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Homeschoolers @ The Library

Mid-Continent Public Library
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Innovation Summary

Mid-Continent Public Library developed a dedicated system-wide program to serve homeschool families. Homeschoolers @ The Library is an education based program that provides library resources and community-driven activities.

Innovation Leader: Jessie Alexander-East, Youth Services Manager, jalexandereast@mymcpl.org

Problem Statement

MCPL’s district covers three counties comprised of urban, suburban, and rural communities. These areas differ in many ways, but the homeschool families of each area have a common set of needs that the library can help fulfill. The challenge for the Library is to provide service for this group in a consistent and quality way that allows the system to function as a unifying element for the homeschool community. In too many cases, homeschoolers were people who used and maybe met in the Library but were often held at arm’s length due to concerns about resource allocation and reticence to recognize the group had different needs than families with children in traditional schools.

Innovation

A program called Homeschoolers @ The Library was created and implemented at sixteen of MCPL’s thirty branches. Recognizing homeschool families with a named program was a single step in a long process, but a significant one. Naming the program signifies a commitment to this audience and unifies activities for homeschool families across communities. The program consists of many types of events and experiences for homeschool kids of all ages. Most branches hold programs weekly or monthly and emphasize hands-on enrichment and the use of Library resources. Families are encouraged to attend programs at multiple branches, and to build relationships with other homeschool families. Staff at each branch are encouraged to collaborate and share ideas to increase consistency and improve the user experience. In 2010, the Library undertook a large initiative to host a “Homeschool Expo” that brought together the facilitators of the homeschool programs at each branch as well as other outside resources for families.

Progress

MCPL has been embraced by the homeschool communities in our district. Organizations such as Midwest Parent Educators and Families for Home Education now promote Library activities on their group calendars, newsletters, and emails. MCPL is invited to homeschool events outside the Library walls as well. Attendance at Library homeschool events averages over 5,500 each year. The “Homeschool Expo” drew over 1,000 attendees. The role the library plays in the lives of homeschoolers is perhaps best explained by one homeschool mother, “I NEED my library because I’m always looking for books that will help our learning in homeschool.”