One of my favorite things about being a mom in Central Arkansas is the library system. We have a great network of libraries! In this post, I want to show you how I’ve learned to make the most of my library visits; choosing books for my family thoughtfully and carefully while keeping my library visits brief and enjoyable.
First, let me introduce you to a website that I refer to regularly for book ideas. This is a site designed for parents who educate their children classically as a way to help in choosing books for their children to read. The site is called Classical Christian Education Support Loop, 1000 Good Books List. To visit the site, click here. When you visit this site, it will look like this:
You’ll notice on the first page there are links to Using the List, Primary Reading Level: 1-3, Elementary Reading Level: 4-6, Junior Reading Level: 7-9, Senior Reading Level: 10-12, and 1000 Good Books by Author. When you click on the link that most relates to your child’s reading level, you will see many categories of books to choose from, such as Easy Readers, Anthologies & Poetry, Holiday Books, Literature, and Advanced Literature. The categories differ in each reading level category.
When I am looking for new books for my kids to read, this is where I start. I skim the books that seem to be in the category of their reading level, and when I find a title that sounds interesting, I highlight it, copy it, and then I head over to the Central Arkansas Library System webpage.
There are two ways to check out books from the library. You can go to a library branch, find a book, and check it out. Or, you can request the book you want from any of the Central Arkansas Library System branches and have it sent to the branch of your choice. When it arrives, your librarians will wrap it in a paper with your name on it, place it on a hold shelf, send you an email letting you know it is ready for you, and then you simply have to go pick it up and check it out. This is how I check out most of the books my family reads. Let me walk you through the process.
On the Central Arkansas Library System webpage (cals.org), you will find a link on the lefthand side of the screen, under Quick Links, called My Account. When you click on My Account, you will see this page:
On this page, you will need to type in the name your library card is registered under, your library number, also called a barcode number, and your PIN. Your library number can be found on the back of your library card. If you do not know what name your card is registered under or what your PIN is, you will need to ask a librarian.
Once you’ve logged in, you will be able to manage your account. Explore the page and the links. You will see all the books that are currently checked out to you, any unpaid fines you may have and what they are from, and one of my favorite features, you can see when each of your books are due. You will also have the option of renewing your books from this page. As long as someone does not have your book on Hold, you can renew your book 5 times.
Now let’s go back to that book you found on the Classical Christian Education Support Loop site; the one that you copied. This is the time you’ll want to paste it into the search field. You can change the “ADVANCED KEYWORD” field to “Author” or “Title” if you prefer, but I usually leave it on “Advanced Keyword.” You can also change the “Search Entire Collection” field to “Search Juvenile Material Only.” When I am searching for books for my kids, I typically change this field so it narrows the results to only books that would be found in the kids’ section, making it easier for me to find what I’m looking for.
Let’s say you’re searching for The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss. After you type in “The Swiss Family Robinson” into the search field, press the Search button and you will see this screen:
Choosing a Book
On this screen, you can see several copies of The Swiss Family Robinson, what years they were published, which libraries have copies and the status of where the books currently are, such as checked out, on hold or check shelf. If you would like to know more about the book, click on the link of the title.
Next to the word “Descript,” you will see how many pages are in the book. Sometimes the contents lists the names of the chapters or basic subjects covered in the book. This particular book lists a lot of subjects covered in the book. On this page you will also find a summary. If you decide you want this book, you’ll need to click on the Request button, found near the top on the left side of the screen.
This will take you to a new screen where you will choose which library you would like to have the book delivered to and if you would like your request to be cancelled by a certain date if undelivered. I always leave the date blank unless I’m requesting a holiday book that I want only if I can get it by a certain date. Then press the Submit button and you’re done.
After you’ve submitted your request, or in my case many requests, you can go back to your account page and look over your Patron Record. This will again show you what books you have currently checked out, and if you click on the link on the left side near the top, it will also show you each of the books you have requested and what their status is. You can request up to 25 books or movies at a time. If you request movies, keep in mind that you can only check out 5 movies at a time and they are due in 2 weeks, as opposed to the 3-4 weeks for books. There is no limit to how many books you can check out from the library.
It typically takes 3-6 days for your books to be ready, assuming they are not all checked out to other patrons. When your books are ready for you to pick up, the library will send you an email alerting you that your books are ready. They will also let you know how long you have to pick them up. It’s about 8 days. When you go to your library to pick up your books, you will go to the requested book shelves. They look like this:
You’re looking for the first three letters of your last name printed vertically in bold, and the first three letters of your first name printed horizontally below that. In the case of this picture, you can see that the seven books in the middle were requested by someone whose last name begins with “Sco” and whose first name begins with “Cha.”
When you find your books, you will take the paper and rubberband off, place them in the appropriate bins located on the hold shelves, and then be sure to check your books out before you leave. If you have your kids with you, try letting them sort the rubberbands and papers. It might help the trip go more smoothly.
While you’re at the library, it’s worth a stroll to see if anything else catches your eye. Each library is laid out differently, but each has an Easy Readers section that is perfect for new readers through 1st grade. There is always a picture book section, which is always fun. Our library always has great suggestions displayed on top that are there to catch your eye and for you to check out. Each library has a section for juvenile science, comic books, fairy tales from around the world, history, and chapter books. See if anything catches your eye. If you kids like something you choose, get online and see if there are more books in the series or others by the same author that you could request. Before you know it, you’ll be swimming in books that your kids can’t wait to read!
Having a library card, checking out books, and requesting books are services that are free to anyone living within the Central Arkansas library boundaries, which span from Otter Creek to Sherwood to Maumelle. However, if you do not pick up your requested books by the date specified in your email, you will be fined $2.00 per book. Late fees are only 10 cents per day per book, which adds up slowly, but if you request a handful of books and don’t pick them up, your tab will quickly rise.
While we’re talking about fines, I’ll tell you that your library card can have up to $5.00 of fines on it before there is a consequence. When you reach $5.00, you can no longer renew, request, or check out books until the fine is paid. At least once each year, they have a canned food drive where you can pay your fines by donating canned goods at your library of choice. Or you can simply pay your fine by cash or charge at the library.
Exploring the libraries in Little Rock is a world of fun for the whole family. My kids and I love the library. I’m well known at my library because I’m there every week and I tend to check out a lot of books. I enjoy it because I am able to choose books ahead of time that I know my kids will be interested in, which means they read more. When my children are finished reading their books, I can return them to any CALS library and they will take care of it. I hope that you and your children are able to read more now and over the summer with the help of your library!