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the library: an urban homesteader’s most trusted companion

As a budding urban homesteader, I often felt disconnected from my rural counterparts, who I imagined were spending their days picking up tips and tricks from each other in knitting circles and at community pot-lucks. Whether they actually ever attend these events is unknown to me, but these scenarios have been firmly entrenched in my fantasy of rural life. I felt left out of their knowledge loop, like a shy schoolgirl who sits on the periphery of the cafeteria.

I’m happy to report I have managed to join the homesteading reindeer games, and the instructions weren’t as difficult to come by as I once imagined. My take-home point is an old lesson but a good one: Ask, and you shall receive. Today I’m sharing a prodigious source of information for the urban homesteader that connects me to the past, present, and future of natural family living and DIY homesteading: My library!

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Mural in our library’s hallway

It’s no surprise that the library holds the past; part of a library’s responsibility is to keep record and maintain knowledge of bygone eras. That the library is also a source of the present is a lesson I have learned in our numerous moves. We’ve lived in four cities in the last five years, and in that time, I’ve used the library as a resource not only of books but also for building up my sense of community. The best tip I can impart to newcomers to the library scene is that the library also holds the future, through the forming of new relationships with like-minded bibliophiles.

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The Alphabet puzzle, a family favorite!

The girls and I each find enrichment at the library in different ways. The children’s room at our library is wonderfully staged–in a kind of Montessori style– to allow children independent access to books and games on their level. At 19 months, my younger daughter adores the fish tank, with its step stool that lets her gaze at the sea creatures on her own. She can also pull down and put away board books on her own, and she sharpens motor skills by playing with a wooden Alphabet puzzle (that’s not her in the picture, obvs).

Likewise, the computer area has easy-access games that my almost-four-year-old can play completely on her own, and she’s free to draw a picture if inspired or visit the glass case where children’s treasures are displayed and rotated on a weekly basis. I encourage her to develop her own relationship with the children’s librarians, asking them for their recommendations. Even for a child as precocious as mine, it can be difficult to speak to adults, and I think asking questions to patient librarians is a great way for her to hone this skill. Checking out CDs has become her new favorite pastime, and she is quickly becoming a music expert.

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One of our favorite children’s librarians

As for my own fulfillment, the library enhances my learning with thoughtful displays of the newest materials and educated librarians who are willing and able to guide me through my experience. Most of my best-loved homesteading and parenting resources have come from the librarians’ suggestions. I am routinely astounded at the breadth of their expertise. And did I mention, it’s free? But you knew that.

The following is a list of my favorite books related to natural family living that I learned about through my librarians:

This week is National Library Week, and our family is celebrating in style with several trips planned to our local library. If you haven’t made friends with your librarians yet, I encourage you to do so! I assure you they don’t bite and will be thrilled to assist you. @your library, the American Library Association’s campaign for America’s libraries, sums the point up nicely: “If you think a librarian’s job is simply to stamp due dates into books and swipe library cards, think again.”

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“Songs with Liz Buchanan,” a great monthly kids’ music show

I’d love to hear how you keep track of the books on your “to be read” list; I keep lists on Pinterest and Goodreads, and which list I use depends on my mood that day. Feel free to follow along with my lists. What do you love most about your library? Do you have favorite natural family living books? I hope you’ll share them so we can learn from you as well!

Update: My mom reminded me to discuss one of my newest favorite part about the library. Our library has Kindles available for rent, and you can check out e-books for free too. Of course you can check out the library e-books on your own Kindle or other e-reader if you have one. I don’t have one, but the next time I go on vacation, I’m definitely going to check out one of their Kindles.

Images: Courtesy of Belmont Public Library’s Flickr photostream

Editor’s note: This post is part of Your Green Resource, Simple Lives Thursday, Frugal Friday, Natural Parenting Network’s Blog Hop, and the Homestead Barn Hop

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