By Betsy Natter

School’s out, summer is here and MontCo’s libraries are ready to go. With lots of summer reading list programs chock full of prizes, your local library is a great resource for summer free time. But don’t think the library is just about books for the beach or kid’s reading lists. Check out these five reasons to rediscover everything your local public library has to offer your family.

#1. Road Trip Assistance

Vacation’s great – once you’re there. Everyone knows those long car trips can be torture. But the library’s got your back with plenty of rental resources that will keep kids entertained in the car. Stock up on audio books, kids’ movies, audio CDs, Playaways and Launchpads loaded with educational games for non-stop entertainment that will put an end to “are we there yet?”

For local trips, ease the burden of entry fees to museums by checking out a free pass for the family. Each library in the MontCo system has their own collection of passes that are available for checkout for three days. Most passes cover the entrance fee for 2 adults and 4 children within the household, but details do vary between museums.

To discover which passes are available from which library, search the McLINC online catalog here. Type “museum pass” in the search bar, then click “Find It” to see which library carries the pass you want. Some of the museums include the Academy of Natural Sciences, Elmwood Park Zoo, the Independence Seaport Museum and even the Gugenheim in New York City.

#2. Fun and Learning for the Kids

In addition to summer reading contests, local libraries sponsor dozens of activities for kids from pre-school through high school. Book discussion groups, Summer Science camp, Astronaut training, a Star Lab Planetarium visit, art workshops, learning with LEGOs, music and movement workshops, and more! Click here for a list of local libraries and direct links to their children’s programs. Most of these classes are free, but registration is required, and they often fill up. Registrations can be completed online at each library website.

Teens can get in on the fun too! Movie nights just for teens, book discussions and writer’s workshops, and STEM and computer programming classes are specifically designed for older kids.

#3. Learn a New Skill

While you certainly can learn something new skill by reading a book, it may be more fun to learn some things hands-on and in a group. Summer classes for teens and adults are created for learning new skills at a short-term workshop or class.

Adults can take Ukulele Lessons at the Horsham Township Library during July or join a Stitch and Chat crafters group in Abington. If you prefer to do a family class/event check out the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library and join the Family Cookbook Club or plan to “Escape the Library” during the 15 minute escape room challenge. Learn a language with Mango, an e-resource available at many sites, or join a writer’s group – it’s your choice. Go to your local library’s website to sign up.

#4. Borrowing Beyond Books

More than just a place to check out books, MontCo libraries offer so much more. From borrowing tech to accessing to a wide range of e-resources and research materials, your library card gives you learning power. For example, borrow one of Upper Dublin library’s Kill a Watt Meters to analyze your appliances’ energy use at home or take a T-Mobile Hotspot on a trip. Some libraries have jigsaw puzzles and toys that circulate as well. Check with your local librarian for details on what they offer.

Research your family history with ancestry.com or learn computer software programs like Photoshop and Excel through access to tutorials and classes with lynda.com. Many libraries also offer career help with e-resources that provide resume writing help and how-to-interview guidance.

#5. Get Techy

Technology in our world changes so rapidly that at times it may be hard to keep up. Local libraries are doing their part to help by offering classes, one-on-one tutoring, access to public computers, printers and scanning devices, and even 3-D printing technology. Check with your local site for beginners’ computer classes that teach how to use the internet and basic programs like Word and email.

For more advanced users, you’ll want to check out Upper Dublin library’s STEAM lab. The space has IPad Air tablets, Chromebooks, a color photo printer, 3 MakerBot 3D printers, moviemaking and greenscreen kits, digital cameras and more. The lab is open for use during the many workshops offered through the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) programs. Request on-demand 3D object printing by submitting your prepared file through the website and paying the $10 per item fee. 

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