For homeschoolers, avoiding library fines can be quite the challenge! How does one balance the many joyous hours of fun, learning and growth without racking up a fortune in fines?
Here are 8 tips from area homeschoolers that can help you make the most of your library borrowing experience:
1. Apply for an “Educator Outreach Card.”
Now available for homeschoolers as well as public school educators! In addition to your personal card, you can also use this card to gain access to materials that can support and complement your existing curriculum. These cards are for individuals only, not agencies or schools.
Some of the following benefits:
- Get an extended 5-week check out of materials that will be used in a classroom (or childcare setting).
- Renew materials up to 5 times, except for items with hold requests.
- Perhaps best of all, overdue fees will not be charged! However, lost or damaged items still require replacement fees.
- All accounts expire a year after registration, so you will need to renew them to keep them current.
Go to this Johnson County Library page for more information and apply for a card.
Even if you can’t apply for an educator outreach card, the following tips will also help you keep a lid on those unwanted fees…
2. Limit the number of items borrowed.
The local library systems set their own limits on the number of items one person can check out at a time. For the Johnson County Public Library system, it is a maximum of 150 items. The Kansas City Public Library system instead sets limits by item type, but the maximum is 75 for books as an example.
However, you can set your own limit as to the number of items you can reasonably use and take care of at a time. For one family, this might be 10 items. For another family, it might be 30 items.
The main thing is to find the number that works well for you and stick to it. You could set a limit for your family as a whole or in the interest of fairness with older children, a limit per family member.
3. Store all borrowed books in a designated location(s).
Without a way for managing borrowed library items, they have an uncanny way of getting lost around the house. This, in turn, leads to unnecessary library fines.
One recommendation is to designate a place or multiple places in your home for library items. It can be a special shelf, basket, bag or any suitable space to hold them.
Build the habit that everyone in the household returns library items to this place or places after using them. It may take reminding each other regularly in the beginning, but before long, everyone will be used to it. It will make locating your library items much easier.
4. Check online account(s) regularly to avoid library fines.
The libraries all have online access to your account with your items checked out, items on hold, and more. The key is to work it into your schedule to check it frequently enough to manage items and avoid fines.
Finding the frequency that works for you may depend on how often you borrow materials. For a frequent user of the library, once a week might be a great starting-off point in order to avoid any surprise library fines.
5. Ensure you are receiving due date reminder emails if offered.
In addition, many library systems offer a service where they email or notify you by other means when items are soon coming due.
If your library system offers this option but requires you to opt-in, double-checking that you are set up to receive these notifications. This will help keep you aware of due dates and ensure items are returned on time to avoid library fines.
6. Renew books if due dates are coming up soon.
If you notice an item is coming due but you aren’t sure if you will be able to return it by that date, renew the item if you can. Items can usually be renewed online or by calling the library, if you can’t renew in person.
Most items do have renewal limits. You can renew items up to 3 times for both Kansas City Public Library and Johnson County Public Library systems as long as it isn’t on hold for another patron or an item that belongs to another library system.
Renewing items if possible is a helpful way to avoid a fine in a pinch until you can return them.
7. Supervise book usage for littles and model how to care for books.
If you have little ones, supervising their use of library materials can avoid damage, which can lead to expensive replacement or repair costs.
In addition, modeling how to properly care and handle them sets children up for successful management of books, library or otherwise, for life.
Your local library will appreciate your taking good care of their materials too!
8. Have older children help with managing library items.
Managing library items are a great life skill to incorporate into your homeschooling for older children. They can help by checking the online account for the family. They can be in charge of renewing or returning books due. Older children are also perfect models for showing younger siblings how to care for library materials.
Practicing now will help prepare them to be good library patrons when they move out and have their own households.
Hopefully, these tips have provided a few ideas on how to avoid the most common frustrations around borrowing materials.
With a good system for managing borrowed items, your family can enjoy many years of visiting the library together!
Guest blog post by Lian Lange
We have updated this blog post, originally published in 2020, for timeliness and detail.
Interested in other local library opportunities? Check out our blog post about 5 great library resources homeschoolers should know!