One of the first things we did when we moved to our community five years ago was to sign up for library cards. Little did I know at that time just how very much I would come to adore my local library.
It’s safe to say I was a fan of books, and the library has those, of course, but in the summer it offers so much more. Here are a few reasons why the library is my best friend in the summer.
Magic Mike (and other movies)
Yup, you read that correctly. One day I walked past the display of new DVDs available for check-out and you couldn’t miss Channing Tatum’s abs. Front and center in the display was Magic Mike. I take suggestions from my librarians, trained professionals that they are, very seriously.
Aside from Magic Mike, the library has a great selection of movies. While I love a big summer blockbuster as much as the next guy, trips to the theater with the whole family can get pricey. And to be honest, we’re a few blockbusters behind, so the library allows us to play catch up, and for free. I have no idea how we missed Zootopia, but I checked it out for family movie night this weekend.
The library also shows movies so when the kids need a change of scene from the living room, they can head there. That became especially appealing when our air conditioning was out. For a week. During the hottest stretch of days so far this summer.
Prizes elicit smiles from people of all age groups. They also serve as great motivators. Thankfully, my library offers a summer reading program–with prizes!–for all age groups, infants through adults. I’m signed up, and it’s fun. I love reading for its own sake, but I’m not going to argue if my library would like to offer me some fun prizes as incentives for a few months.
Added bonus: there is no sign-up deadline. I feel like my library gets it. Summer is busy. They’re not going to judge if you sign up a month after the program started. Reading is reading and that’s good, whenever you do it. Hear, hear!
Trips to museums and zoos can get expensive, but our local library offers free passes that you can check out. When we lived in Chicago, it was possible to check out fishing poles from some of the public library branches.
Summer is all about fun music, and you can check out CDs and/or take advantage of five free song downloads per week. (Currently grooving to JT’s ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ courtesy of my local library!)
Volunteer opportunities for kids
Finding a summer volunteer opportunity for a 13-year-old is trickier than you may think. Most organizations would rather wait until the raging hormones of middle school are well under control before accepting free labor, and even then, many nonprofits want volunteers over age 16.
Parents, however, want their young but not that young ones to learn to give back. Enter the local library! They have many volunteer opportunities for tweens and teens in the summer. Even better, the kids do them on their own. No parent presence is required. It’s great to see them getting a chance to really do something on their own, and have a positive impact.
The Farmers Market
As I strolled through the Farmers Market, it dawned on me that I had no idea what to do with the many pounds of vegetables I had just purchased. Whoops. But wait! The local library was stationed at the next booth, offering recipes. Problem solved! I was surprised to see that the library there, but these people think of everything. The booth had a variety of information from nutrition info to crafts for the kiddos to reading logs.
Travel review websites are great, and I use them often, but sometimes it’s best to trust the folks at Fodor’s instead of going with the online opinions of Sheryl in Schenectady. That said, I don’t need Fodor’s Boston 2016 or Lonely Planet New England on my bookshelf forever and I’d rather save money for the trip, so enter the local library! The library had lots of books for our road trip to the New England. A few of the fun and random activities we did I had discovered while flipping through a travel book. I’m not certain I would have found them on Google.
Having your kids read a travel book can also be a good way to get them learning about your destination as well as finding some activities they may enjoy. Travel books are usually very accessible and easy to read.
I work from home and love it, but it is far more challenging in the summer than any other time of year. With more family members around, and driving to camps and different practices during the day, it can be tough to “work, work, work” as Rihanna says. At the library, no one can ask me about laundry. Well, they can try, but I can to go “shhhh!” sharply and they can’t argue. It’s great to pop in to the library and snag a carrel during the hour-long dance class when it’s not worth my while to head home. Bonus: coming here keeps me from going to Starbucks and spending more money/ingesting more calories than necessary.
While the library is pretty great all year round, you can see that I have a special relationship with it during the summer. Hope you are feeling the love for your local library during these warmer months!
This post originally appeared on RealityMoms. It has been reprinted with permission.
Shannan Younger lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and teen daughter. She’s a recovery attorney who now blogs at BetweenUsParents.com, ChicagoNow, and as part of the Chicago Parent Blogger Network. Her writing has appeared on the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Scary Mommy, BonBon Break, Brain Child and In the Powder Room, and her essays have been included in two anthologies by The HerStories Project. She is also freelance writer for regional magazines. Shannan was in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother, despite the fact that her daughter often fails to do so.