Why I Love Our Jefferson County Libraries

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It’s almost summertime! That means it’s time to get excited about all the fun things: day camps, splash pads, family vacations, and your local library’s summer reading program.

I know that last one may seem out of place, but hear me out. Our local libraries put a lot of work into their summer reading programs, and they are always GREAT.

Usually in June, you can get a small goody bag for each of your kids, and at the end of the summer, there will be prizes for each child who participated in summer reading.

There are also extra library programs during summertime, and some of the branches even go all out with decorating their children’s departments (hello, inflatable mushroom)! While you’re picking up your kids’ summer reading swag in the next few weeks and helping them achieve their reading goals, I highly recommend checking out what else our wonderful library system has to offer.

This year’s theme for summer reading is Tails and Tales!

The Obvious Services

The Jefferson County Library Cooperative (JCLC) has books for every topic you can imagine–and then some. Many people are aware of the availability of fiction and heavy non-fiction for research, but they have so much more than that. I’ve recently started checking out cookbooks! They even have books that read aloud to your child with the push of a button. For other audio options, you can check out a book on CD or a more modern preloaded audiobook player.

If you don’t have time to browse or are easily overwhelmed by all the choices, then download the JCLC app and start filling up your holds shelf. When your items are ready to be picked up, your library will notify you. If your library doesn’t have a certain book, then they can either get it from another JCLC branch or help you fill out a purchase request for it.

This is the board game selection for children at Hoover Public Library.

The Surprise Services

One of my favorite things to check out at the library is board games. My kids love board games, but I never know which ones are going to hold their attention. This is how I figure out which ones I might want in our personal stash. I have preschool-aged kids, but board games are available for all ages–including adults–at some JCLC branches.

I also frequently check out preloaded tablets (called Launchpads) for my girls. We don’t typically do a lot of screen time in our house, but having tablets available with no way to download apps or get to YouTube has come in handy on several occasions. I’ve even been known to check out movies or entire seasons of TV shows, especially as selections dwindle on streaming services.

Some of the newest offerings at our libraries are STEAM kits for kids. These include things like coding robot toys, circuit-building kits, pattern blocks, looms, spirographs, and even musical instruments!

These are some of the Launchpads you can check out for those summer road trips!

The Online Services

I think the pandemic has made many of us more aware of our library’s online services, and that’s been a wonderful thing. I frequently check out books and audiobooks on my phone through JCLC, and some of them can even be read on my Kindle Paperwhite. One time I even downloaded a movie soundtrack on my phone at a red light because my kids were asking for it during a car ride!

All our libraries offer some form of homework help and test prep, too.

Some branches have more online services, like ABC Mouse, Tumble books, Mango, or digital newspapers. But those are specific to each branch and are varied across Jefferson County. If any of these would be helpful to you but your local branch doesn’t offer them, then you can just buy a card for a different branch.

Magnetic blocks are always a fun choice!

The In-Person Services

The library is one of my family’s favorite places to go. We’ve gone for the play areas–both indoor and outdoor–the story times, the crafts, and the movie nights. We’ve made new friends, seen library pets, enjoyed coffee and snacks (at least one library has a café inside), built with Legos and Magnatiles, and bought more books to add to our already overflowing shelves. And here’s a money-saving tip: library book sales are super cheap!

The library’s computer services are invaluable to our community. They can be used to apply for jobs, search for new housing, print off tax information, or even complete a marriage license, like a couple from my community did this past week. Tablets can now even be found in many kids’ departments.

There are also many gatherings in our libraries. Whether you want to learn how to dye silk, watch a concert, attend an author event, or join an ESL conversation group, JCLC has something for everyone. And if by chance they don’t have something for you, I’m sure they’d be happy to add new events to their calendars for their patrons.

So please, use your local library this summer. Check out all the books and movies and toys. Attend story times, go book “shopping,” and get your kids some frozen treats. 

Library funding is typically tied to use, so every time you check out something or attend an event, you’re helping them get more money to use in serving their community. You may not need the library, but many people do. You can help them just by getting that little card and putting it to good use.

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Ashley lives in Leeds but is originally from the small, one-redlight town of Grant in North Alabama. She attended Auburn University where she met her husband, Ryan, and married him a couple of months after getting her Bachelors degree in 2011. Although she studied PreMed/Microbiology, she has never actually worked in the field. Instead, she has had many random jobs from seamstress to private English tutor to while helping her husband through seminary. Now she has her dream job of being a stay-at-home-mom to her two daughters; E is 4 and M is 2. Although her original dream of living overseas full-time isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, she is still involved in the internationals’ ministry at her church. When Ashley is not busy with her girls or church, she can be found cooking, scouring the internet for good deals, listening to music or podcasts, reading, or drinking coffee while doing any of the above.