We moved around a lot when I was a kid and one of the first things we did in every new town was make an inaugural trip to the public library. We took a break from the maze of boxes and mountain of packing paper in our unfamiliar new home and set out to procure library cards. Mom knew that another summer full of settling into a new place and kids moping around the house, friendless, until school started was ahead of her and it called for some serious distraction tactics. The air-conditioned rooms full of books promising an escape from my loneliness and boredom provided a haven of familiarity and normalcy. This may even be the reason for my love of public libraries as an adult. In fact, my older sister got a master’s degree in Library Science and chose a career as a children’s librarian!
Going to the library is one of my favorite outings with my kids and it is a weekly occurrence all year long.
I am always surprised when I talk with other moms who mention never setting foot in the library. That is in no way a judgment on their lack of reading readiness pushing. It just seems a shame that they are missing out on all the awesome, FREE fun to be had just minutes from their house! I understand that the library can seem as uninviting as a museum with small children who must be kept shushed and reined in.
But allow me to try to convince anyone with those hesitations otherwise with a list of some of the reasons why we love the library.
1. The primary reason we return to the library on a weekly basis is of course to refresh our book supply.
We check out 15-20 books a week for my five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. They both have books by the dozens in their shelves at home but it is amazing how enticing a fresh influx of reading material can be. To be real, sitting down and reading books to my still children is one of my favorite ways to engage with them. When the reading material is constantly new and exciting, they suggest this beloved activity even more regularly than I do. We keep the books in a bag next to our couch and picking a few up to read is the perfect transition activity when we’ve only got a few minutes to kill before we have to go somewhere or before it’s nap time. The sheer number of books at your disposal at the library allows you to tailor books to your kids’ interests without having to buy a new home library every time their obsessions change from dump trucks to Disney characters.
2. Almost as important as refreshing our book supply each week is picking up new movies, especially since they are only loaned out for a week at a time and the ones from last week are due!
Most kids’ movies that Netflix cannot supply us with can be found at the library. You can even go online to place a hold for a particular movie and have it delivered to the library closest to you to pick up at your convenience. This also goes for CDs. My kids demand music be playing at all times in the car and the Lawson-McGhee branch has just about every children’s CD ever recorded. Plus that library has a really fun kids’ section with cute reading nooks and toys scattered about. Some time this summer I intend to make an entire outing out of heading downtown to ride the *free* trolley to while away some *free* hours in the air-conditioned splendor of their children’s room.
3. Of course a discussion of the merits of the public library wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the nearly 40 storytimes offered at the different branches each week.
We go through phases with the kids being really into storytime and then having little desire to attend. This is admittedly the place where more restraint and the ability to sit somewhat still is required. But storytimes are leveled by age group and include many songs to allow kids to get up and moving. I appreciate the opportunity to give my youngest (who isn’t yet in preschool) small tastes of sitting in a group and following directions for an age appropriate amount of time. I like always having this as an outing option on rainy days and knowing I’ll likely be able to find one close to us and at a convenient time for our schedule that day.
4. Another reason to love the library is the opportunity for adult interaction!
I’ve found the library to be a much easier place to approach other moms and strike up conversation. I met one of my closest local mom friends at storytime. Many of us frequent the same storytimes each week and it can be a low pressure way to build rapport with someone new before the anxiety-inducing moment of asking to exchange numbers for a playdate.
5. In addition to storytimes, the library offers so many awesome, FREE (are you sensing a theme here?) events during the year.
My favorite is probably when Santa visits the library around Christmas every year. This is where we’ve done our Santa pictures for the last two years and it. is. wonderful. There is no charge and momma can just stand there with her phone, taking as many shots as she’d like to print however she’d like. It isn’t too crowded or overwhelming like many other venues and the backdrop of bookshelves is just too cute. Another highlight this past year was the birthday party the libraries threw for Dolly Parton. The kids had cupcakes and made a special birthday banner for Dolly as a thank you for her work with the Imagination Library. Visits from the fire department, storytimes led by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, magic shows, science experiments, and visits with animals from the Knoxville Zoo are just a fraction of some of the other events hosted all year long, and especially in the summer, by our public library. Another huge event the Knox County Library puts on each year is the Children’s Festival of Reading. This event features guest authors, music, crafts and games, and is hosted to kick off Summer Library Club. Which brings me to my next point…
6. Summer Library Club is another awesome reason to make your way to the library this summer.
Kids track their reading goals on a sheet provided by the library (there are different goals for readers versus younger kids who are dubbed “listeners”). Once kids complete their goal, they return their log, put their name up on the wall in the library and are rewarded with some pretty awesome coupon books. Last year’s prizes included coupons from Bruster’s, the Muse, Oak Ridge Children’s Museum, Rita’s Italian Ice, The Tomato Head and many other venues.
Sara Hill, I have posted a link to your “Ode to the Public Library” in two different places. On the Friends of Tennessee Libraries Facebook page, it has reached over 1,000 and has had several shares. As a member of the Friends of the Knox County Public Library I would like to interview you you about your blog.
I Mistyped email address. It is [email protected]
Thanks so much, Martha! That’s awesome! I’d be happy to talk with you. I’ll send you an email.
Hi Sarah, I am on staff at the Burlington Branch library and I want to thank you for your lovely Ode! We should have paid you good money for that, although you only spoke the truth. I, too, searched out the library as soon as I hit town (many years ago) and have been working at that exact same branch for the last twenty years. But before that happened, I took my children every week and they have now raised a new bunch of readers and listeners. Thank you for your spotlight on pretty much everything library!!
Thank you for taking the time to comment, Linda, and for sharing some of your own story on your love of libraries! It’s awesome to see how much people still value libraries in our digital age.