Topic | Lending Library Suggestions, Please

This topic contains 35 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by  RobinP 2 years, 1 month ago.

Viewing posts 1–15 (of 36 total)
  • Author

  • TailorMade

    This afternoon I noticed a couple of posts about lending libraries that some of you run. Please explain how you set this up, keep it running, guidelines for lending/borrowing, etc. I’m very curious. Our family has always homeschooled. Our eldest of five children will be 20 soon. As our youngest will be 6 this year, we still have years to go. I’d love to have a consistent way to lend the resources we’ve accumulated through the last two decades. And, I’d like to know if you organize with call numbers, or just lists?




    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.)  Cool  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.  Laughing

    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.

    Sara B.

    There is a Yahoo group for lending libraries:

    I am on it because I hope that someday hubby will give me the go-ahead to run one someday…  Smile  I hope I don’t have to wait too long!  I am dying to do it!  Laughing


    Great Sara!  I hope you don’t have to wait too long, too.  Any chance we’ll see you at the seminar??  hint, hint…


    I have a similar desire but probably need to wait several more years, I think. @Robin: About how many books did you have to start lending in the way you do now?? I have lots of books and lend to certain friends but haven’t “opened the doors” so to speak to anyone else. I’d like to someday, as I don’t see the collection getting any smaller, but we’ll see. Do you have duplicates?? Do you have a member amount, say, 50 families, to keep it managable??


    I had about 6000 books when I first officially opened.  Honestlly, I wish I had had fewer than that.  It is very tedious and time-consuming to get books ready for circulation. By the time you remove all former libraries stickers and stamps, tape hinges, cover dustjackets, erase pencil marks, etc. you’ve possibly spent a half hour or more on one book.  Multiply that by thousands and you’ve lost months of your life.  Smile   If I had it to do over, I would have been working on putting books in my database and repairing books sooner.  But we moved, bought our pharmacy, I had another baby when my oldest son was 13, my mom  had a stroke.  All those thing kept pushing my opening date back further.  When I finally opened (this is my 4th full year) I had so many books that I felt like I was drowning.  That old saying, “So many books, so little time” took on a whole new meaning.  If you think you want to do this, start now repairing and somehow cataloging your collection.  Otherwise you’ll be covered up in books.

     I try not to have too many duplicates.  I just don’t have room.  I do have a few of certain very popular books such as Thornton Burgess and D’aulaire.  Sometimes I’ll have a duplicate of a book that can fit in multiple categories.  If a biography includes multiple people, I may have one for each.  If not, I make sure I indicate in my database every person it covers so it will show up in my searches. 

    I would also begin with fewer families for the first year, say 10-15 maybe.  (Of course, if you have people tearing your door down, you’ll just have to be a fast learner, I guess.)    Learning how to deal with patrons is a challenge sometimes.  I have wonderful families, but I’ve also had some who…weren’t.  Make sure you’re careful to keep good records of who has what.  Especially when someone has checked out your Captain Kidd Landmark!!  Or your Giraffe That Walked to Paris.  And make sure no one tries to make a copy of the title page of this book to keep in their memory album.  (Another story for another day.)  You can either use the old library pockets or bar codes (which I’m in the process of adding to my books.)  But make sure you know who has what and that THEY know what they have.  My patrons always leave with a printout of what books/totes/audio/visual they have and when they’re due.  Each family also is required to purchase a tote(s) to keep my books in.  They may check out as many books as they want, but they know they’re responsible for them.


    Wow!! That sounds awesome and like a lot of hard work, but worth the effort, I’m sure. Thanks for the suggestions for all of us who are looking to do this at some point in our lives.

    When you say “catalog” is there a program we should be looking into?? I think you mentioned in the past Michelle Millers catalog system, but not sure.

    Thanks again for your guidance.


    Yes, I do use Michelle’s database.  IT IS WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD!!!!  She has every piece of information about every book in her library (over 20,000 so if you’re in the Traverse City, MI area, join her liberay!)  And since my library is the same scope as hers, most of the books I have are already there.  All I have to do is mark that I own that title and any pertinent information about my particular copy such as how much I paid for it, cover (if mine is different from hers – she has a hb, I have a pb, for example,) condition of my copy and my bar code.  If I have a book she does not, it’s very easy to add it in because the fields are already there.  I run mine in Access and can search any field.  If a mom comes in and wants to know what books I have by a particular author, or time period or topic, I just run a search and they all come up.  The great thing is, it will bring up all the books that fit that category so I can see not only what I own, but what Michelle has as well.  That way I know if there is a gem I’m missing.  (Love an excuse to go book shopping.)  Wink

    When I bought my database from her, she charged $200 which may sound like a lot but she has spent literally thousands and thousands of hours putting it together.  There is NO WAY I would run my library without it, nor would I try to tackle the project from scratch. 


    Thanks for the info….I’ll have to check into it. The sooner, the better, right??

    Treasure House

    I’m very intrigued with this topic.

    Robin: Thanks for sharing your experience. Do you try to choose hardbacks over paperbacks? Do paperbacks hold up with frequent use? Any other reasons to choose one or the other?


    Absolutely, my3boys, the sooner you get started on your books, the easier it will be.  I would love to be able to go back and do it again.  I would certainly have been working  all those years before I opened.

    Yes, I ALWAYS choose a hb over pb.  Paperbacks, in general, do not hold up well.  I’m always on the lookout for hardbacks to replace paperbacks I already have.  I did that last week.  I came across several Childhood of Famous Americans and was thrilled to discover that I could replace many of my paperbacks with those.  I’ve replaced all my Genevieve Fosters that were republished by Beautiful Feet with the old hardbacks.  Other examples are the Opal Wheeler books that have been reprinted.

    Paperbacks vary in quality.  Yesterday’s Classics seem to hold up pretty well.  Scholastic is junk.  The older COFA paperbacks were staplebound so are fairly durable.  Honestly, though, many new hb’s are no better.  Many are glued instead of stitched.  So there’s no hard and fast rule.  But since most of my collection is older and OOP, the hb’s are a better choice. 

    I’ve also replaced books when I find one with a dust jacket.  That offers a measure of protection.  I’m constantly trying to upgrade my books for better copies and if I can find one for a good price, I do that.


    Robin…and anyone else with a large collection that they lend out….or just want to keep track of….

    If you had to do it all over again, what would you do NOW to prepare for the future?  Say that a person has a good sized collection and they want to slowly get it ready for library type use.  What do you do to each book to get it ready?  Take off old library stuff?  Keep it on?  Add call number info?  How?  Barcode?  From where?  Enter it into a database?  Are there others to consider than Michelle’s or is that really the best one?  In other words, if I wanted to slowly get my collection ready, how would I do that?  That way, as I add new books it’s a matter of simply updating a few instead of hundreds.  

    We have a lot….I know we’ll get more.  I need something for MY sanity, and if I can bless others lives too, that would be great!  We’ve always lived in “book poor” areas so I know it would be useful.  Just thinking ahead…trying to plan….





    Collectorz Pro has a checkout feature, and allows you to add tags and other pertinent info.  It is set up to put in a ISBN and have the info added to your data base.  I don’t know how it would compare to Michelle Miller’s as I have never seen that one. =)


    @Crazy4boys – I’m not in Robin’s league yet, but I have between 5000-6000 volumes. I use Bookpedia to track and keep up with who has borrowed. I don’t run a library (yet), but I lend a lot and I haven’t done anything special to mine. I just don’t have time right now. If that’s a requirement, I may never be able to open a real lending library, but just continue as is, which is ok with me.


    I have comparatively few books and rely heavily on library borrowing…..but I have to say that I am enjoying these posts about setting up a library. Even other posts on the forum that mention an author are exciting.

    Just this afternoon, while reading this thread, Robin threw out the name of author Opal Wheeler. My brain started to grind, “Opal Wheeler–I know that name–but from where?” So I Googled, and realized we read her book “Stephen Collins Foster and His Little Dog Tray” earlier this year.

    Until now, I did not realize she had an entire Great Musicians series. We loved the Foster book (especially the illustrations), so I now know which author’s biography I want to use for our next composer study.

    I am so inspired and energized! I love this forum!

Viewing posts 1–15 (of 36 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Create a new list