How Libraries Support At-Home Learning

by Jennifer, Youth Services Librarian

Adult and child at a laptop

Recently, a Facebook group of which I am a member changed its name from “Librarians Serving Homeschool Families” to “Librarians Serving At-Home Learners and Homeschoolers.” Parents are more involved than ever in their children’s education, and it’s imperative that they know all the resources that are available to them, especially the ones that cost little to nothing.  Enter the public library.

The Anderson County Library System is part of a consortium of twenty county library systems in South Carolina that share books and other items.  If we don’t have a book in Anderson County, but Beaufort County has it, you can put it on hold from wherever you are and have it brought to your nearest library branch, and it usually takes less than a week. The following chart shows how to save almost $300.00 on just a few items by using the library instead of purchasing books for your class.

Savings From Using the Library
Charlotte’s Web6.40
Wind in the Willows, The18.94
Where the Sidewalk Ends10.99
Aesop’s Fables9.89
Pilgrim’s Progress22.99
Velveteen Rabbit, The8.39
Grimm’s Fairy Tales36.49
Magic Treehouse set (Books 1-28)100.86
Boxcar Children set (Books 1-12)48.95
Jane Eyre11.94
Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry20.11
Total Savings:$295.95
*prices retrieved from Amazon September 14, 2020

But what if you need an item right away? Digital resources make that entirely possible. The Hoopla and Libby apps allow you to download e-books, audiobooks, music, and videos straight to your device. Want to take a free online course? The library offers the popular Universal Class on our website if you have a library card.  From Accounting to Web Development, Universal Class has dozens of topics for you, including more than 40 online courses under the “Homeschooling” category alone. Do you have a teen learning to drive? You can the find current SC DMV practice tests. Do you need a tutor for your child? No problem. offers one-to-one tutoring anytime, anywhere at no cost to you.

Learning at home presents many challenges. The library’s new resource Creativebug offers innovative ideas for making science fun.  Are you studying polymers? Let Creativebug show you how to make Galaxy Slime. (Full disclosure: I did this with my middle school age niece and nephew and it was a hit!) Are you studying the states of matter? Ponder the soap bubble: is it a solid, a liquid, or a gas? Creativebug shows you a great recipe for bubble solution that produces bubbles far sturdier than any solution you’ll find in the stores. (Another hit with my niece and nephew.) It’s science. It’s fun. It’s all available through the library.

Libraries all over the country have valuable resources online to help at-home learners and their families succeed. Here are just a few to spark your ideas for a successful school year. September is National Library Card Sign up month.  Stop by your nearest library to get yours today.

Mansfield Richland County Public Library in Ohio’s list of Helpful Websites for At-Home Learning.

Plano Public Library in Texas’s STEAM Connections

Finally, I encourage each family to download the Flipster app, which allows access to leading digital magazines on your mobile device. This can be limited to Family & Children’s resources, and includes the popular National Geographic for Kids, as well as Muse, which encourages reading for fun as well as learning.

Meet Our Staff: Cheryl

Cheryl Hughes, the Jennie Erwin Library branch manager

Born and raised in Honea Path, Cheryl Hughes has been the manager of the Jennie Erwin Library in Honea Path for 28 years. She’s seen a lot of children grow during those years, and she loves getting to meet new readers each day.

Are you originally from the Honea Path area? 

Yes, I have lived on the same road my entire life.  I went to Honea Path schools and was in the second graduating class at Belton-Honea Path High.

What brought you to working with the Anderson County Library System?  

My daughter was not quite a year old when the office I was working in closed.  My husband and I decided that I would stay home with her until she started school.  Five years later, when she was starting first grade, I discovered an opening at the Jennie Erwin Library. I applied, and twenty-eight years later I’m still here!

The Jennie Erwin Library is an original Carnegie library.  What is it like as the manager of that library? 

It has been a real privilege and honor for me to work here.  It is very rewarding to see children come in for the first time and begin getting books, and then to see their love of reading develop through the years. There is a lot of history here, and many individuals and families have stopped to come in, look at the library, and take pictures.  Several students throughout the years have completed projects with information about the library.  I think for the size of this library, the amount of information we have on our shelves and the computer access is phenomenal.   

What is your favorite thing about the Jennie Erwin Library or about the Honea Path community? 

We have many patrons that come in and often express their feelings about our library by saying, “I just love this library.”  That is the way I feel as well. This has been my home away from home for twenty-eight years.  The children that came in when I first started working here are now coming in with their children.  From time to time I see “those grown up children” now around town and they will ask me, “Are you still at the library?” or “Do you remember me?” I hope somehow, in some way, I have had an impact on their love of books and reading.  Being in a small town, we know most of our patrons by name; they become like family.

What do you like to read? 

I enjoy reading Christian fiction and light mysteries. Currently, I am reading Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.  Frankl was a Nazi concentration camp survivor. 

Meet Our Staff: Carolyn

Carolyn Davis
Carolyn Davis, the Iva Library branch manager

After 20 years of working with the Anderson County Library System, Carolyn Davis recently became the Iva Library branch manager. She’s busy meeting new people in Iva while catching up on some of her favorite series.

How did you get started working for the Anderson County Library System?

20 years ago I wanted to change jobs. I had gotten tired of mill work. The construction on the new Main Library had just begun and there were multiple job openings in the newspaper. Plus, I love to read, so I decided to apply.

I’ve worked in quite a few different departments over the years. I worked in the Children’s department for 10 years and loved the patrons and staff I worked with. For almost 5 years, I worked in Technical Services, repairing books and getting them ready to circulate again.

What do you enjoy about what you do at the Iva Library?

I love watching the faces of patrons when they find a new favorite book for the first time. I worked for 5 years as the Piedmont Library Branch manager. I really got to know a lot of the staff and patrons there, and it was hard to leave. But I’m enjoying getting to know the people and community at the Iva Library. I am learning new faces and names, and it will take some time, but I want to eventually know peoples’ names as they walk in the door. I love getting to know people and learning new things about my job and the community in Iva. I have not been in Iva long, but people seem to really know each other or each other’s families pretty well. They have history with the town and the people around it.

Picking favorites can sometimes be hard, so what are some recent books or TV that you’ve enjoyed? Is there anything you like to recommend to patrons?

I’m catching up on the newest books in my favorite series that I’ve missed. Laurell K. Hamilton is one of my favorite authors, and I think I’ve missed three of her latest books. Some other favorite authors that I’m catching up with are J.R. Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Nora Roberts, Deborah Harkness and Anne Bishop.

I’m also watching the Umbrella Academy on Netflix, and so far so good! I would recommend it to those who like the unknown or fantasy type shows. I’m also waiting on the second season of A Discovery of Witches to come out.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Growing up, my dad owned a restaurant, and I started off waiting tables there when I was 12. I guess you could say this is where my customer service experience started. My mom and dad taught me a lot, but the most important lesson was to treat others as you would want to be treated. So I guess my final thought would be to smile when you pass someone, because that smile may just brighten someone’s day.

You can find Carolyn at the Iva Library ready to introduce herself with a smile.

Meet Our Staff: Lin

Lin McDowell
Lin McDowell, the Westside Community Center branch manager

Linda McDowell began working with the Anderson County Library System in 2007 after retiring from SC DNR after 27 years. She has been the manager of the Westside Community Center Library branch since 2009. The Westside Library is a special place for Lin as an alumnus of the old Westside High school, which is now the Westside Community Center.

What brought you to the Anderson County Library System?

Well, I had retired from working with SC DNR for almost 27 years. I had a really beautiful office there, with big windows overlooking the lake. But after retiring, I really wanted to do something else. I’m an extrovert, and I like always be doing something. Growing up, I was always reading. Kids would call me “bookworm,” and my mother would tell me, “Go and play with the other kids” instead of reading, but I never thought I’d actually be here working for the library.

You have a family connection to the library, don’t you?

Yes, my grandmother, Mrs. Wilhelmina Jackson-Snipes was the Librarian of the Greeley branch library, back when the libraries were segregated. She was the 2nd Black librarian of the Greeley branch of Anderson County Library, in fact. I remember going to the Greeley library when she was there. She was always encouraging promoting the summer reading program. I remember getting little gold stars for reading, then getting ice cream and ride on a fire truck at the end of summer reading.

She worked there from 1951 until it closed in 1970, then at the Main Library until she retired in 1975. She was the epitome of a lady, always wearing gloves, a hat, and her pearls. She was so proud of her work as a librarian. She passed away at the age of 99 and a half, just a year before I began working for the library.

What do you like about the Westside Library?

I really enjoy being at this library. It means so much more to me because I walked down these halls for 6 years, when this was the Westside High School. Dr. Thompson, the Executive Director of the Westside Community Center, was my 9th grade English teacher!  It means a lot that this place is still a part of my life; it’s like it’s home.

What I like to tell people, though, is that this isn’t “my library;” this is “your library.” It’s a place for everybody. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my patrons, what they like to read. You get this bond, and you can just about guess what they might like to read next.

I’m proud to be working here. I want everyone to feel welcome, to find what they want, and to feel like this is their library. If my patrons are happy, then I’m happy.

What are your favorite books to read?

I read a little bit of everything. Well, besides Science Fiction or Paranormal fiction. I read a lot of Christian fiction and Romance, especially any of the Hallmark types. I’m currently reading Elin Hilderbrand’s What Happens in Paradise. I love seaside books, books that are set on the coast of South Carolina or Georgia. I like Susan Mallory, Dorothea Benton Frank, though sometimes I do read history, poetry, and I always read the newspaper. I try not to limit myself to one thing.

When I read, though, I have to get really interested in it. Sometimes I’ll go to the end of the book and read just the ending. I don’t mind the spoilers, I like the buildup and seeing how the story gets to that ending.

You can find Lin at the Westside Community Center Library, ready to help you find a good book to read or use the Library’s resources. As a member of the Westside High School Alumni Association and local historian, she will be happy to share the history of the old high school, the Community Center, and memories of the Greeley branch library!

Meet Our Staff: Alex

Alex Currin, the Powdersville Library branch manager

Alex Currin has worked for the Anderson County Library System for 20 years. He is currently the Powdersville Library branch manager, and has previously worked in outreach, technology training, Inter-Library Loan, and Reference.

How did you come to be a librarian?

I originally started with newspapers; I have a B.A. in Journalism. I’m from North Carolina, but went to New York for a few internships. However, the work and snow were depressing, so I returned to North Carolina, bounced around a bit, and then on a whim took a reference class at UNC-Greensboro. I also went to a demonstration on the Internet (this was 1995), and thought “I’ve got to get in the ground floor for this.” I then planned to be a news librarian, but saw how cool public libraries are and decided to stick with them.

You were originally hired with the “new” Main Library was built. What was that like?

It took me 2 weeks just to get used to the Main Library’s layout! I remember they had initially miscalculated the amount of space needed for books: too much space on the 2nd floor but not enough on the 1st. But that was worked out before the library opened. I also helped carry in the large bronze statue that sits just outside the Children’s area. I don’t think I’ve ever carried something so heavy in my life!

You’ve been the Powdersville library manager for over 7 years now. What do you like about that library?

It’s been my longest position ever. Being so close to Greenville and the Easley library, we really try to stand out with excellent customer service. Our staff is helpful, friendly, and experienced. And Evelyn’s storytime is particularly popular.

This may be a strange answer, but I also really like the taxes! I used to order the tax forms for the library system and I coordinated with VITA and AARP for the tax preparation. It may be a weird thing to include, but providing tax forms and assistance really makes me feel like I’m providing a service to people.

Do you have any favorite books?

I have two, actually. The first is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It took me a long time to actually finish it, with a lot of starts and pauses, because I saw so much of myself in it. The other is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It seems so prescient today, even after all this time.

I’m also looking forward to reading Daisy Jones and the Six, which is one of the Powdersville Library’s Book Club books in September. Amazon is going to be making a series based on it, too.

Do you have any pets?

No, don’t ask that! We currently have 3 dogs, 4 outside cats, 4 inside cats, and we’re fostering 5 additional cats. My wife is very active in animal rescue and volunteering, and we’re often helping with animal transport to the vet or to their forever homes. Fostering is especially great. You get to spend time with the animals and help them become lovable pets.

You can find Alex at the Powdersville Library, ready to help with your information needs. Go Dawgs!