Happy Library Lovers’ Month! When I was a little kid, my local library was a sacred space. I used to accompany my mom on weekday afternoons, always looking forward to entering the cool, quiet building with that distinctive aroma: the glorious scent of tightly-bound pages. Mom would head over to the section for literature too advanced for my primary reading level (i.e., the boring section), and I would seek out my favorite quiet spot in the more interesting part of the library. For a few hours, I could lounge on comfy couches that were just the right size, rest beneath colorful banners that displayed friendly-looking animals (who could read, of course), and pour over free books with pictures. In between readings, I remember dreaming up entire libraries just for kids. So in honor of Library Lovers’ Month, I’m directing you to five public libraries with incredible children’s sections that will make even parents want to pull up some kid-sized chairs and become regular patrons. Got your own favorite library that you think should be on this list? Do tell us in the comments section!
By A. Noelle
1. Cerritos Millennium Library | Cerritos, CA
This is an “interactive library”—or a wonderfully imaginative playground that is every young bibliophile’s dream. An archway of over-sized books beckons you to enter the Children’s Library, which boasts a floor-to-ceiling saltwater aquarium with sharks, a lighthouse with an inner reading area, an enormous tree with sprawling branches, a giant model space shuttle known as “The Spirit of Cerritos,” a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil replica named Stan, a Little Theater for kids’ programs, an Art Studio, study carrels and computers (for ages 12 and younger only), and rainforest and night sky themes! Right next to the Multimedia Stacks there is even a Teen Studio, which houses a collection of YA fiction and graphic novels for your older readers. There are many places for visitors to sit and read, but be aware that the library may get crowded in the afternoons. If you’re thinking about delaying your visit for the summer, check out the children’s Summer Reading Program designed to motivate little (reluctant) readers.
Before You Visit
Library cards are only free to Cerritos residents (and proof of residency is required). Non-residents must pay a $100/year fee to become cardholders. (Yes, it’s a steep price to pay for awesome.) Remember to stay with your kids. According to the library’s Notice to Parents, children who are left unattended and cause a disturbance may be asked to leave.
2. Brentwood Public Library | Brentwood, TN
This library is BIG and has a forest-themed Children’s Library with large, open windows and plenty of space for kids to settle down and read their favorites. There is a media center well-stocked with family-friendly DVDs and a Periodicals Room, where you can read magazines near a large stone fireplace. The library has a nice ambiance with a helpful and pleasant staff, and parking should never be an issue. Every first and third Monday of the month, READing Paws dog Lily makes a special appearance in the Story Time Room. A silly white boxer with a large brown patch over her left eye, Lily loves to sit with children and listen to them while they read stories to her. This is a wonderful opportunity to let your kids practice reading aloud. You can register to meet Lily in person or by calling the Children’s Library at 615-371-0090 ext. 8380.
Before You Visit
There’s an app for Brentwood! You can use this convenient tool to easily view your account and see when your books are due, request renewals, etc. Kids can get their own library cards, starting at the age of 5. If you have yet to acquire a Brentwood Library card, be sure to ask the staff about the library’s honor system paperback books that are available to everyone who visits! (Bonus: This library is home to a chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance called the Chamber of Knowledge. Their current campaign focuses on environmental activism, and muggles ages 6-106 are encouraged to enlist!)
3. Scottsdale Civic Center Library | Scottsdale, AZ
Located in downtown Scottsdale, Arizona, the Civic Center branch of the Scottsdale Public Library is beautifully situated by a park with plenty of benches, trees, and a lovely fountain. Inside, the children’s section sports an enormous castle facade, child-friendly computers, and a fun reading and play area. Young adults can enjoy a large glass-enclosed reading room to themselves, complete with plenty of comfy seating. If your kids find themselves in need of refreshments during your stay, the library has a nice little cafe with friendly staff members. A side book sale section offers an array of used books and magazines, where you might find some interesting vintage collections or donate some of your old books.
Before You Visit
The library is very family-oriented and can get fairly loud and busy as a result, especially near the children’s area. On the plus side, the Civic Center offers free WiFi throughout the premises, including the outdoor seating areas!
This century-old architectural gem was originally the First National Bank! Since its transformation into the grand Central Library known today, many of its features were carried over from the building’s days as a financial establishment. One particularly impressive room is the Stanley H. Durwood Film Vault at basement level, which houses a small theater for private movie screenings (at $65 per movie). The children’s section welcomes visitors with a beautiful entry display of enlarged books that showcase quotes about libraries from popular children’s books. If your kids’ eyes don’t immediately light up at the mention of books, this is a great place to slowly cultivate an interest in reading. The children’s section here not only hosts an extensive selection of age-appropriate books but also offers many activities like puppet shows, iPad read-aloud games, board games, and more.
Before You Visit
Parking is relatively easy. Just look for the giant classic book spines collectively known as the “Community Bookshelf,” decorating the outside of the parking garage (see photo). Visitors get up to an hour of free validated parking. Do not forget to bring your ticket with you! Validation machines are located next to the check-out desks in the library. Keep in mind that this library is not as “social” as some others, so keep your cell phones on silent if you don’t want a friendly reprimand from the security guards!
5. Evanston Public Library | Evanston, IL
Right in the heart of downtown Evanston, Illinois, this gorgeous library is easily accessible to residents. With a major focus on community engagement, Evanston Public Library offers a host of classes, book clubs, discussion circles, and big seasonal book sales. A huge inventory and hoopla allows cardholders to check out eBooks and audiobooks for free on any smartphone with no late fees—just be aware that some books may have long wait lists. (“Most Wanted” books are non-renewable and are only available for up to a week, which helps keep them in circulation but isn’t too convenient for readers who like to take more time.) The children’s area has a brightly-colored garden design theme and a space for little toddlers to play. The bathroom keys hang from giant Legos, and there is a nice selection of picture books to check out! The third floor holds the teenage “loft,” sectioned off for all the YA books and audiobooks, computers, and study rooms.
Before You Visit
If you’re planning on bringing a laptop or tablet, check the third floor for open outlets. Also, be sure to watch for nesting Peregrine falcons on the outside of the building! (Bonus: On Saturday, February 6 at 3 PM, the entire family is invited to celebrate Chinese New Year in English and Mandarin at the Main Library’s Community Meeting Room!)
Happy Library Lovers’ Month!