were delivered, so if one comes up missing, I can prove that it was in the school. I just put the books all together so all the spines are visible, and take one picture.
I have learned that my local library sometimes misses books that are turned in, or they don't scan right or something. So again, I have started to take a photo of the spines of the books when I'm at the library before turning them in. That way, if they say that I didn't turn something in, I'll have proof that I did.