Monday, May 26, 2014

Tips for Visiting the Library with Little Ones

I've always heard that one should write what they know. Haven't you heard that? Well, this knowing has come by much trial and error, and frazzledness at the end of a trip to the library with my three little ones, ages 7, 4 and (almost) 2. I began to think of ways I could streamline our trips and make it so it didn't turn out to be a stress-filled frenzy where I crazily tried to manage the needs and desires of my three children and myself. I know it probably sounds melodramatic, but it can be that way sometimes! (Being outnumbered in public is no joke, people!)

Being homeschoolers (and avid readers), our regular library trip has been an important part of our week for a long time. We go at least once a week, if not more. We also have library cards at more than one library. (I know, I'm really asking for the crazy-making). ;-)

Whether you're getting ready for the Summer Reading Program, or you simply want to make visiting the library a regular (and stress-free) part of your week,  here are some tricks I've discovered that go a long way in keeping the weekly library trip an enjoyable experience for all of us!

Before you head out:

  1. Make a list! Yep, Type-A's rejoice! Do you know what books you are after? Take a few minutes to write them down to keep your time searching focused. (I've learned the difficulty of the having my head tilted sideways and sometimes bending over looking for interesting, good quality books while trying to keep track of three little people, who are sometimes going in three different directions!) Get inspiration from lists like this one, or this one, or this one, if you don't know where to start! Which leads me to my next tip...
  2. Utilize your library's website! You can search online to find out if a book or other item is currently available. You can also place a request for the item if you know you need it and can't get there right away, and the library staff or a volunteer will retrieve it and put it aside for you. Some libraries even offer a mobile app. See if your library does! Oh, and two words: interlibrary loan! You probably can't go to ALL the libraries, but they can come to you! Sometimes other libraries in your county will have an important book that you need and your local library can borrow it from them for you. There is usually a wait of a few days, but it's totally worth it to not have to drive across your county (or city, in some cases) to get a certain book.
  3. Collect any items that you've borrowed during previous trips. If your child has gotten their own books, they can gather what they checked out and place them in a reusable bag (I don't recommend grocery bags because books have pointy corners that like to poke holes in grocery bags). Everyone can carry their own stuff to the car.

At the library:

  1. At the book return, each child can practice putting their own books in the slot (except for maybe the ones who can't reach yet- but at least seeing their older siblings do it will make them want to do it later on, and create that expectation that they will eventually take on this task).
  2. Each child that is able can grab a basket to carry their selections around the library. This is one I just recently discovered, and my littles are loving it! Our library has the same little hand baskets that you see in grocery stores. If yours doesn't, maybe they can collect their books in the reusable bag they brought. I like that they use the baskets because they each keep their materials separate, and it also deters them from getting more items than they can carry- which means fewer items to keep track of at home. It's a win-win. Plus I don't have to carry everything! Yay!
  3. Get them their own card. The rule of thumb that has worked for us so far, is if the child can read independently, then they can have their own card. Our library has no age limit, so it's up to the parents to make that call. Of course, we are still financially responsible, but we haven't had too many charges on their cards. Once, when my son neglected to take care of a book, he got charged for it. I had him roll coins to pay the fee. I don't know if this really made an impact on him or not, but we haven't really had any issues since.
  4. When wrapping up your library adventure, each child can bring the items they wish to borrow to the checkout desk. (We have self-checkout kiosks, and you might like to take advantage of that option, but I really like the opportunity afforded to my little ones to practice their people skills while they check out their materials.) They get their items checked out, put the borrowed things in their bags and carry their own stuff to the car, and back inside the house.

At Home:

  1. Find a special location for borrowed library items. We have a rule that library items are not kept in bedrooms. It's way too easy for something to get lost under a bed or in a closet or under a pile of clothes or something. That was a hard-learned lesson after spending 45 minutes looking for a board book. Ain't nobody got time for that! Keep library books on a designated shelf or in a basket in a main living area in your home. Trust me! It's so worth creating this habit. This is a good way to prevent damaged items too!
  2. Make a plan to visit the library again very soon! Most libraries allow items to be out for three weeks, but why wait that long? Set a day each week when you will visit. Tuesday has become our day to visit our local library. Sometimes we visit for various events on another day of the week, but we usually don't return or check out books on that day, just to keep things simple. 

Most important: have fun! Children love visiting the library, and it's one of the best places to go when it's too hot to play outside. And it's FREE! You never know what awesome resources you will discover when you visit. Happy reading!

What tips would you add that have helped you have a pleasant library experience? Tell me in a comment!

Linking up at these fine blogs:

A Little R &


  1. This was a great post! I can see that so much of what you do helps prevent fights between siblings!

    1. Hi Alyssa! It really does make it all go much more smoothly!

      Thanks for coming by. :-)