A few weeks ago, I asked on Instagram what stressed you out about going to the library.
Turns out, there are a lot of things that make library trips stressful, from wild children to late fees and feeling like you never come home with any good books (you can see the 100+ comments here), but most of the issues boiled down to 12 basic categories.
I only have my own experience and my experience with my children, so I recruited some other parents, librarians, and book lovers to share their advice too – I LOVED seeing what they had to say!
Here’s who I asked for advice:
Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs Darcy and the What Should I Read Next? podcast
Carole Gates of Kids Books Worth Reading (she’s also my mom)
Michelle of The Book Report
Ralphie Jacobs of Simply on Purpose
Claire Nelson of A Little Book Habit
Amy Johnson of Sunlit Pages
Carter Higgins of Design of the Picture Book (she’s also a school librarian and children’s author)
Jane Tanner of Bookroo
Eileen of Picture This Book
Charnaie Gordon of Here Wee Read
Sarah Mackenzie of The Read-Aloud Revival podcast
Michelle Sterling of Avery and Augustine
Today we’re addressing the first three issues and then over the next month or two, we’ll share advice on the other problems families face at the library!
I’m so hopeful that this will help you make the library more fun for you and your children, instead of a place to avoid at all costs.
My children act like wild animals – running around, yelling, pulling all the books off of the shelves, fighting over scanning books, and I can’t look in the adult section at all!
- It is important to set clear expectations on what you expect your library trip to look like, but also base those expectations on age. While we are driving to the library I remind my kids of our “library rules” (keep them simple and easy to follow). Once we park the car in the library parking lot, I turn around to face them and we bullet point the rules one last time. If there is a particular rule and child I am worried will break it, I look them in the eyes and ask them the specific rule and get an okay from them visually and verbally (ie the 2 year old—pulling ALL the books off the shelf). I also, let them know exactly what will happen if they break the rule. We have a “3 strikes your out” policy. Three warnings and then you lose your reward. If they can keep these rules I have a sucker or sticker (doctors office size stickers) or some small item in my purse for them on the way home. Rewards go a looooooong way in our house. Also, I NEVER look for books for myself when I have my kids with me. I either reserve it online before I head to the library or just let the the trip be completely about the kids – Michelle of The Book Report
- If you have multiple library locations in your area, you can scout to see if some are better than others. Some of our area libraries have entire floors devoted solely to children’s books: sounds awesome at first, unless you’re a grown-up who wants to enjoy browsing while you’re children do! I prefer to visit the branches where the children’s books are next to, not separate from, the rest of the collection – Anne of Modern Mrs Darcy
- Introduce yourself and your children to the librarians and let the librarians know that you want your children to love books and reading and the library, and that you’re still learning library skills. If they know you, recognize your children, and understand that you’re trying (not just letting your children run wild and not bothering to do anything about it), they’re way more likely to cut you some slack while your children learn how to behave – Janssen
- They ARE wild animals. Just kidding! I think what is most frustrating is that we have this idea in our heads of how children are “supposed to act” in public places. What my children and I are learning from each other is that we stay the same no matter what and no matter where. I stay calm and they stay children. Yes, ask questions about what good behavior looks like inside a library before you go in. And yes, praise them and love on them when they are doing well. But keep in mind that if you are going with small children, it’s playtime. They want to discover! They want to pile up in your lab to read a million board books. You’ll miss it. And they will have made wonderful positive associations with a comforting library – Ralphie of Simply on Purpose
- I think most parents have been through this and on the whole people are more understanding than we think. Usually when my children are racing round like crazed animals no one else is looking, it’s just me feeling bad because they aren’t behaving the way I’d like. If you start by taking them from an early age and go to a story time session where there are other people with young children there at the same time it’s a good way to break them in and the more you go the better they will get at understanding what’s expected of them. And if nothing else works, take snacks! – Claire of A Little Book Habit
- I’ve had plenty of times where I’ve had to make an abrupt exit because of misbehaving children. But several things have helped us have greater success: 1. If I’m bringing a child under two years old, I always bring a stroller. ALWAYS. Even if he’s not in the stroller the entire time, I can always put him in the stroller if it becomes necessary. And sometimes if I’m trying to juggle fifty books and steer five children out of the library, a stroller can make all the difference. 2. I reserve books ahead of time. That way I know I’m going to go home with a stack of good books regardless of whether or not I get a free minute to peruse the shelves. 3. I don’t take all of my kids at the same time. We are fortunate enough to live very close to our library, and so I can easily make multiple trips in one week with two or three kids at a time, instead of all five – Amy of Sunlit Pages
- I am Janssen’s mother and she was my worst offender when it came to grabbing books off the shelf and dumping them on the floor — I couldn’t keep up with her. I remembering thinking I’d never be able to visit the library again! I started keeping her in a stroller and making our visits very short. Over time she was able to get out of the stroller and behave herself. She’s turned out fine, I think. Kids just need to be taught clearly what correct behavior looks like and that you will leave if they can’t control themselves — and the whole family might have to leave if even one child can’t follow the rules. Let their siblings be the ones to exert peer pressure toward the misbehaving child. Schedule your own time to look at the adult section or reserve them in advance so you can just pick them up at the front desk. I’m always hesitant to leave children unattended at the library, for many reasons – Carole of Kids Books Worth Reading
All my kids want to do is play on the computers or iPads when we visit the library!
- Honestly, sometimes I let them play a few games on the computer so that I can focus on book hunting (ahem, see no. 1). I’ve accepted the fact that libraries are too distracting for my kids to actually do much reading there and I’d rather go home with a stack of good books than tear my hair out over it 😉 – Eileen of Picture This Book
- We have a “no tech at the library” rule– not that we’re opposed to tech, just that we can get on computers and iPads at home, so it seems like a missed opportunity to waste our precious library time on devices. Trust me, it may take awhile, but they do quit asking after they hear you say “no” enough times in a row! 😉 – Sarah of The Read-Aloud Revival
- Make sure your kids know what your expectations are before you’re inside the library. We have established a “no screens at the library” rule, and so even though my kids will sometimes stare longingly at another child playing a game, they rarely ask to play one themselves because they know our family policy. It also never hurts to remind them of this before we exit the car. 🙂 – Amy of Sunlit Pages
- When I take my grandchildren to the library I have each of them look for books they want to take home, after they’ve made their choices, we find a quiet corner and sit on the floor and read a couple of the picture books and maybe a few pages out of a novel out loud together. This way their time at the library is purposeful and directed rather than a free-for-all. We all enjoy the hunt and then a time to share — then straight to the check-out desk. Carole of Kids Books Worth Reading
Germs – we get sick every time we go!
- This makes me laugh, because I didn’t know anyone worried about this besides me. I make all my kids use hand sanitizer on the way out of the library. And the books?….. The book covers get a good thorough lysol wipe down, before they come out of the library bag and touch my kids hands. It makes me feel a little better, even if it doesn’t get rid of all the germs. – Michelle of The Book Report
- I think every mom has her own comfort level. For me, I am okay with my kids playing with puzzles, blocks, and, of course, looking at books. But the stuffed animals seriously make me squeamish. So when we get to the library, I put any stuffed toys out of reach (or out of sight), and they don’t even know what they’re missing. It’s all about knowing what you’re okay or not okay with so you’re not faced with the anxiety after they’ve already buried their faces in a giant teddy bear – Amy of Sunlit Pages
- Take plenty of hand sanitizer! – Carole of Kids Books Worth Reading
So many good answers! I love hearing how all these different families handle the library and I can’t wait to share more of their expertise in a few weeks!