These cold wintry days and nights can be a challenge when the family is spending a lot of time inside. The kids may be bored with the same games they have been playing, and everyone is looking for something to occupy their time at home.
Don’t despair. Check in with your local library for a myriad of ideas.
Area libraries have free books, movies, DVDs, CDs, ebooks and audiobooks to borrow and also offer an extensive collection of free electronic resources that can be accessed online directly from home, including many that a family can share together.
Montgomery County libraries
In Montgomery County the 61 independent libraries that are part of the Montgomery County Libraries consortium offer all kinds of electronic resources on their individual websites, including state and countywide supported databases that provide free downloadable programs for all ages. Kathy Arnold-Yerger, executive director of the Montgomery County Libraries Norristown branch, where the countywide programs are based, explained that people can go to any of their local libraries and apply for a free card to be able to access the electronic resources.
She said the Overdrive database on the websites offers ebooks and audio books that can be streamed immediately or downloaded to a computer or other electronic device for enjoyment later.
Other databases offer hundreds of magazines for adults and children on many subjects — cooking, gardening, travel, fashion, sports, music and various hobbies, she said. Databases with programs especially for kids and teens are also featured.
Arnold-Yeger pointed out that the free state-supported electronic Power Library (Pennsylvania Online World of Electronic Resources) is also available on the websites and includes databases offering magazines and journals, newspapers, language learning, and information on subjects such as ancestry, history, science, culture, health, etc.
It also includes a Power Kids site that has magazines such as Ranger Rick, Highlights, and National Geographic for Kids.
Not sure what to look for? Arnold-Yeager said there is an Ask a Librarian program that is available 24/7 on the websites with a real librarian to chat with.
She noted that the Norristown branch library, which can be found at http://mnl.mclinc.org, also has a large multicultural collection in both the adult and children’s sections, with books and ebooks in Spanish and other languages.
“For families at home, the electronic resources are the best, watching movies together and playing games together,” said Anne Frank, director of the Wissahickon Valley Libraries located in Whitpain and Ambler. Information on various programs and databases can be accessed at their website at www.wvpl.org.
Anne Hall, Ambler branch manager, said she would recommend their Hoopla on-line service for family activities. “Hoopla is like having your public library at your fingertips,” Hall said, “with e-books, audio books, music, TV shows — all free for patrons.” There are hundreds of titles to choose from.
Tom Meyer, director of the Lansdale Public Library, said their website at www.lansdalelibrary.org also has a good mix of ebooks and audiobooks that are available for all ages, as well as electronic programs. He recommends the online TumbleBooks service for children in K-6, which has over 1,000 animated stories, talking picture books and graphic novels, that can be read or have someone read to the youngsters.
In addition to movies, DVDs, board games and puzzles available to borrow to keep busy during a storm, Meyer suggests taking one of the library’s monthly art classes to learn some new techniques to occupy your time. A Zentangle water color class is being offered in January.
At the Indian Valley Library in Telford director Margie Stern says people also can download all kinds of ebooks, movies, DVDs and audiobooks through their website at http://ivpl.org. They also have “WIFI hotspots” available to check out for seven days to provide WIFI service if someone does not have it at home. She also recommends the quilting, knitting and crocheting programs at their library to learn a new hobby that can be shared with family members at home.
Chester County Libraries
The 18 libraries of the Chester County Libraries System offer many free take-home resources to borrow, as well as online educational and entertaining resources accessible to patrons of all ages from the comfort of their homes.
Amy Krize Suveg, public relations specialist at the Chester County Library and District Center in Exton, explained that members of all of the libraries can get more information and can access a variety of electronic databases at www.chescolibraries.org.
Through the website, patrons can access the POWER Library (Pennsylvania Online World of Electronic Resources) databases for all kinds of digitized materials, along with a number of county-supported programs.
For families she recommends the POWER Kids library, which includes databases such as BookFLIX, which pairs classic video story books with games, videos and activities, including some in Spanish. “This is a fun way to read for Pre-K to third grades,” she said. There is also TrueFlix, a literacy-based read aloud experience for young children with nonfiction digital flipbooks, games and activities.
For youth, in the SIRS Discovery database she suggests, “use the science fair explorer to identify exciting science experiments you can do at home.”
Among the county-wide databases is Overdrive, which offers downloadable eBooks and eAudiobooks that can be viewed on tablets, eReaders, phones, PC and MAC computers, and can even be downloaded for viewing later. The Flipster database offers digital magazines. “Teenagers will love to flip through Teen Vogue on their tablets or smartphones,” Krize Suveg noted.
There are also Mango Languages, a fast and easy way to learn to speak a foreign languages, and the Learning Express Library, with exercises and tests for elementary through college students and interactive computer and program learning courses.
The Chester County libraries continue to offer numerous resources to borrow for use at home, including books, magazines, audiobooks, DVDs, CDs and video games for popular platforms such as Xbox One and Wii.
At the Chester County Library and District Center in Exton, Krize Suveg suggests families check out their Binge Boxes, which she explains are “themed collections of four to seven movies to take home and well … binge watch.” Some of the categories for kids and teens are PIXAR and Disney movies, Hunger Games, Sleepover movies and holiday favorites. “We also have full TV series to binge watch too,” she said. And she gave a bonus tip: “Visit the Chester County Library on Tuesdays to take home two-for-one DVDs, audiobooks or videogames.”
Delaware County libraries
Patrons of the 28 local libraries that are part of the Delaware County Libraries all have access to the www.delcollibraries.org website, which has an extensive collection of databases that can be accessed electronically.
“We have hundreds of thousands of ebooks and audiobooks that are available for all ages, from birth and up,” said Catherine Bittle, director of the Delaware County Libraries. Especially for families, she recommends the BookFlix database, which pairs classic videos and storybooks with related learning games, and TrueFlix, which has learning games based on non-fiction books about people, science, nature and history.
Among others, she said the Junior World Book encyclopedia database is particularly interesting since young people can look up any subject and find related things such as books, food recipes and on-line activities.
Bittle also suggests using the NoveList database, which is good for getting recommendations on what books are available for children in the K to 8 grades. “It’s fun to go and see what your favorite author is writing, or if you’re reading a series such as the Magic Tree it lists the whole series.” And she said there are other educational items such as the best children’s books of the various years.
Patrons can get free library cards at all of their local libraries to access many different databases if they are interested in steaming or downloading books, magazines, newspapers, ancestry as well as age related activities for children and youth.