In a world where so many learning resources, teaching tools, and child-oriented activities are trapped behind paywalls, libraries represent one of the few free resources available to children and adults alike.
The tax-funded public library as we know it today was created in 1833 by the Rev. Abiel Abbot in New Hampshire as a response to the limited access to books and education that the average person had. To this day, the public library remains a community center for people across America. Research thus far has shown that the growing number of free leanring resources and academic programs in libraries, such as homework help, tutoring, and story hours for young children, contribute to improving education equity for BIPOC students. Public libraries can also promote parental academic involvement. Research has shown that libraries that offer child literacy-centered teaching tools to parents lead to more engaged parents and higher literacy rates in children. The programs found at your local library can be an excellent addition to any classroom.
Today we’re going to go over some of the hidden, unique resources at your local libraries that might serve a vital role in your children’s education. This article focuses specifically on libraries local to Illinois and Texas, where E.R.E. is currently providing tutoring services. Nevertheless, many of these sources are likely available at the libraries near you.
Makerspaces are publicly-available collections of hardware that participants can use to create their own media or art. There are currently over 2,000 Makerspaces in libraries, museums, and schools across the United States, many of which have access to resources students would not be able to find elsewhere.
In the Dallas Public Library system, there are three makerspaces in the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. There, the Story Center provides storytelling equipment such as typewriters, recording equipment, and computers. The library’s Fiber Arts Workroom allows students to create sustainable fashions with sewing machines, yarn, and other methods. And its Heritage Lab allows students to upload old family videos or photos to digital formats.
In the Houston Public Library network, there aren’t specific makerspaces in which all materials are located in one area, but students can make appointments to use various types of materials. For instance, there are hands-on creative resources like 3D printers and laser cutters for artsy students, as well as movable lighting and camera equipment for film and video lovers. There are also music studios, technology classes, and digital scanners.
The Chicago Public Library has a Maker Lab on the 3rd floor of the Harold Washington Library Center. In addition to many of the resources described above, this location also provides how-to videos, slide decks, and tutorials instructing students on how to use the available machines to create projects.
In general, makerspaces can be used by:
- Teachers who want to add extra artistic flair to their teaching tools and learning materials
- Students working on creative presentations for classes
- Architecture and math students learning about geometric principles using 3D-printed objects
- Art and film students looking for access to free learning resources and materials
Dallas Public Library
The Dallas Public Library offers a variety of excellent learning activities for young students. In addition to having a great variety of field trip options for students of all ages, the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library also offers access to the Discovery Wall, which enables students to have real-time virtual field trips with presenters from around the world. This innovative technology gives children the opportunity to interact live with staff and presenters at zoos, aquariums, art organizations, and more.
The J. Eric Jonsson Central Library also has a Seed Library to help you start your home or school garden. According to Feeding America, 23.5% of the under-18 population of Dallas is food insecure, meaning that they do not have access to frequent nutritious meals. A garden could provide some healthy food for children, while also providing valuable learning and life lessons.
Houston Public Library
Houston Public Library’s system offers diverse learning opportunities for youth. For instance, there are guided field trips covering a variety of topics like crafts, storytime, book care, and research. The tours are customizable by subject or project, so talk to your librarian about potential options.
For high school students looking for help in transferring to college, the Cafe College Initiative housed in the Carnegie Neighborhood Library has many valuable resources. There are free 90-minute advising sessions to help students with college essays, scholarship searches, and career advising. There are also regular seminars on topics such as navigating the college financial aid processes as well as hiring events for various career paths.
Chicago Public Library
Sometimes, making learning fun and interesting for teenagers can be difficult. Chicago Public Library’s YouMedia system, available at 29 library locations, gives teens a chance to express themselves and work on creative projects. These YouMedia spaces provide access to laptops, cameras, and music and gaming equipment. More specific tools, such as 3D printers, vinyl cutters, and recording studios are also available at specific locations. Additionally, YouMedia also holds events centering around topics like college and career exploration and avenues of creative expression.
The Chicago Public Library also hosts frequent historical tours devoted to teen and adult audiences. Upcoming events include a guided archival exploration of Chicago’s LGBT+ community and walking tours of local art and mural pieces. Students working on local history projects should explore these amazing opportunities.
Libraries are a fundamental part of reducing the achievement gap for underserved students. Parents and educators can utilize the free learning resources provided by public libraries near them to find creative ways for students to express themselves and expand their learning. Access to high-quality teaching tools, like those discussed here, is essential to uplifting communities in need.
To contribute to the cause of ensuring that every student receives equitable access to learning resources and opportunities, become a donor or volunteer with Educate. Radiate. Elevate. We are a nonprofit organization working to empower underserved students through culturally-responsive and trauma-informed tutoring. Our no-cost tutoring covers academics, test preparation, college preparedness, and the essential underlying learning and life skills. If you know a student who you think would be a good fit for our program, please complete this student nomination form!