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Using Your Local Library

A Guide for Middle School Students

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Middle school is a time for learning new skills and concepts, and this is a time when many students will visit the public library for the very first time to conduct research. You may be surprised to discover how many resources you will find in the library.

Getting a Library Card

You’ll also find that the people who work at the public library are very friendly and ready to help you find and use all the resources available. There is no need to be intimidated or shy -- all you have to do is start asking questions at the front counter. One of the first things to ask is how to acquire a library card.

The process for getting a library card is usually pretty easy. You will need to fill out a form to provide your name, address, birthdate, phone number, email address, and the name of your parents or guardians. This means that your parents or guardians should be present for this first visit to sign for the card.

The library card is like a small contract. By signing the card agreement, you promise that you will take care of the items that you use and borrow.

Once you are equipped with a library card, you’re ready to browse the materials available for your use. Of course, the library will contain many shelves of print books.

Finding Books to Read

You can locate library books by browsing the shelves, or you could actually search before you ever leave your home, using the library’s web site. You can also search by using a computer search inside the library.

You’ll find that each and every book is labeled with a set of numbers and letters. The letters and numbers represent the book’s Dewey Decimal number. Libraries use the Dewey Decimal System to organize books into a clear pattern of organization. If it weren’t for this system, books could easily be lost forever!

Once you become familiar with this system, you'll be able to find books and other resources easily. If you can’t find a book you need at the library, you may find that the library can borrow a book from another library, in a service called interlibrary loan.

If you own an eReader, you may also find that you can borrow eBooks from your library. Once you have obtained your library card, you can do this from your home.

Finding Other Resources

Your library will most likely hold many other useful resources. You may find that you can borrow or use the following:

  • DVDs
  • Books on tape
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Music
  • Photographs and prints

If you have any doubts about how to find or use these items, all you have to do is ask!

Using Library Computers

Most libraries offer access to computers where you can browse the internet or write your homework essays. You may also find that your library provides instruction for using a word processor, which is the type of program you will need to use to write your papers.

When you use a computer in the library, you may need to log in with a user name and password. Ask a librarian if you have any trouble logging in.

Research Tables and Reading Rooms

One of the best things the library offers is a quiet and convenient place to read and work. Many libraries have special reading rooms or big comfortable chairs where you can stay for hours to enjoy the books and other materials.

Libraries also provide scrap paper for taking notes as you research. Be sure to write everything down as you research, like page numbers and all citation information from your sources! Most libraries prefer that you use pencils instead of pens for taking research notes. Pens and markers can damage books.

Library Classes

Libraries sometimes offer classes for topics ranging from health information, computer skills, test prep, foreign languages, ESL, citizenship, and crafts.

Libraries also provide space for reading clubs. These clubs are often open to readers of all ages. You can find the list of classes available on your library’s web site.

It is a good idea to check out the resources and layout of your own public library before you visit. You will soon wonder how you ever managed without this great place!

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