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Secrets of a Former Librarian

Going to the library as a child was one of my favorite things. So much so, I became a children's librarian! After having my own children, I realized there are skills parents need to have a successful library trip when they bring little ones along.

Here are my best secrets for making the library fun for everyone and going home with books you'll love (rather than leaving with a vow to never return):

  1. Put books on hold. There's nothing worse than making the effort to drag everyone to the library and then coming home with a bunch of books that are just plain terrible (and whoa, are there a lot of them!). I don't love browsing through the stacks and I know from experience that usually the best books are already checked out, not hanging out on the shelves. I put tons of picture books on hold so we're guaranteed to have at least some winners. You can check out my favorite picture books here.
  2. Set the number of books your child can check out. My girls love browsing the stacks, and so I let them pick out a couple of books each week, whether it's something new that catches their eye or an old favorite they re-discover. To keep things simple, they can each pick out as many books as they are old, which is what the rule was in my family growing up. And since they know the number is strict, they don't fight it.
  3. Get to know the librarians. Every where we've lived, we've gotten to know the librarian, and if they know who you are and your child is even moderately well-behaved, they'll be your best ally. They'll set aside new books for you, give you a pass if a book comes back a little disheveled, and make you and your child feel welcome at the library every time you come. And as a former librarian, I'll let you know that a little holiday card or gift will never be unappreciated.
  4. Attend library programs. One of the easiest ways to get to know the librarians is to attend library programming. Check out the schedule and you'll be amazed at how many things your library probably has going on, from book clubs to baby storytime to Lego club. We've gone to story time since Ella was about eight months old. I like that my girls know the librarians and they know us, and that they have consistently good experiences at the library.
  5. Start when they are young. If you're reading this and have an older kid and haven't been to the library? Don't despair. The library welcomes all ages and it's never too late to start.
  6. Don't let them use the computers. If I let my kids use the computers, that's ALL they want to do at the library (and we didn't go to the library for more screen time). Plus I end up having to help them a lot, which is not why I went to the library. Not to mention, invariably the computer usually freezes up, or the game they want is gone and suddenly we're all sobbing in the library. That is why I have just decreed that there is no computer playing at the library. There was definitely resistance the first time, but now they just know that's the way it is.
  7. 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.
  8. If you want something, ask for it. Libraries are always trying to figure out how to best serve their customers. If there is a book you want but the library doesn't own it? Ask for it! Chances are they'll be more than happy to order a copy. Want a book club for dads and daughters? Suggest it! They'll be thrilled for your input and you'll get a library that gives you what you're looking for.

Do you have any secrets for making the most of your library visits?

Image via Janssen Bradshaw

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