I operate Children's Legacy Library out of my home in East TN. My oldest is 21. We began homeschooling...how many years ago now???...excited to learn about the world around us. I ordered our textbook/workbook program and we set to work. It didn't take us long to realize there must be something else!!! Somehow I found Five in a Row which had just come out and we discovered the joys of real, living books.
My collection grew and my son turned 10 and was entering "5th grade." I knew I wanted to take a different direction for history (we had been using Sonlight.) I learned of a brand new history program called TruthQuest History by Michelle Miller, owner of a fabulous living books library in Michigan. I was blessed to meet Michelle shortly after her program was released and she encouraged me to open a library. That was nearly 12 years ago and the passion just keeps growing.
Now my library is housed in a finished apartment in my basement. I have around 15,000 books and counting. My main focus is OOP living books, primarily written in what Michelle Miller calls the "golden age of children's literature" from the early 1900's through about 1970. I do have newer books but I'm very selective. I have books in all categories such as fiction, history, biography, geography, science, math, arts, etc., etc. My books are shelved by Dewey. I have general labels on the shelves themselves to help patrons find what they need. I also have Five in a Row totes. Each tote contains the main FIAR title as well as go-along books for each topic covered in the guide. For example, The Story About Ping tote contains the main title as well as books about ducks, China, buoyancy, the Yangtzee River, etc. There are 79 totes in B4 and Vols. 1-3!! (You should have seen their faces in WalMart when I asked them to order me 80 totes.) I also have FIAR story time once a month.
One area I'm working on expanding is my foreign language books. We've had exchange students from all over the world and I have one French "son" who comes home for several weeks during the summer. He has been recording the French books I have in the library and I attach a CD in the back for patrons to check out. I also have a family whose grandmother is German and has been gracious enough to record some books for me. I'm searching for native speakers and would love to have more of these available in many languages.
I have a fairly good audio/visual section of good quality videos and recordings such as audio books, science videos, family building, composer sets, etc. It's not the focus of my library but since I have them, I make them available. The Lamplighter dramas are very popular.
The most wonderful thing about these libraries (there are only a handful in the country right now but God is opening the hearts of others lately) is that they are all different. You have different resources than I have. You might have a different focus. I don't carry "curriculum." But you might. I don't send things through the mail, but you might. There's no right or wrong way...just however God wants you to share what you have. I have patrons who drive over an hour each way for the library because the public library where they live has nothing they want to use.
I do have a list of policies and members must sign a contract stating that they understand and agree with them. This library is our family's personal collection and many are very rare and expensive to replace. Since I want these books to be available for my grandchildren, I do set guidelines for their use. I set regular hours and do charge a very reasonable yearly membership fee. My strong suggestion, though, is that you start with a policy from the beginning and be consistent. it really can take on a life of its own if you're not careful. We homeschool, own a pharmacy (dh is a pharmacist,) farm (including milking three cows) are involved in Suzuki violin twice a week an hour each way from our home, along with the library (and you're probably busier than that.) So set boundaries and stick to them.
I'll be happy to answer any questions you have. I also suggest that you join the homeschool library yahoo group. There's been lots of discussion on there very recently about folks desiring to make their collections available this way. There is a great need. I don't know where you live, but sometime in June there will be a seminar in Abingdon, VA held by my friends, Liz and Emily Cottrill, that will deal with starting a library. I will be helping with this.
Library days are a joy. To see the children spread across the floor pouring over books is worth all the back-breaking work. My two 8yo boys had an intense basketball game going with some of the children today. They are building relationships that will last for years. I had one mom recently who has 8 children (and one due any minute now) in the library. They checked out their books, chatted, played, etc. She left and returned a few minutes later. When I asked her what she forgot, she said "A child." LOL! I peeped around a favorite nook in the library and saw some little feet dangling in the air. Her daughter was lying on her stomach lost in a book. So sweet.
So before I write a book of my own, I'll leave it at that. Again, please ask if you have other questions. I'll be happy to give you more specifics.