6 Tips for Visiting the Library with Children

Advice from a former librarian about taking your child to the library, picking good books, getting the full advantage of library services, and making it fun for everyone

We visit the library a lot (I know this comes as a giant shock to you). Since Ella was super tiny, we’ve gone at least once a week, and often twice.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at corralling my children, making it a fun excursion for everyone, and being sure we take home decent books.

Here are some of the things that work for us:

1. Put books on hold. One of the questions I get asked most is “how do you find good books at the library.” I wrote a whole post about the resources I use to find book recommendations and I place holds for anything I’m interested in. I don’t love browsing through the stacks and I’d much rather be assured we’ll be able to pick up at least a handful of books I’m interested in every week.

2. Have a set number of books they can check out. Of course, my girls love browsing the stacks, and so I let them pick out a couple of books each week. To keep things simple, they can each pick out as many books as Ella is old (currently 4), and this gives them a chance to try something new, find old favorites in the stacks and basically feel like they’re in control. And since they know the number is four, they don’t fight it. They also each have one of these cute little tote bags from Edeenut to carry their books home in (seriously, aren’t they the cutest things you’ve ever seen? My girls take them EVERYWHERE).  
Advice from a former librarian about taking your child to the library, picking good books, getting the full advantage of library services, and making it fun for everyone

3. I don’t let them use the computers. The computers at our library don’t have many kid games on them and if I let them use the computers, that’s ALL they want to do at the library (and we didn’t come to the library for more screen time) and I end up having to help a lot, which is not why I came to the library. So I have just decreed that there is no computer playing at the library. There were definitely tears the first time, but now we don’t argue about it every single time.

4. Attend library programs. One of the best things we’ve done is get to know the librarians and the easiest way to do this is to attend library programming. We’ve gone to story time since Ella was about eight months old. Currently, we go to Music Makers once a week and attend Lego Club every other week. (Yes, somehow, we are missing story time in there. I should rectify that, but having a brand-new baby isn’t probably the time to add something new to the schedule). I like that my girls know the librarians and they know us, and that they have consistent good experiences at the library.

5. Start when they are young. If you’re reading this and have a five-year-old, I know this is really annoying advice. But early exposure I think helps with them knowing how to behave and picking out and returning books is just part of their routine. Plus, a librarian who has known your child since they were six weeks old? Priceless. When we visited Texas in December, we stopped by the library and saw the librarian who did baby time for Ella and has loved her ever since (and Ella thinks she is the best person on earth).

Advice from a former librarian about taking your child to the library, picking good books, getting the full advantage of library services, and making it fun for everyone

6. Explore non-book items. I’m always amazed at what different libraries have available to check out. Our current one has lots of puzzles, books with CDs, music CDs (which we listen to in the car a lot), movies, and take-home crafts. In Texas, Ella checked out a new puppet every week (while I tried not to think about the germs associated with plush puppets that had been circulating for a decade). Some libraries have cake pans or games or book club kits.

I’d love to hear what works for you when you go to the library too! 

And! Edeenut and I are giving away a library bag for your child too on Instagram, so if you like cute things, head over here to enter!

Advice from a former librarian about taking your child to the library, picking good books, getting the full advantage of library services, and making it fun for everyone

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  • Reply Jennifer February 26, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    We spray down the puppets every time they're returned! Er…almost every time. Usually….

  • Reply Kelly-Belly February 26, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    These are some good suggestions. We just moved, so we are still getting to know our new library. 🙂

  • Reply Cami Hall February 26, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Thank you for the great tips! I love going to the library with my little one! (She's almost 6 months old). I'm actually going to head to the library by myself today for a special "me time" outing! I love the library THAT much!

  • Reply Melissa February 26, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    I think we do everything on the list. Except I do let my 3 year old use the computer. They have read a long books and the words light up as it reads the book and I only let her do one story. Because it is such a specific amount of time I have never had trouble getting her away from the computer.
    I almost always have at least one story book on hold that you suggested.

  • Reply Jodi February 26, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Today was our library day. It is seriously hard sometimes. I've put books on hold and that is definitely a life saver because I'm not spending the whole time trying to find stuff, I can let them play and read. I'll be honest thought, Atticus is starting preschool next week, and I'm looking forward to going to the library with just one kid and one who will actually be interested in attending story time. But I will switch it up every other week because I still want him to come with me to the library sometimes.

  • Reply Laura February 26, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    The library where I worked before kids washed all of the puppets that were in stock weekly. 🙂
    Love this list. My girls love "typing" on the catalog computers, but have not yet figured out that some of the computers have games, thank goodness.

  • Reply Mary February 26, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    We love the library! And sadly I don't put anything on hold because here they charge you 25 cents for each hold. I know that's pocket change but it's the principle of the thing.

  • Reply Jenn February 26, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    Oh my gosh, I need to just give my kids their own bag and tell them they can only check out what they can carry because my back has been aching with the giant bags I end up carrying! We actually avoid the library programming because the library gets so crowded at those times! But we also have a Lego club and I think my oldest would really enjoy it so I ought to check that out. Now I just need to know, how do you keep the under-2 crowd from pulling all the books off the shelves?!

  • Reply Kimberly February 27, 2015 at 1:29 am

    My mother-in-law let the kids use computers at the library a few times and now it's a fight almost every time. Not that I have anything against the computers in principle, but since our library adjoins a fantastic park, I'd much rather they spend any extra time we have running and swinging their hearts out.

  • Reply Laura {a spoonful of joy} February 27, 2015 at 2:46 am

    I say the exact same thing ("We did not come to the library to play on the computer!") to my boys when they ask to play on them so I'm happy to hear I'm not the only "mean" mom. 😉

    Our library has "Babytime" for 0-24 months so I've been taking my oldest since he was about 3 months. Like you said, it's great b/c the entire staff knows us (we live in a small town) and they are all so helpful and love seeing my kids each week.

  • Reply Paige Flamm February 27, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    I seriously need to get better at taking my kids to the library! I was pretty good about going weekly with Kyle, but we literally haven't been since Kinsley was born! And those totes couldn't be cuter!

  • Reply Shanté February 27, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    The computer thing drives me insane! Why oh why do they have to put them smack dab in the middle of the children section! Why not off to the side at least??

  • Reply Amber February 28, 2015 at 6:22 am

    I did not know there was a baby time library program. Guess that is what you get when you are working during the day. I'm going to look that up right now. when we were younger my mom would only let us check out as many books as we could carry – in our arms. I think I like the bag idea. :). I could fit ALOT of books in my arms.

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