Thursday, May 6, 2010

Serving Homeschoolers: Join the Listservs!

Want a free and easy way to connect with homeschoolers in your area, promote your programs, and get ideas for collection development? Join your local homeschooler listservs.

There is a large population of homeschooling families in my community and we've started to build up our services for them. We've started offering programming for them and I'm adding more homeschooling materials to our Parent/Teacher Shelves.One thing that has been extremely valuable to me in terms of helping me serve this population: homeschooler listservs.

I subscribed to the Indiana Homeschoolers Yahoo! Group and the more localized Hoosier Homeschool Network originally so I could promote our programs on their listservs. But I've found many unexpected benefits to keeping up with these listservs as well...

First of all, it makes me a part of their community. They're hearing from me at least once or twice a month when I post about our monthly homeschooler program. In my emails to the listserv, I always include my contact information and try to encourage parents to contact me with any questions they have. And it allows me to be part of their conversation. If I see a question about resources on a certain topic, I can chime in and let them know what the library has to offer.

What I'm hoping is that this makes me a "real person" to them, as opposed to THE LIBRARY, this faceless (possibly intimidating) building. You might feel uncomfortable going to THE LIBRARY to ask a question when you've never been there and don't quite know what you're doing. But hey, I'm not THE LIBRARY. I'm your friend Abby and I'm happy to help you.

Keeping an eye on the listservs also helps me stay on top of what programs other libraries and organizations are offering for homeschoolers. I might get some ideas for programs I want to offer at my library! Or if I want to connect with other librarians offering services for homeschoolers (to ask questions, to collaborate on something, etc.), I now have some contacts.

And these emails help me with collection development, as well. Often, parents who have newly decided to homeschool will ask for help and other families chime in with their favorite guides, books, and more. If I see a book recommendation come across on the listservs, I'll check it out and see if I want to add it to our collection.

Now, I don't always have time to pore over every single email from the listservs, but I at least skim the message topics (I get the listservs in a digest format, so just one email a day). And I try to read the full messages as often as I can.

Why not? It's a free and easy way to connect with homeschoolers (who are, in many cases, heavy library users!). You can find many local homeschool groups on Local and Homeschooling. Go sign up today!

PS: It is a really good idea to at least be aware of the homeschooling support groups in your area so you have information to give parents who may be considering homeschooling and might need some information.