10+ Ways To Make the Most of Your Library

Interested in getting to your local library with your kids more often but not sure where to start? Consider these ideas that make trips to the library a pleasure for parents and kids alike. Read on for lots of great tips for making the most of your local library.

Do you use your local library? If not, this post and the resources included can hopefully help you change your mind!

The boys and I read quite a bit in our house, especially as of late as the boys have become increasingly interested in learning how to read on their own.

I read to them a bit during the day (while they’re eating breakfast and sometimes lunch, on days when I’m home with them). Reading together is an effective way to restore peace in our house when the boys get worked up. We also read a good amount before bed each night.

I buy some books, but we borrow a lot of books from the library. The boys love the library, and visiting gives them a great chance to pick out books they want without having to spend money on books of which I’m not necessarily a fan.

I also borrow a couple of books each month from the library myself. Because I’m not spending money on books, I don’t get stressed if I don’t love them or don’t end up reading them.

When I tell friends that we’re regulars at the library, many people seem unsure about how to use the library effectively. I don’t entirely blame them, because many local libraries don’t have in stock a full selection of good books. You can’t just show up and find whatever book you want like a brick-and-mortar store or Amazon. But within most library systems, you can often find almost any book you want.

To help everyone feel more comfortable becoming regulars at their local library, here are a few tips we use to make the most of our local library that have helped my boys come to love visiting the library. I’d love to hear any other ideas your family has to take advantage of all your local library has to offer. You also might want to check out our entire series Libraries Are More Than Books where we highlight lots of ways to use your local library beyond checking out books!

Get A Library Card

I know this sounds like an obvious first step. But getting the card can feel like kind of a hassle when it’s just another thing on your to-do list. Check your local library’s website before you go to make sure you bring the appropriate documents (to prove you’re a resident). Most libraries don’t require a ton of difficult documentation and make it pretty easy to get a card.

My boys also each have their own cards. They certainly don’t need them and could check out books on my card. But they enjoy having their own card to hand to the librarian and really feel like they are checking out their own books.

As they get older, I anticipate having their own card will also help establish a bit more ownership and responsibility with respect to taking good care of the books and returning them on time.

Place Books on Hold

Most local libraries won’t have exactly what you want if you drop in on any given day. In fact, they may not even carry the book you’re looking for in their collection. But it’s highly likely that another library in the network has just what you want. I very rarely have trouble finding a book I want and have even found books available in my library network that I couldn’t find on Amazon.

As I come across books I want to read, I request a Hold on the book and wait for it to be ready for pick up. I typically have one or two books in the queue for me as well as a handful for the boys. Putting books on hold also makes it easier to pop by the library on a busy day to grab new books when we might not have time for a long visit.

Let Your Children Choose Their Own Books

As long as we’re in the children’s section, there’s really nothing the boys will grab that is “bad” for them. Some books aren’t as well-written or as intellectual as others. But the boys love having the freedom to choose what they want to read and this really helps them develop a positive attitude toward reading and visiting the library.

This also gives the boys a very low-risk opportunity to develop independence and learn to make choices. They always want to bring home more books than I’m willing to carry (or they’re capable of carrying) so they have to pick and choose which options they’d like to take home after each visit.

Choose Some Books For Your Children

The library is loaded with fantastic books but also a whole lot of books that aren’t my favorite to read to the boys. My boys tend to pick a few books I love and a handful of books I’m not that interested in reading.

By choosing about half of the books we bring home myself, we end up with a nice collection of higher quality books and titles I look forward to reading to the boys as well as a few options they had the freedom to choose themselves.

Use the Stickers on the Book Bindings to Find Specific Topics

At our library, many of the books have topical stickers on the bindings to show books about sports, different seasons, holidays, and more. Don’t forget to use these, if they are available. The librarians may also have set aside seasonal books relevant to the particular month or time of year.

Scan Shelves For Books With Duplicates

If you’re not sure which books to grab, look for books with duplicate copies on the shelves. It’s pretty easy to scan for them. That library ordered duplicate copies usually means it’s a book that is popular or considered a great book by the librarian.

Grab a Book or Two For Yourself

One thing I love about library books is the lack of pressure to read or complete them. Unlike purchasing a book, where I sometimes feel obligated to finish reading it because I paid for it, I have no qualms about dropping a book I don’t like and returning it to the library unread. It cost me nothing (especially if I put it on hold and picked it up when I was there with the boys anyway).

I also think it’s good for the boys to see me reading. Just because I read won’t help my boys fall in love with reading as a pastime. But seeing that I prioritize reading and make time for it certainly reinforces that reading is important and can be enjoyable.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask The Librarian For Help

That’s what they are there for! They know what books are popular, and they know what’s on the shelves. They love books and have been trained to help people find good books.

Bring a Bag

Especially when children are younger, even four or five picture books per child starts to get heavy and awkward to carry. Bring your own reusable bag, and you’ll be MUCH happier walking out to the car with your load of good reading.

Let the Kids Check Out Their Own Books

Our boys have their own library cards. They love strolling up to the counter with their pile of books and using their own card to get their own books. It gives them a sense of ownership and maturity feeling like this is all their own transaction.

Attend and Participate in Activities at the Library

Just about all libraries have read-aloud time. We have never attended this because it hasn’t really worked with our schedules, but many families really love it. Libraries also host all sorts of programs and community-building events. Our library has Lego and STEM programs, book clubs, informational speakers, movie nights and so much more.

Our library also has puzzles, blocks, and some other simple games for the kids to play. During our most recent visit, J spent about half of our visit doing puzzles while I searched for some great books the boys could start to read on their own.

Libraries can be such great resources for learning and community development. If you haven’t checked out yours, be sure to stop by and find out what you’re missing! Got any other great tips? Please share them in the comments. And don’t miss the full Libraries Are More Than Books series.

If you’re interested in a few tips we use to make time for reading, check out these posts:

10 Ways to Find 10 Minutes to Read with Your Kids

Reframing Reading: From Inconvenience to Investment

Audiobooks for Kids: Cultural Stories for Kids from Around The World

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