When my children were younger, we often visited the West Roxbury and Roslindale branches of the Boston Public Library and the of the Brookline Public Library. We are fortunate to live within walking distance of all three (Putterham is the furthest, a mile and a half each way).
We’d go for weekly story hour, the occasional holiday craft project, and for special activities like sing-a-longs and movies. As a parent of young children, I found visiting the library a great way to meet other families in the area. By attending story hour week after week, you are bound to get to know some of the kids and parents, which can lead to play dates, friendships and beyond.
Like most parents, we had a collection of board books and old standbys at home, which we read over and over again. However, discovering new books at each library visit—and being able to bring them home with us—was a little bit like magic. Each of my kids was thrilled to carry home an armful of new books, things they picked out themselves, or sometimes with help from the children’s librarian, who’d help us find just the right book on princesses, monster trucks, Halloween costumes or whatever the kids were “into” at that time, or point out the newest Eric Carle book to us.
We often translated our library experiences into important lessons about caring for library property—no eating or drinking while reading the library books, no drawing on pages, no ripping pages, etc. We had to take good care of the library books—and not lose them—so we could continue to borrow them, which we so loved to do!
Even returning the books was a fun thing to do together. Putting the books in the special after hours slot or up on the return area was always fun and made us feel proud of all we’d read. And the due dates helped me teach my kids something about responsibility and doing things on time. We’d keep track of our library books, keeping them all on one shelf, and did our best to stick to due dates in order to avoid late fines.
As the kids get older, the libraries we frequent began to serve different purposes for us. We don’t go for story time or sing-a-longs anymore, but we do go to get help identifying books at appropriate reading levels, and for help with research projects for school. The cool thing? The librarians were with us every step of the way.
Through the years, they helped us find books fitting the exact reading stage and interest levels each child was at as they moved up grades. My kids loved going to the library as toddlers, and they still do today—at ages 9 and 12. Many of the librarians in the library near their school know them by name, even though they see hundreds of kids pass through every day. Librarians are amazing resources as well.
If your child has a research paper and is having trouble getting started, consider suggesting they meet with their school or local librarian to help them get started. The librarian may be able to point the way to groupings of books that are just what your child needs. They will help them learn how libraries are organized, how to find the call number of the books they need and then the actual book in the stacks.
The Dewey Decimal system is pretty cool, once you understand how to use it. Libraries are wonderful resources for patrons young and old. They are places to get information about almost every subject under the sun. Taxes, law, learning English, it is likely your library offers programs on all of these topics (and more) or can direct you to resources in your community. Books, newspapers, journals, maps, magazines, DVD's, CD's...pretty likely your library has all of these. And if by chance the library does not have something you need, they can usually find it for you and may even be able to arrange an inter-library loan for you, bringing the very book you need right to your local branch.
And librarians? Forget the stereotype of silver haired, bespectacled, “shushing” librarian. Librarians are cool people. They have a wealth of knowledge and can help you find exactly what you need, and usually pretty quickly, too. Be respectful and kind and they’ll treat you the same way. Did I mention libraries can help you save money, too? Rather than buying the best-seller your neighbor just told you about, borrow it from the library.
There may be a bit of a wait for the hottest titles, but a librarian can probably help you find an older title by the same author right on the shelf in the meantime. And don’t forget your library can help with art and culture, too. Many offer author readings and art shows, while others offer movie events, lectures, concerts and plays. Some even have passes to museums and attractions available for loan. Enjoy your library!