This post could well be titled ‘7 Ways to use Libraries’ or ‘7 Ways to Entertain your Kids for free!’
We all know that libraries are amazing and useful. They’re also free (like in the United States) or nominal (India). But do we actually use them to the fullest? Sadly no.
I am writing this post because with so much digitization, libraries are getting stereotyped. They’re often thought of as ancient institutions that little kids are dragged to, students grudgingly visit and seniors lounge in. When the fact is far from it. Libraries are cool and hip and happening. Read on to find out 7 things to do at libraries a.k.a get your money’s worth! [It’s never free- if nothing, they run on your taxes!]
This one is easy and the first one that comes to mind. But do you know that libraries also have ‘Hold‘ and ‘InterLibrary‘ facilities? When you start thinking of a library as a network of institutions, the possibilities of resources and access really open up. Just ask your librarian. From suggestions to booklists, there is a lot of information waiting to be collected. You can also suggest purchases to your library staff and depending on the budget and feasibility, you can get your hands on the materials you need.
2 Kid friendly spaces
This point should have been anticipated on this ‘almost-Mommy’ blog. Most people conjure up images of a shushing bespectacled librarian when they think of libraries. Hardly the sort of place that is inviting for children. Well, time for a reality check! Most libraries are kid-friendly. Unless, it is a college library, you will have at least one designated area that encourages children to be as they should be: free to imagine and play.
3 Imagination Incubation Centers
Whether you are an adult or a mere tyke, just let your imagination soar. Step into new worlds whether it is a by checking out a new genre, or through helpful suggestion by the staff, or perusing the newest arrivals or peeking at your fellow member’s materials (of course it’s okay to do that. Just do it nicely!) You can even strike up a conversation (yes, in real life) and discuss materials and views and who knows what might rise to life?
If your library carries toys or board games or gaming DVDs, hurray! That’s more savings! And if you do have those toys, show your kid how popular they are. And proceed with the old ‘I-have-it‘ possession-pride trick! Every kid feels special that they have their ‘own, personal, just-for-me’ set. (even adults fall for this one!) Another reason to look at the toys section is that we parents/ care givers can actually get inspired with new ideas to use our existing toys. I totally got inspired to use T’s infinite set of soft toys to do puppet shows (a fabulous tantrum-soother) and teach sizing from our librarian.
5 Sense of Accomplishment
Children thrive on responsibility and accomplishment. Libraries are perfect for this. Kids can be good little helpers by carrying books and assisting in checking them out. Unlike at a grocery store where accidents cause damage. They can practice reading aisel and book titles and signs (even if it “restrooms”. That is a perfectly legit word. Take a deep breath and just say Good Job!) They can practice making choices (Disney or Marvel). All librarians coo in appreciation at children returning books. So, they get encouraged to read more. If they finish an event or program, even better. It’s a non-competitive way for kids to get a sense of accomplishment. Or if it’s a particularly trying day with the offspring(/s)- a good place to spend time until bedtime.
Pro Tip 1:
Email/ message Grandparents the list of books your child read. Nothing beats the fuss a proud grandma and grandpa can make. Click an image of the checked-out list or set with your angel to save time.
Pro Tip 2:
Assign a sticker for each book read/ read aloud. Or cut out a star/circle and write the book’s name and display it. As your child reads more, add a star or circle to make a the constellation or caterpillar grow. This idea is from my child’s Pre-K class and always a fun craft to do.
Libraries host several events throughout the year from Lapsit times to Story times to Read-a-thons. Pick one you and your family might enjoy and have fun. Or simply get a bunch of friends together and start your own book club at the library. Who says kids can’t have a book club? Or start one for grown-ups and you can have fun too!
7 Electronic Media
Libraries also have a large store of digital equipment depending on the size of its audience and budget. These include DVDs, gaming CDs, devices (may or may not be permitted to be borrowed home), ebooks, audiobooks, and so on. You can also access their free wi-fi (cheaper and healthier than coffee/fries at coffeehouses/food chains). Some libraries like ours, have conference rooms you can hire for meetings and studios for recording. (Yes, for free).
If your library carries Ebooks, check if they also have digital media for kids. These are perfect to reduce the strain of long winters/ wait times in long queues and keep kids meaningfully engaged. I myself carry Caillou ebooks on my Library app and prefer Disney/PBS DVDs to YouTube.
BONUS: Freebies & Discounts (as applicable)
Libraries have tie-ups with a lots of institutions making your membership worth more even outside. Check if you can get limited access to Lynda.com, bookstores and more using your registration. Also, children’s programs and discounted hours at public attractions are usually advertised on library bulletins. So, enquire with the staff regularly or get on their email list.
Which of these 7 reasons to visit libraries do you like the most? Any more that I missed? Share your own reasons and pro-tips in the comments below.