(Click here to download our guide as a PDF)
Parent’s Guide to the St. Joseph County Public Library
Here are some answers to questions you may have about libraries, along with suggestions for helping children become lifelong learners and library users.
What does SJCPL offer my family?
SJCPL offers books and so much more.
- Areas for children and teens with diverse and extensive materials to take home. These materials include books, magazines, music, audio books, graphic novels, comics, movies, CD-ROMs, electronic book downloads, audio book downloads, toys, puzzles, games and story time bags. We also have a Spanish-language area for children’s books, magazines and audio material.
- Age-appropriate programs such as story times, book discussion groups, films, crafts, workshops and shows for young people. Additionally, every summer we promote literacy and a love for books with our Summer Reading Challenge. Programs such as these help children learn to enjoy libraries and use them for information and entertainment.
- Regular informal drop-in events such as departmental scavenger hunts, make-it take-it crafts, trivia questions and whimsy activities to foster familiarity with the department and to nurture curiosity and hands-on learning.
- Computers that are reserved for children and loaded with entertaining and educational games. Wider use Internet terminals featuring filtered Internet searches provide access to educational links and general information to satisfy a child’s curiosity and interest in the world.
- Award-winning websites just for children and teens. Access activities, booklists, databases and other resources for kids, as well as resources especially for teens. Homework Center offers links to librarian-reviewed websites on K-12 homework-related subjects.
- Resources for parents. Check out books, magazines, DVDs, programs and web pages especially of interest to parents. Booklists like Babies Love Libraries and Books to Read Aloud introduce items for your family.
SJCPL staff members are happy to help you locate things to read that match your family’s interests. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help. Librarians and library assistants are trained to help you locate specific books, topical books or books for a particular age group.
In addition to answering your questions, children’s librarians also lead storytimes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, and they develop programs appropriate for the children in their communities. They visit neighborhood schools and they help educators find materials and resources to enhance their lessons.
How do librarians at SJCPL select books and other materials?
Our librarians primarily select books and other materials that have been reviewed and recommended by professional librarians or reviewers. Criteria include popular demand, literary or artistic merit and information value. The request of a library patron may also generate a purchase. Selection is an inclusive process, where librarians seek materials that will provide a broad range of viewpoints and subject matter.
SJCPL provides books and other materials to meet the informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs of the people of St. Joseph County. SJCPL upholds the principles of intellectual freedom and the public’s right to know by providing people of all ages with access and guidance to information, via books and other materials that reflect many points of view. Thus, the library has thousands of items families desire as well as materials that some parents may find offensive or inappropriate for their children.
How can I help my child make the best use of the library?
Parents or legal guardians are responsible for deciding what items are appropriate for their children. Your participation in selecting and sharing books with your child is very important. We encourage parents to help their children select library resources in keeping with their family values. SJCPL supports your right to choose books and other library materials for yourself and your family.
As the person responsible for your child, it’s important for you to know that:
- All library materials are available to library users of any age.
- The library may contain books and other materials that some parents find inappropriate for their own children.
- Young people mature at different rates, and reader’s tastes, values and philosophies vary. You know your children best and can decide what library materials are appropriate for them.
- The library respects the privacy of all library users, no matter their age. We do not give out information about titles of books checked out, number of books overdue or titles of books overdue except to those who are able to provide the borrower’s library card or library card number.
- A library card allows a library user to access computer resources, including the Internet. We encourage parents to discuss with their children the types of Internet searches that are in keeping with their family’s values.
Ten tips for families using the library
- Establish a family routine of going to the library regularly. Visiting the library weekly or monthly encourages them to use the library both for learning and pleasure and teaches them how to find what they seek.
- Allow your kids to explore the library. Children and teens are naturally attracted to materials intended for them. They are generally not attracted to materials that are too advanced for their reading or maturity levels. By asking questions and learning to find their own answers, young people learn to think for themselves, to compare and contrast differing opinions and to analyze what they see and hear.
- Ask your librarian for suggestions about materials that are appropriate for your child’s age, maturity level, knowledge and interests. Read books and magazines that review materials. Use this information to determine if it is right for your child. While librarians and resource lists provide guidance, your know your child and family needs best.
- Discuss your family rules regarding library use with your children. If you are concerned they will not respect your wishes, it is your responsibility to visit the library with them.
- You may decide to encourage your older children to visit the library alone. When you can’t go along, show an interest in what your children bring home from the library. Have a special shelf for library materials at home and take time to familiarize yourself with their borrowed items. Praise their independence and responsibility for caring for library materials and returning them on time.
- If you feel an item is inappropriate for your child, express your views to your child and provide guidance. When you return the material, ask library staff to help you find something else from among the many choices available.
- Be aware that many young people seek information from libraries on very serious personal issues they may be embarrassed or afraid to discuss with an adult. A factual library book, unlike hearsay from friends, can ease their fears or even keep them safe from harm. If you have a concern, take this opportunity to discuss it with your child.
- Be a role model for library use. While your child is browsing, look for materials for yourself. Nothing teaches children better than seeing you use and enjoy the wide range of materials available.
- Get to know your librarians. Their expertise can help you and your children get the most out of the library.
- Ask for the item you want. If the library doesn’t already own it, library staff may be able to locate similar materials, borrow it from another library or purchase it.
For more information on how SJCPL can meet your family’s needs, please ask your librarian. We are happy to help!