Enter: The Library

I’m feeling like this might make some of you gasp, but… I barely ever took my daughter to the library before she turned 2.  We have so many board books at home and she never tired of them, so we just read them over and over and over again.  When her second birthday drew near and I contemplated books I could buy for birthday presents, though, I suddenly realized that (earth to Haley!) we could move on to somewhat more complex picture books.

And so, for the past 5 months we’ve been reading ever so many marvelous picture books that have been checked out from our local library (pictured at the top of this post – and yes, we do have an attached coffee shop!).  We own quite a few picture books, of course, but not enough!  My daughter enjoys variety now, and I’m getting such a kick out of making my way through various kidlit lists that I’ve been holding on to for so long.  I will always be a book-buyer, but I do love the public library system because it gives us access to so many more books that we’ll ever be able to purchase.

The only downside of exploring the library with a toddler is, well, exploring the library with a toddler.  You all know this already, but it is not easy to browse through rows and rows of books with a 2-year-old in tow!  Thankfully, I’ve found one key trick that make our library visits more pleasant: online requesting.  My library, like all libraries I’m sure, lets you request books online.  The kind librarians pluck the titles off the shelves for you and place it on the hold rack until you pick it up.  It’s like magic!  When we go to the library, instead of dragging my energetic daughter around and asking her to be patient while Mommy finds all of her books, we happily retrieve our books at the front and then leisurely browse or play or whatnot.

Since I now request most of my daughter’s books online, I’ve also started using an Amazon wish list to keep track of books I want to request at the library.   Whenever I come across a book that I think she might like, I add it to my (hidden) Amazon list.  Then when it comes time to check out a new bunch of books, I just hop on the computer and bounce between my Amazon list and our library’s online catalog.  That’s not to say that we don’t have fun discovering new books just by browsing at the library, but I love how this method makes it so easy to read our way through booklists and recommendations from friends.

One last note: I’ve been using our state’s interlibrary loan program for the past few months and if you’ve never thought to use ILL for picture books, let me encourage you to give it a try!  I’ve (happily) found that many of the theological kidlit titles I’m interested in reviewing are available from other libraries in the state when they’re not at our local branch.

What about you?  How do you and your children make the best use of your library?

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11 thoughts on “Enter: The Library

  1. Hooray for the library! Your blog has inspired me to begin my own search for quality theological kid lit, starting at our library. As we’re wandering, I can snag promising books, even if they’re not the right age level, and take them home for a trial run. No treasures so far, but I’ll let you know when I find any.

    I was thrilled to discover our library’s board book section b/c *I* get tired of the books we own, even if my daughter doesn’t. (As I quickly commit our favorite (and less favorite) books to memory, I’m reminded of the importance of picking quality books!)

    Our library also has a toddler play area with wood puzzles, blocks, a train table–and especially over the summer there are enough kids there that it’s OK if she doesn’t always use her “butterfly voice.” So we usually grab a stack of board books and then play for a while. I browse the picture books as much as I can while keeping an eye on her.

  2. Unfortunately I still haven’t learned to use libraries well. I like to own–and consequently have to store–books. I hope to raise my kids with better habits. Books are precious. And, though I rarely act on it, I do believe that it’s unnecessary for every family to own copies of each of their favorites. How much wiser, more appreciative, and greener we would be if we could learn to share. Libraries provide a good public service and could be a terrific public center if we all used them better and more frequently. Sadly, I know I’m going to need to change my ways quickly lest my children refuse to ‘do as I say not as I do.’

    FYI: According to my local librarian the minimum age required for library membership is left to parental determination. My daughter was under a year when I first learned this, and I’ve been trying to think of a way to make her first library card vaguely ceremonial. I think that if I can succeed it will provide opportunities for many good things: responsibility, accountability, practical use of the Internet, planning ahead, anticipation and satisfaction, patience–and all of it book centered.

    • Emily, you’re so right: libraries are a great public center for sharing knowledge and wisdom. Used well (and children need to be taught this!), they are also a great resource for learning discernment. Not everything they pick up there is going to be good, edifying, or true.

      But in an age where we’re able to just consume the media that already reinforces our beliefs, libraries are one of the few remaining places where we can stumble across resources that haven’t been edited for ideological or profit-driven reasons.

      My daughter got her first library card this winter, when we moved out to San Francisco. She’s four, and understood the concept, and was *thrilled* to have her own card. She has started to plan a little bit about books she wants to check out, and I’ve had to hold back on my urge to immediately buy the books we love, because she so enjoys hunting them down on the library shelf, especially if it’s been awhile since we’ve read it. Consequently, there are a few books we tend to check out again and again.

      That said, I keep a “library favorites” list that we go to at birthdays and Christmas, so we do often wind up buying some of them.

      Also: I love your vision for teaching “responsibility, accountability, practical use of the Internet, planning ahead, anticipation and satisfaction, patience – and all of it book centered.” Friend, what am I going to do without at least twice-monthly book centered conversations with you?

  3. Haley, that’s a good reminder about using the amazon list! I sort of had an unorganized one for myself, but this afternoon separated them out so that I have a “Books to Buy” and two “Books to Check Out” lists, one for myself and one for the kiddos. So simple, and I keep amazon lists for everything else, so why it took me so long to do this, I have no idea!

    I love putting stuff on hold as well, I used to feel bad about it (like I was taking up the librarians time when I should just find stuff myself) but had too many times when either 1) I checked to make sure something was in, left for the library and it then it was checked out, or 2)something has been misfiled-this happens to me all. the. time. I rarely find what I am looking for because it is in the wrong place. Anyway, now I just put everything on hold so I can either grab it, or if we have time to look at least I can browse knowing that I already have what I came for.

    And, you’ll have to let me know how to do ILL, I haven’t spent tons of time, but it is not immediately apparent how to do it, but I’d love to! We like to buy books, also, but already have SOOOOO many, that it’s nice to peruse them first and buy favorites and ones that are harder to find instead of taking so many chances!

  4. I love the library! Ever since I was a kid, it felt magical to me: it’s this place, full of books, and they let you just take them home! And I’ve always been of the mass-selection school – take a bunch home, see which are duds, and occasionally serendipity will strike. Believe it or not, that’s how I ran across The Hobbit in middle school.

    And that’s actually been a good way to start teaching my daughter about discerning between books. Occasionally we’ve gotten a book that I just can’t read more than once. I don’t hesitate to tell her that it’s not very good, and to try and explain why. Sometimes she’s okay with it, and sometimes she says, “but I still like it!”, which I respect.

    For kids’ books and Aslan’s Library, though, I do make heavy use of the requesting and ILL systems – here in San Francisco, it’s incredibly easy to do both online. I can also create a list (the Minneapolis library site had the same feature), and request from it. I’m not great at keeping my Amazon lists organized – conditioner is in there alongside books to review, book club books, toys, and theology books I won’t get through until my kids are grown – so I like the simplicity of the library list.

    We’re at a sweet spot right now for library visits: the baby can sit in the stroller for awhile, then toddle around the board book cart and alphabet wall, while the big girl likes to sit at the book table and read. I can’t wait to get over to the SF Central library, where the kids’ floor is apparently akin to a good children’s museum!

  5. Haha! Me too! I am that person who has about fifteen books waiting on the hold shelf. If we are ever free-roaming in the library, I have to let the winds take us where they will and not try and actually do any browsing. It is cute to prep up the kids to ask the librarian for something. And I’m always surprised by what they request. Last time, my 4 year old wanted mysteries – ha! Our library is within walking distance, which is fabulous, except for figuring out a way to haul our loot home. We don’t have a coffee shop, though, so I’m jealous!

    Our libraries have great kid programming, too. Not just story-time, but multilingual story-time and great puppet shows and visiting musicians. Makes me feel good to “donate” when I have to pay my fines – ha!

  6. Pingback: Non-Theological Books for 2s « The Best Christian Kids Books: Aslan's Library

  7. Goodreads is so great for organizing your reading lists. You can create different “shelves” for the books, so it’s easy to find the picks that are for you, or for your older or younger kids. Plus you get to see what all your friends are reading or wanting to read and you can compare bookshelves. A friend of mine uses a site called Library Thing to keep track of what she owns; she has been homeschooling for almost 20 years, and often bought extra copies of books when she couldn’t remember what exactly she has on her shelves. Library Thing to the rescue! I started homeschooling just recently, and I may have to follow suit.

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