While your kids and teenagers are out of school this summer, you can keep them busy with the help of your local library. The days when libraries were just for studying and whispering in the stacks are long gone — today, they encourage interaction with the community and host lecture series, classes and social gatherings for all ages. Whether you’re staying at home this summer, spending time at the cottage or travelling the world, take advantage of the free resources at your local library.

Programming for kids. Story hours for babies and children, craft sessions and parent-child drop-ins run throughout the year and many libraries ramp up their activities during the summer. These programs are not only fun for kids, but are also a convenient way to meet other young families in your neighbourhood.

Summer reading clubs. Many libraries choose books on various themes, and host games, crafts and other activities to help make reading fun. Your kids can make friends and keep up their reading skills over the summer.

Programming for teens. As well as fun for teens, such as concert series, book clubs and writing clubs, many libraries offer practical resources, such as help with the summer job hunt.

Programming for parents. Many libraries host lecture series and movie screenings that welcome parents with infants.

Volunteering. High school students looking to meet their community service requirement or who just want to make a difference can find many volunteer opportunities at the library. Some libraries also help teens find volunteer work in the wider community.

Programming is often free, but may still require registration. Call or visit your local library for details.

If you’re planning to go away this summer, include a visit to your local library before you leave, for:

Travel books for kids. There are plenty of books about different cultures, and some travel guides are creating books specifically geared towards children, such as Lonely Planet’s Not for Parents series.

E-books and audio books. Libraries are quickly expanding their electronic collections, providing downloadable e-books and audio books for adults and kids. Electronic loans automatically expire, so you don’t have to worry about fines building up while you’re away. A year-round bonus: Borrowing online saves gas and parking.

Language lessons on the go. Some libraries host language classes, but they also have other language-learning resources. For example, a compact disc of simple French lessons for kids would be great for a long drive to Quebec.

Plenty more resources are waiting to be explored and enjoyed by all ages during the summer months and throughout the year. Visit your local library’s website, call or drop in, and look for pamphlets and program guides to find out what’s available in your community.

Other cool things to look for at your local library:

  • Borrow a musical instrument like a guitar, banjo or drums, through the Sun Life Financial Musical Instrument Lending Library program in nine Canadian cities: Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal, Calgary, Kitchener, Ottawa, Fredericton and Regina.
  • Movies for all ages
  • Cookbooks geared towards kids
  • CDs: Both music and books
  • Magazines
  • Pedometers (Some libraries have walking programs that lend pedometers. Counting steps can be a fun way to get your kids outside.)
  • Community access programs such as the Toronto Public Library Foundation’s Museum + Arts Pass and the Calgary's Public Library's Arts + Culture Pass (both sponsored by Sun Life Financial), which provide free passes for families to museums, art galleries and other cultural venues.