How do I plan a library visit?

One reader (Hi Susan!) asked me how I plan my library visits. The answer has two parts: desperation and organization.

I am an extrovert. I recharge my batteries by being around people and talking to them. I also love the solitary passion of reading and fulfilling my extrovert side with characters and their conversations. Therefore, I love the children’s section of the library.

For the most part, the librarians in the children’s section don’t tell you to be quiet. Kids are passionate and have big feelings that sometimes come out at full volume. Just observe my kids when we find a Mo Willem’s book we haven’t read yet. It is loud.

While I have lots of friends with kids, we don’t all live near each other. If I need to be around other moms/talk to an adult, the library is there for us. I can chat with another mom while our kids play with blocks, trains or puzzles, or sit quietly and page through a book by themselves.

Sometimes we just need to get out of the house because of the weather or everyone is finally healthy or a full moon. The library is free. It has people. We can bring sippy cups. We can be noisy and play and talk and borrow an armload of books, and then crash when we get home. I’m not joking when I say that my 4-year-old likes to spread out all the books in the living room and “float” in her pond of words. That’s how our library visits fulfill the desperation side.

This is our library bag. It was a gift from my parents when they went to England. I love it.

These library visits are also organized as much as possible. You know, because 2-year-olds. The following guidelines have been honed over years of nearly-weekly library visits:

  • We only fill up one bag (pictured). Each kid can only take out 2 DVDs maximum. Any more than this, and I can’t keep track. Fines add up, friends.
  • We have a spot at home in order to keep the library books separate from the ones we own. I also keep their lists of the “1000 books to read before kindergarten” in a folder near the command center/calendar in our kitchen.
  • The kids know that while I’m willing to let them wander from me a bit, but if they go too far (i.e. they try to play hide and seek or leave the children’s area) we go home immediately. They know what behavior is expected, and 95% of the time they do great.
  • Before we go, we have a snack or meal (no hangry toddlers or mama) and think about what we’ll ask the librarian or what theme/letter we’ll pick. Sometimes I look up a few books ahead of time. In the past, I picked books based on the weekly letter I was teaching, and now we go by what they’re doing in preschool.
  • When we’re there, it’s OK if we get distracted by other books. As you’ve seen by our hauls, we do some by theme and some by whim. It’s a balance.
  • If they’re totally distracted by the toys, I’ll just pick a bunch that fit the theme and maybe a holiday or a new author. Or sometimes I pick up books about potty training or trying new foods…

This is a very long answer for the question of “how do you…?” but I’d rather give you a glimpse into our library visits than just admitting we wing it carefully.

Have any strategies for your library visits? Please let me know in the comments!

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