Thursday, August 27, 2009

Networking with Homeschoolers

Last week I got a great opportunity to network with one of my local homeschooling groups. I wish I could take credit for being proactive, but to be completely honest the organizer of the group called me up and asked if I would like to attend their August meeting. They had asked a dozen or so different community organizations to set up tables at their meeting and provide information to the families attending. Organizations included the library, the Louisville Science Center, 4H, local museums, Kindermusik, and others.

Of course, I jumped at the chance. At our August staff meeting, we were just talking about how to network with our large population of homeschooling families. I was thrilled to be invited.

But what to bring?? We would have half of an eight-foot table and our teen librarian was attending with me. I brought way too much stuff. Here's what I brought:

Program schedules - these were invaluable because many families lived outside our library district. At the current time they are not allowed to check out materials from our library unless they purchase a PLAC card, which is good at any library in Indiana. However, many of our programs this fall are drop-in and anyone is welcome to come to these.

Registration forms for the Imagination Library program - we just brought this program to my county, so I was excited to hand these out.

Volunteer applications

TSI applications - this is our teen group for grades 6-12. Our teen librarian advertised this program to many families and handed out a lot of applications.

Some new books from our collection - we didn't really have the space to display them properly and, though we got a few comments on the books I'd selected, no one really perused them. I'd leave them home next time.

Business cards - I don't think any homeschooling families took any, but it was nice to have them in order to network with the other organizations that were there (4H, Louisville Science Center, etc.)

Book lists - I brought a selection of book lists to hand out, but we didn't really have room at the table and with so many people from outside the library district, I didn't end up putting them out.

A survey - I put together a survey for homeschooling families that just asked what kinds of programming they might be interested in. If I did this event over, I'd ditch the survey. With all the paper on our table, the survey kind of got lost. I did mention it to most everyone who stopped by, but a bunch of them took it with them and I'm sure I'll never see them again. With an email signup list, it's quick and easy and everyone can immediately identify it. People might be more willing to scribble down their email address than to stand there and answer several questions thoughtfully. I could email information about upcoming programs, direct them to new features on our website, and send out online surveys if I wanted.

The day after the event, I emailed the organizer of the event thanking her for inviting us and letting her know what kind of programming we could provide if she ever wanted the library to come to another meeting of the group. We could do an early literacy workshop for parents of young ones, family storytime, booktalks, or a demonstration of our databases.

It was a great night overall and I'm so happy that we got the chance to meet some of our homeschooling families. (Of course, many of the faces were familiar because they visit the library often.) If you get the chance to attend a meeting of local homeschoolers, take it! If they don't call you, find out who your local groups are and contact them. Check out Local HS or's Homeschool Support Groups by State for listings of some homeschooling support groups.