Pre-kids, I LOVED the library. I love reading, I love all sorts of books, movies and music. The
library felt like a world of endless possibilities and was my happy place on office lunch breaks. Everything from cook books to art cinema movies were checked out and lovingly pored over. It was like Amazon, but without the credit card. Pure bliss!
Then came kids. I assumed the library would be part of their childhood. After all, aren’t all good parents supposed to take their offspring to the library? It never occurred to me as I scanned the stacks whilst gently pushing the pram to and fro that I would dread library visits or that I would need any tips on surviving the library with kids. They would love the library, right?
Then came the point when my daughter was cruising. And she immediately started pulling anything she could off the bottom shelves. Many equally stressful scenarios are now etched into my brain but we live and learn and we did come to love the library again, even at the toddler stage.
So, here’s how to regain some elements of your pre-baby days happy place or to discover a great new venue to take the nippers on rainy days or to use as an out-of-buggy wiggle break on long shopping trips.
1. Try to go once on your own or before they are cruising
To use the library, you’ll need a library card, the sort of brief endeavour that was so easy and quick pre-kids. Try and get their cards when they’re babies or go alone. And, while you’re at it….
2. Sort out e-mail renewal notices
Almost every library will send you e-mails if requested to tell you which books are due back when. You can usually click straight through to your account to renew them online. This will save you a fortune in late fees. I try and put books by the door ready to take back when I renew the third time which gives me three weeks to return them.
3. Use the same pin number for your card and the kids’
Make life in a sleep-deprived world really simple. Use your Mum’s birthday or something simple to remember the pin. It’s not internet banking.
Now, you’re off to the library for a trip. It’s time to be realistic and tactical.
4. Scan for issues (i.e. escape points!) so you can relax
My feet still go cold when I remember the day I was feeding my newborn and realised my daughter was no longer in the children’s area.
Theoretically, there was only one exit which I was guarding. However, stupidly, there was a small gap between the other end of the shelves which wall the kid’s section and the far wall, unhelpfully hidden behind a stack. After a hideous 5 minutes she was found, returning of her own accord from an exciting excursion into the shopping mall outside but it was horrific.
Check the exits points and any other issues you know your child might discover. Then relax! (Incidentally, if you ever lose your child in a supermarket, immediately head for the exit. Security will have aerial cameras on the whole store there, plus you are preventing anyone from leaving the store with your child and alerting the people who guard the door.)
5. Pre-order books for you and kids on-line
The biggest frustration of a library visit is trying to look for lovely books to take home while your children ransack the place or try and do a runner. As for visiting the adult section with a squalling tot strapped in a buggy, forget it!
Handily, you can order books for yourself online (as a treat!) and a few good ones for your child.
Get recommendations from friends, maybe via social media or if you have play dates where you can see the books they’re enjoying in a safe environment. Blogs on children’s books, the book section of the paper or even social media can be good sources of inspiration. I love the Read Aloud Revival podcast and there is an active Facebook group attached to the podcast which gives me great ideas – there are many Brits in the group although the podcaster is American and a great overlap of books from both American and British literature.
Then simply pick your books up as you head for the door and check out some great picks.
6. Let your child choose a specific number of books to take home
Maybe as many books as their age or a limit of 3, but your child will want to have their own picks. Don’t worry if they pick up twaddle, Balance it out with the great choices you have made for them.
7. Avoid self checkout if you can
Many libraries these days rely on an automated system but it can be hard to use if your children are tired or unwilling to leave or simply leave you with too few hands! If your children are too young to help and it’s a struggle, feel free to ask for help checking out at the desk – I’ve usually got it!
8. Use the cafe
If there is a cafe, usually a luxury limited to city libraries, it will often be a great option for both snacks and meals. In my experience, library cafes are usually really well-priced, offer a great range of snack options for children, many of them healthy, and are used to small fry. Ours is scrupulously clean and has plenty of high chairs. Compared to the rest of town, it’s so cheap I often have to check they’ve added up the bill correctly! Plus, I’m helping the library thrive by supporting it.
Once you get home….
9. Have some rules about where books can go
The one risk of using libraries, apart from the fines, is that books can go missing. Maybe decide library books don’t go upstairs or that they don’t go in the car or out of the house except when they’re being returned. Some families have a special shelf or box where library books go. We don’t but I know from the e-mails I get which books I’m hunting for and usually find them quickly.
10. Take a philosophical approach
There will be late fines. There will be a lost book at some point. But you are funding a great institution, helping keep it open for other people in the community and saving yourself a packet of money on buying books in the mean time.
So, would you agree with these tips or is the library still too stressful to consider for you? I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Go enjoy your library!