On why I stopped taking my children to the library

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and blogger at Steady Mom

Libraries have always been magical places in my mind. While I didn’t grow up in a home where I was read to regularly, my mom took me to the library every other Monday. Decades later, I still look back on those Mondays as some of my most special memories. Those trips helped to shape me into the book lover I remain today.

Because of these positive memories, I always assumed that regular library trips would be a part of our family’s homeschooling life, too.

When my three kids were younger (ages 4, 3, and 2), our early ventures into libraries resembled herding cattle. There was that one disastrous attempt at storytime (How did all those other parents get their toddlers to sit on the cloth squares?!), but eventually we settled into a routine that worked for all of us.

I found a local library that catered to young kids–with train tables, puzzles, and toys–as well as picture books. The kids could play, bring a book over, read it with me, and toddle away again. And though I had sworn off storytime and structured events, this rhythm saw us happily through a few years. We grew to love our librarians and I like to think they felt the same way about us.

Then we moved. And our library routine changed overnight.

Soon after the dust settled from our unpacked boxes, I loaded everyone up in the van and drove to explore our new local library. I had never before realized how much the physical layout of the previous library ensured our success there.

This library had books for younger children located close to chapter books for older children. Consequently, as I tried to help one child choose a book, another would run up to me with an inappropriate title they had found on a nearby shelf. My youngest seemed to make a game of locating the scariest book covers, and then got upset when I told him we wouldn’t be able to check those out.

In short, our excursion was kind of stressful for this mama. We arrived home with the most random assortment of books on the planet, half-heartedly thrown in my bag just so we could check out without making a scene. I’m not a quitter, though, so we tried a few times. Each attempt ended the same way. Eventually I stumbled upon a solution:

I stopped taking my children to the library.

Before you string me up for homeschooling heresy, let me explain how we use the library now.

1. I go alone.

Photo by Jamiesrabbits

Every other week I venture out in the evenings after dinner, and swing by the library. I keep an ongoing list during that period of any topic that has engaged the kids’ attention or interest. With my list in hand, I look up keywords on the library’s computer and gather specific books, then do a lot of browsing. I look for inspiration, for twaddle-free titles, for high quality.

When I come home again, I’m a hero. Trishna, Jonathan, and Elijah greet the new books like it’s Christmas. There’s no sadness about what was left behind at the library–the titles I didn’t bring home. Or, say, the lack of scary book covers.

There’s only joy about what’s there.

2. We attend special programs.

While our library trips have not worked out as I initially imagined, one of the strengths of our new library are its special programs. I’ve taken the kids to art classes, puppet shows, and plays.

My children are now the perfect age for this–at 9, 8, and 7 (no more cloth squares to sit on!). Many of the library’s programs are for the 6-9 age range.

3. The next phase in my library plan: One-on-one research.

I want my children to figure out how to use a library, to get comfortable with Dewey decimal and all that. The next phase in my library plan involves taking the kids one-on-one to find books on a particular subject or interest.

I find the library much easier to use when going for a specific purpose than a browsing free-for-all. (There’s just too much that isn’t suitable–twaddle on the shelves right next to amazing classics, you know?)

I look forward to watching my kids develop a lifelong love for and relationship with the library, but our experience has taken a slightly different turn. For now I’ll keep up the job I perform in so many areas: food, books, media, music, entertainment, life–letting what is great into our home while filtering the negative out.

More thoughts about libraries:

Has your use of the library evolved over time? How do you use the library in your homeschool?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. I thought I was a homeschool-heretic as well! I have 3 kids – (1.5, 4 and 7) and it was a nightmare, trying to make it through the library with all 3! I do the same thing – nights alone, one on one time with each child, and the occasional special program. It has completely streamlined how we use the library and I’m SO glad to know I’m not the only one!
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  2. I love you right now. I just had a conversation with my dear friend about this very topic this week. We both hate going to the library with our children. I have three (ages 3, 2, 6 months) and she has four (ages 5, 3, 2, 6 months). We were both feeling extremely guilty about never taking our kids to the library but going is like herding cats in a room full of cat nip so the event is stressful. I love the ideas going with a purpose and trying to make it with one child at a time (though it will have to be planned ahead with the husband).

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post.

  3. My local library is seriously challenging as well, with all the awful stuff mixed in with (very very little) good. I feel better hearing that I’m not the only one who keeps my kids away from the library, especially since the oldest learned to read – it was one thing for her to see the pictures and another for her to be exposed to inappropriate themes reading the back covers and titles. No witchcraft for my 5-year-old thank-you-very-much!

    I do look forward to one-on-one trips – we may go into the city library for those since it is less occult-focused.
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  4. Beth Gillespie says:

    Oh my goodness! We are afterschoolong right now, and while I felt that going to the library was an obvious extra, I have been struggling for so long with the library! My children are 1, 3 and 5 and I just didn’t know why I found it so hard or why it wasn’t the magical experience that I thought it should be – but all of a sudden I realise that if I don’t take them all to the grocery store, clothes shopping or to church on my own – why would this be so much easier!
    I think you may have just made my life easier!

    • Ha, love that comparison, Beth! We don’t hear of many magical trips to the grocery store with three in tow, do we?!

    • Beth, thank you so much for giving a name to what I’ve been trying to achieve with our children – “afterschooling”! I’m looking forward to learning more about what that looks like for different families! :)

  5. This post makes me sad yet I totally understand. First, I’m a former children’s librarian and it always gets my goat when libraries aren’t set up for use for all ages and don’t have quality materials. Libraries should work for the community not against them! Having said that, I am incredibly fortunate to have an awesome library system available to me.

    As a parent of a toddler, I totally get the overwhelming feeling that can come with lots of things to touch and many kids running around. So to instill the love of the library and still keep my sanity I do the following:
    1. We go when it’s quiet. I am there on Monday mornings at opening time. We stay for about an hour. This means we miss the majority of moms with young kids, have a quiet library, and I’m able to work with my daughter on teaching her where her sections of the library are.
    2. On Thursdays during nap, I go online and put on hold the books I want us to bring home. On Monday, they are sitting on a shelf, with my name, ready to go in our library bag.
    3. We participate in story time. My daughter has met friends through this activity and I’ve met moms with kindred spirits! I do envision this getting hard when we add a second child to our family. Until then, I appreciate the structure of this activity and the tools it’s given me in introducing concepts at the toddler level.

    Jaime, I think your point about teaching your kids to learn how to use the library rocks! When I taught Library and Information Technologies in the public school, I saw so many students eat up small group research time in the library. It’s a fantastic way to teach information literacy, organization of information, and research basics all while having fun! Kudos to you!
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    • Thanks for your comment, Kristin! I love librarians and fully know how passionate they are and how much they love their work. I think it must be hard to take into account so many age groups, developing technologies, and more when setting up a library. Glad you’ve found a way to make it work for you in this season!

  6. Oh my gosh, I am not alone!!!! I can’t tell you how much of relief it was for me to read this article. I used to take my oldest kids to the library all the time, from when they were aged 2,3, and 4 (yes, just like you, I had three in the same age range). Even when kiddo #4 was born, we did okay. Unfortunately, he has major language issues, so once my oldest three were grown, we kind of stopped going to the library. He got no pleasure from books, couldn’t follow story times, etc. Then 10 years later #5 was born and I so looked forward to doing story times again. Well, she is just turning 4 in a couple of weeks, so there is still hope, but it is a nightmare to take her. It is interesting that you mention layout, because they rebuilt our library and after thinking about it, i remembered that she was okay in the old library, when she was 1. The new library also has the different types of books mixed together – not just mixed ages, but mixed languages. I can’t tell you how many times she has brought me a book in Chinese! She seems to be fixated on them! Also, they have computers smack dab in front of the kids’ section. So she always wants to use them, though she doesn’t know how to use a mouse or navigate the internet (she’s awesome on an iPhone though). So she’ll give up and decide to play “librarian”, which entails getting books and “checking them out” on the computer. The problem is that a kid always wants to get on her computer, while she is getting books to “check out”. Not to mention, I don’t bring her to the library to watch her play on the computer. Not to mention, I don’t know if it is budget cuts or if more people use libraries during tough times, but they never seem to have what we want or it has a forever hold, if they do. My husband and I used to have date/movie nights and we always had a hold of a good movie come up every week, now when we try to get a DVD, it might take 18 months to get it (I kid you not!). Thank goodness for Netflix. Anyway, I have just taken to buying my daughter’s books. Yes, it is expensive. I try to buy used, but haven’t found a good used book store really. They might have tons of used books, but I am particular about what books she gets. I had crap books that just take up shelf space (like the ones tha are about cartoon characters). Anyhoo, thanks for letting me rant! And thanks for making me feel less like a homeschooling freak!

    • That is supposed to read “hate crap books” not “had crap books”, which sounds like a venereal disease or something!

    • Oh yes, the computer access and DVDs could be another post entirely! I understand why libraries have them (& need them), but I bring my kids to fall in love with books, not computers or videos.

      • See that’s funny…the library is the only place my kids are allowed to play video games! My son, 7, has outgrown his desire to play them. He rushes to his favorite section of graphic novels and digs in. My daughter , 4, will still play for about 20 minutes or so and then it’s out of her system. They are both in love with books, even still. I understand your being cautious when it comes to video games, I am the same way. That may make another great post, incidentally!!

    • For random used books, I dearly love library book sales (you can search for them online). But for more targeted used-book-buying, my favorite is Better World Books online; a lot of books are $4, plus they usually have Bargain Bin sales where you can get 4 for $12 on books that are on sale (which, if you’ve got a list of 10 books you’re looking for, odds are good that at least 4 are in the Bargain Bin in my experience, esp. if they’re pretty standard/normal books, like all the classics or award winners). Free (albeit not-incredibly-fast) shipping, only one site you have to go to, a non-profit benefiting literacy programs around the world, and I’m pretty happy. :-)

      • Thank you for mentioning the Better World Books website. I hadn’t heard of them before and I’ll be looking there for books for my 2 year old.

      • Thanks for the reference! I’ll check out Better World Books. I’ve used Amazon Market Place and Ebay, but usually just for out-of-print books. Our library sales are a nightmare! They form a line and let a certain number of people in at a time. You can end up standing there all day!

    • bookfinder.com is a great place to find books. Their site lets you search the inventories of thousands of booksellers- used, new, etc.

  7. Oh, amen and amen! It used to be easier when my first two were little and tended to be compliant (i.e. would sit quietly for story time). Now I have 14, 12, and 9 year-olds, as well as very active 3 and 4 year-olds. We have a lovely new library, which I love, but the littles are too busy to sit for story time (I feel we are disruptive to the other patrons). I am distracted by keeping the littles corralled, and the older kids tend to check out what I can only call “brain candy.” I’ve been wanting to take a break from our regular library visits — thanks for the encouragement that, for now, I’m on the right track!

  8. I have to admit, I don’t ever take my children to the library. Ever. Ever ever. I don’t go alone either! It’s something I never admit normally! I never thought of going alone, so I will consider that. My children are all boys, aged 7, 6, 4, 3, 20 months, and 3 months. I took the older two when they were 2 and 1, and we went once or twice when I was pregnant with my 4th baby, but it was such a major nightmare that I tried to blot the existance of such a place from my memory pathways, lol! I buy books second hand regularly, to meet our needs, and we have a LOT of books, so I haven’t felt the need really. I like having books to keep, and the boys used to always be sad to have to return things. I would get so anxious about them damaging library books (which happened once or twice), and returning them on time challenged my very poor organization skills, so I am really happy to be library-free to be honest. But I never thought about going alone – that is a good idea!
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  9. Wow! I was trained as a librarian and worked in libraries before becoming a stay-at-home mom, and I cannot believe they organize their books this way. Putting children and young adult literature together is definitely not a suggested practice. I am glad you have found a way to use the library that works for your family, but please don’t be afraid to raise your concerns to the librarian or library board of directors if circumstances change in the future! It may or may not make a difference, but you never know. In any case, thank you for sharing this post!

    • On the other hand, I would appreciate the young adult section to be *somewhat* near the children’s section. Ours are at opposite ends of our looooong library building, and I would like to be able to help my 13-year-old make some choices without either leaving my younger ones unattended or dragging them to that section with us…
      Melanie, you make a good point – I should voice my concerns with our librarian. Maybe there are other families who have the same issue!

  10. We moved around a lot when I was a child and teen, but each time we moved one of our first things my mother did was to find the local library and get us all library card. I grew up loving to read and loving the library.

    I have continued the tradition of moving AND of finding the local library ASAP, even when I was a single adult. Now I’m a mom of 2 young kids (5 & 2) and we go about once a week. Luckily, our library caters to young children and have a whole sunny room set aside with creative toys and books. My kids have so much fun playing they don’t usually think to find books, which I use to my advantage. I also am very particular about the books they bring home, so I take the time they’re distracted to go and select some books they might like and that I’d be willing to read! I am definitely a sucker for good artwork. I also flat-out say no if my kids come up to me with an inappropriate book or one I’m not willing to read. I do try to stay open minded about my 5-year-old son’s interests, but I do draw a line!

    When it comes to homeschooling, I like to reserve or find books at the library at home online. This drastically cuts down the time I’m searching at the library itself and my children don’t have patience for that. I also keep a goodreads list of books I find that are out of my son’s age or topic range that I find exceptional and that I don’t want to forget about! I use the goodreads list to remark on excellent books I’ve found and read so I can share them with others and so I can remember them for later if I happen to find them at a thrift store.
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  11. I totally resonate with this post. I do take my 4 smalls to the library, but I usually hate it every time. How am I supposed to help the 8yo and 6yo find GOOD books and love the library when I’m so busy keeping the 2yo and 1yo from tearing the place apart or screaming. I want the library to be this awesome magical place, but I’m a “get in and get out” kinda momma right now.
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  12. I was JUST about to get back into the whole library thing after our recent move, and this morning I was thinking about how in the world I was going to find the time to collect all the books on our list without my youngest going nuts from boredom.

    The subjects there are laid out fine…but they’re on different floors. So when you need books from the poetry, fiction, science, and kids’ section, that’s going to be a long trip! Going alone like you suggest? I can do that! :)
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  13. Shelley R. says:

    We use the library all the time. My kids are 8, 7, and 5. But rarely do I need to haul them into the information overloaded shelves (and handful of badly written picture books bins). How is this possible?

    When we hit that insane stage that so many have mentioned, someone suggested I use the local library’s “hold” system. I have an account online that can search the entire local database and from that “reserve” my books. Once they are selected by a librarian (allowing me to avoid undesirable covers) and placed aside – I have five business days to pick them up. The hold shelves are right next to the check out area, so that’s as far as my kids usually go. There is no limit to the amount I place on hold (at least that I know of, or we haven’t hit the ceiling yet and we check out 40-50 books a time). Also, if our local library doesn’t have a book at all, I can search state wide and use and inter-library loan system. It’s amazing.

    I guess, I’ve taken this hold system for granted for it redeemed the library experience with my littles when we first started using it. I wonder if other libraries in other states have this as well–something to check into!

    • nopinkhere says:

      I am SO jealous! We have a limit of 5 holds per account! So that means 15 max. AND I’m the volunteer librarian for my son’s small part-time private school. We go weekly at a day and time that is mostly empty. I have two kids only though, 6 and 3. About every other month, I sneak some time there by myself, but that’s to look for books for ME! (Note to self: make husband sign up for library card!)

  14. Jamie , you made my day! I thought NOBODY ib the world shares my “library problems”. My kids are 1,5 4 and 6 years old and after (and while) every trip to the library I’m so stressed and exhausted I could fall asleep on the floor right away. First I tried to go with my parents to support me, but this plan failed, because all of us adults were running all the time and nobody got the time to sit down for only a minute. Now I go alone (which I love) or with the older kids and it’s perfect for us. I also send my husband to take the overdue books back, when we don’t need new reading stuff (because the library is on his way to work)

  15. I wondered if I was scarring my children from our lack of visits. Friends would talk with such excitement about attending children’s programs, but the timing and execution of such adventures was anything but exciting. I switched to going alone, or better yet, reserving titles and sending my husband to pick them up (it’s closer for him). At this stage it works out well for everyone.

  16. I put titles I want to read on hold so that the librarian does the legwork of finding and gathering them for me. I either make a solo stop to pick it up or we go together and I grab those books first and then they can explore, play and browse for a little. It usually ends in a fit from my 1 year old but we are making progress.

    Story time never really worked in the past for us but I want to try again soon.
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  17. We use our reciprocal borrowing privileges at a public library 30 minutes from where we live. We had a disagreement with our local library and then realized we could check out books at another library. It is wonderful to take a “field trip” every few weeks and get new books. Maybe your state library system is set up the same way. My son is in 5th grade so doing library research reports are part of the curriculum. It is great to have a place to take him.

  18. This is us too. I usually put books on hold ahead of time, then just zip in and zip out with the books. It was too chaotic to do otherwise :) I also do the one on one time. It’s so nice to be able to focus on one child’s needs. Great post!

  19. I love this post, Jamie! You are so absolutely right about this. My kids are older now, and there is a dedicated kids section, so it is not a problem like you are describing, but I do find that I bring home better quality books and/or books that relate well to what we are studying if I pick them out than if I rely on my 8 and 11-year old’s decisions.
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  20. I, too, dread library visits. My children, ages 5, 8, 11, & 15, love going… Ugh! Our only library is horribly designed and has my older children’s material on a different floor with the adult books. That would be fine except that’s where the pedophiles also hang out (public computers are there as well).

    Nope. Not exaggerating one bit. A friend works for the US Marshall’s Service and that’s the first place they look for those guys. Ack! What to do? I’m not hauling my kiddos up there, nor am I leaving my kids unattended downstairs.

    Our library is dirty and disorganized AND the only game in town. We are the only library. We’re the largest city in our state and the surrounding three states. Unbelievable.

    I buy lots of books for school- new & used, in an effort to avoid library visits. I’ve heard I can use the public school libraries, but I cannot imagine the hoops I’d have to jump through there…

  21. Jamie, I don’t have the time this morning to read all the other comments, but the one thing I noted was that it appears you haven’t spoken to a librarian about all this, in a friendly, relationship-building way.

    How can I say this? I *am* a children’s librarian, and I homeschool my 8 year old daughter.

    Folks, most public libraries are understaffed, underfunded and overwhelmed. If you want change, BE change. First, homeschoolers can volunteer in their libraries. I know, we have so little free time. But service is good.

    Next, rather than be argumentative, see how you can help. Introduce yourself to your librarian, even if it requires making an appointment. ASK for their help in locating books. Sometimes the way things are shelved are from systems that were in place decades ago, and they can’t change it because they don’t have help to change it.

    I think we also do a great disservice to our kids if we don’t teach them to make right choices in public places and institutions. We pulled our kids from schools to give them what we think is a better education, but that doesn’t mean we should keep them from all public institutions. A library might challenge what you want your kids to see, but better they bring it to you and ask (when they’re 10) then be kept from it for ten years, only to run TOWARD it once out of your care.

    Libraries are your friends. I guess if folks want to have to purchase all their materials, that’s their business. But I refuse to abandon libraries the way I’ve had to abandon public schools, when with a little bit of effort, libraries and their staffs are inherently wanting to providing me service. I just have to be clear about what kind of service I want.

    Sum/sum, don’t give up on public libraries, and don’t withdraw your children from them. Ask the children’s librarian to partner with you. This is what we are trained for and is our overall mission in our career. To get books into the hands of our children.

    And if your library is unwilling to help you, withdrawal is not the answer. Fighting for access is. If we’d done it with education, we’d be in a far different scenario now.

    Just sayin’

    • I completely agree. I confess to not really understanding this post very well. Maybe it’s just my love affair with libraries and so many homeschoolers coming out of the closet, saying they hate them, is sad to me! I can see, if your children are super young, having YA next to picture books would be super irritating. But if you’re talking about “twaddle,” again – I’ve never understood that. We need a little Captain Underpants for when our heads hurt from too much Shakespeare! We love a good graphic novel after a heady day of world history. It can’t be all classics, all the time… Everyone needs down time, some relaxing – this is why us moms come to the internet after all! (Sure, sure, we’re all on for educational purposes only…sure!) :)

      Be a cheery, positive idea for your badly organized library, but don’t keep your kids home! A world without libraries (and I live in Oregon, where they shut them all down for over a year because tax payers didn’t want them, so it could happen) would be sad, indeed.
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      • Hi Melyssa and Cristy! I never said that I hate libraries at all – in fact, the opposite. And in this post I’m sharing how I’ve found a way to make the library system (for which I’m very thankful) work for us during this season.

        That hasn’t resulted in us abandoning library usage at all–as I’ve explained here, but just using it in a different way than I’d first imagined. I have no doubt that librarians are overworked and doing their best and I appreciate the work they do! My calling in this season, though, isn’t to transform our local library, but to use it in the way that best suits our family at this time.
        Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: On why I stopped taking my children to the library

        • Best wishes, Jamie, in finding what works for your family … but a friendly caution: I have found that if you keep children out of the library at young ages they will not return when they are older, mostly because they aren’t inclined to place the same value on it that we do, because we don’t show them we value it, or them in it.

          To those just starting out with young children, rather than keeping your children out like Jamie has suggested, I would suggest trying the library, and seeing what the children’s librarian can do for you. And if they aren’t doing it for you, ASK THEM TO. You might be surprised at the lengths a children’s librarian will go to help a patron. (I love the homeschoolers that come to my library; fascinating studies and friendly smart children!) It’s also a great way to break stereotypes about homeschooled children.

          I’m more in line with what Melyssa has said: if we are negative about our experience with libraries, our children will certainly learn to think the same thing. Do we want them to think a library isn’t a place for our children????

      • Thank you! I get so very sick of the word “twaddle” when talking about books. Although, to be honest, I’ve never heard or seen that word used in reference to anything besides books. With a few exceptions, I think there is some value to almost any books. Even Sponge Bob and Scooby Doo.

        • This would be another great discussion: books for your kids, whether for read aloud or quiet reading… how to balance what WE want them to read vs what THEY want to read. Living books vs Twaddle (Uncle Scrooge comic books). Thoughts on how to get there. I’d love to hear more on this.
          :)

    • Cristy,

      Thank you for your post. I am also a librarian and a homeschooling mom.

      Jamie, I am saddened by your post, but not angry with you at all. And I appreciate how you have modified your library use in order to keep your own sanity!

      People rarely understand the power they have to effect change in their public library. That’s why I agree with you, Christy, that we need not abandon the issue. We need to jump in – and let someone know how things could be better, and offer to help.

      It may be easier, in certain seasons and times of family life, to shelter ourselves away from these issues. But when the dust clears, we need to make sure that things change for future families down the road. We cannot remain selfish for long, and let the libraries go the way of majority rules (which is downhill). We MUST – for the sake of young homeschooling families who come after us – request quality programs, quality books, and appropriate shelving. It’s your tax dollars, you CAN make a difference. Librarians DO want to hear from you!

      As a parent, I understand many people’s concern about “twaddle” and occult and witchcraft books. I steer my kids away from it as well. But as a librarian, I also understand that requesting books be removed is harder than requesting books be added. My suggestion to parents would be to ignore what is bad, teach our children to recognize the difference, and make hundreds, even thousands, of requests for what is good. Libraries will keep the books that circulate, and weed the ones that don’t. Check out what is good, and ask your friends to do so as well.

      Please let your local librarians know how they can best serve homeschooling families. Believe me, we all smile when we see entire families walk in the door, from the youngest all the way to the oldest. Most libraries don’t mind the noise so much any more, and we’d rather see the little ones. Whether you know it or not, there is a people counter on the door of most libraries. Number of feet is often equal to numbers of dollars of your taxes goes towards the library.

      Thank you,
      Anne
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  22. Vicki Barnes says:

    I totally feel your pain. We once lived where there was an expansive, wonderful library filled with great books and helpful staff(the children’s librarian even tried to help us by buying books that we request. Then we moved. The library there was very small but at least the staff was helpful. Then we moved again! Oh, my. The book selection was decent but some of the staff did not seem to like helping us find books. When the kids and I went the first time the lady at the front desk made comments about having to set up so many accounts(and my kids even noticed). I mean, I only have 4 kids, which is more than most but definitely not an extreme amount. You would have thought they would like the fact that children want their own library card. Hmmm??!! I hope I don’t come off angry but I am a little upset and I guess writing this stirred up some emotions. Sorry for the soapbox! ;)

  23. So glad you posted this! We recently moved across the country and I was VERY excited to see what a beautiful kid-friendly library we have in our new neighborhood. Two year old in tow, we attended toddler story-time a few weeks ago… and haven’t been to another one since! It was a wonderful program, and while nearly all twenty or so 2-3 year olds that attended were completely captivated by the librarian, my son…well…wasn’t.. and although we did enjoy our time there, I ended up carrying him out kicking and screaming under my arm an hour later. I’ve made a few trips on my own since then, and I do think with time we can be better library-goers, but for now this will do!

    • Kate,
      It’s common for 2 and 3 year olds to pitch fits in our story times. We expect the behavior! Some suggestions we make are to be sure your little one has had a snack before hand, and it isn’t too close to nap time. (I used to have a horrible time with my daughter in story time until I realized that we were bumping right up against naps by attending …. switching the story time made all the difference.)
      All to say, don’t ever give up because of one bad storytime session. We understand that you sometimes have to leave, but don’t not come back!
      Sincerely, Cristy

  24. We make a weekly library browsing trip, but we have a wonderful library – I’m so thankful for that! Just a suggestion though – have you ever sent an email or called the library director to ask about reorganizing the children’s books? Their set up is old fashioned to have all J books mixed together – usually libraries separate out the little kid picture books from the older J books. I have worked at a public library and from my experience, librarians are extremely focused on ways to make the library more user friendly and relevant for patrons, and would probably take the suggestion seriously. Especially if you couch it in terms of, “we have always loved going to the library, but this makes it such that we now don’t.” It could be a really helpful suggestion to them!

  25. THANK YOU!!!!! Sometimes I feel like I am the only mom that is concerned about the library books!! Our son is 12 years old and he reads tons of books and it’s so hard to not find yucky stuff on the shelves. We love the librarians at our library, they help us order good books. But to just walk along the shelves is a lions den, a den of thieves, monsters, murder, death destruction, abuse, and abominations.

    Last year our son took a liking to WWI & WWII history books, I thought they would be fine, of course we discussed the fact that many people died and that war is a terrible time. I was shocked to find all the swear words, sex themes, naked ladies and other nonsense that ran through those pages of these seeming historical history books. War and history can be taught without all these extras.

    I’ve taught my son to use the inter-library loan system to order books (usually they will mention adult themes on the website) and to also use http://www.thrivingfamily.com/Family/Media/book-review-archives.aspx and that helps him to make better choices.I’ve taught my son to use the inter-library loan system to order books and to also use http://www.thrivingfamily.com/Family/Media/book-review-archives.aspx and that helps him to make better choices.
    Moe
    http://adoptivemomhomeschoolinganonlychild.blogspot.com/

  26. This is great! I rarely take my kids to the library. I reserve the library books online, and then once a week or so, my husband or I swing by to pick them up. We take our kids to the library every now and then for a special occasion…
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: Plan for Intentional Downtime

  27. We avoid our local library because it never has what we need. We are a big library family, and we really missed a good library system when we moved here 5 years ago. They got a new library, but with the new library, they got rid of a lot of their old classics and replaced them with more computers and menga. For a parent interested in good literature for her children, that was a huge downer.

    About 6 months in, we discovered that the library system in the big city next door was wonderful. Not only do we get a free library card since my husband works there, but they have almost all the books I’ve ever wanted. We found a good location that has a children’s section, along with a teen section and the adult fiction section on the first floor, an enclosed courtyard next to the children’s section (for those days when our children need to head outside for a little loud time), and a quiet zone upstairs.

    This set up means that I am able to teach my children how to behave in a library, but so long as they aren’t racing around wildly, we are good to go. The librarians are amazing, and the children’s section is lovely. Sure, we have to drive into town to get there, but we have to drive to town semi-regularly anyway. If we don’t have anything to do in town that week, we reserve everything and have Dad pick it up on his way home from work.

    And, yeah, it’s nice to hear that I’m not the only homeschooler that avoided story time. Mine are now 9, 11, and (almost) 15. I’m pretty sure the 15 year old would be interested in story time, now. He *loves* teaching little kids. :)
    Kristina’s latest post: Victory

  28. Hear, hear! We have been skipping the library more, mainly because of the glut of poor-quality books my daughters find and because it’s hard to avoid the loud, incessant computer games on the PCs they plop in the center of the reading and play area. I love the idea of picking up books on my own and the thrill of bringing home a well-selected group of high-quality, age-appropriate books.

  29. I don’t take my kids to the library. My youngest desperately wants to go, but ours is full full FULL of awful twaddle, so my trips to take her are rare. Once I was searching for a copy of the Iliad for my oldest. They had a graphic novel of The Odyssey, but no Iliad anywhere. They did, however, have 40+ Dora the Explorer titles and nearly as many Sponge Bob books. Gulliver’s Travels? Nope! But here are a bunch of ratty copies of Captain Underpants. If I’m looking for a book, I will sometimes check the online catalog to see if they have what I need. Then I go to Amazon and just order it. It’s killing our budget, but what can we do? When we lived in another state, the story time at our library was a wonderful treat and we rarely missed it. Here, it’s a different story altogether.

    I was embarrassed last spring. My kids went to stay with my parents for a little spring break getaway. Mom took them to their wonderful library one day. They had a wonderful time playing with the computers, drawing, doing the other activities around the room, but they never even bothered to go look at the books. I know she wondered what kind of kids I’m raising! LOL They just don’t assume that the library will have anything for them because ours is so bad. They don’t associate the library as a place to get books. The 10 large bookcases lining our hallway are the library they know.

    I hate that it is this way…

  30. After reading the other comments, I’ll add this. I was explaining to a friend earlier this week that selecting books for children to read is like selecting the food that they eat. They are developing their palate and I want my kids to have a taste for good literature rather than “brain candy” as another commenter described it. I don’t take my children to the grocery store because their first inclination is to throw pop tarts and candy and potato chips and soda into the cart. They would eat that way if I let them and if our grocery trip is filled with a lot of “No, you can’t have that” then when we get home and put away the food, they look at what we have as a bunch of food they didn’t want and they think of all I said “No” to. However, if I go to the store and select a variety of healthy options that I am OK with them eating and bring it all home and array it before them, then they look at the bounty of choices they have and feel like they have abundance, not deprivation. So I really try to not take them to the grocery store with me. I will add, though, that now that they are growing up a little more, I will sometimes take one of the older ones with me to shop and we will discuss how to make good choices and why we choose this, not that, etc. So I do try to teach them to make good choices themselves. And I occasionally let them have some of those junk foods too. We just don’t make that our regular diet.

    So I look at choosing books the same way. Because our library shelves are lined with candy and chips and soda and even some garbage, I don’t take them to the library with me. If I were in a place with a better library, I would probably go alone and with a list just as I do at the grocery store. I do need to teach them to use the library on their own so they will be ready to do research and find books of their own. Maybe we will travel to a real college library to learn those lessons. I can see us doing that as we are getting into high school research assignments.

    And, lest you think I’m exaggerating, we use a literature based curriculum for my three children and I needed over 100 different books for our curriculum this year. I spent a few hours one day sourcing those books. Out of 100+ books, our library system (all of the branches in our parish, i.e. county) had only 3 of the titles we needed. Three. And we’re talking about books like Red Badge of Courage and Across Five Aprils. You know, American type literature. My public library when I was growing up had at least 75% of these books because I read them all as a kid.

  31. We too went through a season where we did not visit the library at all (with 4 under the age of 5 it wasn’t worth the stress) but now that they are all in their teens we visit the library regularly. One thing I learned with many littles is that I had to pick my battles and library behavior was not one I was going to win at that point. I guess I’m trying to say that now might not be the time for your family to go- save it as a mommy treat but don’t write off libraries completely.

    Most libraries now are not stand alone entities but part of a system. If your neighborhood library isn’t the best check out the other libraries in the system. Our rural library system has about 40 libraries in 5 counties and each one has its own flavor. There are books that are circulated between the libraries and then each library has a Friends of the Library program that buys books for that particular library. Those books can be requested online and picked up at my local library even though they “belong” to another library. Of course I had no idea how wonderful our system was until a librarian friend from a big city came to visit us and it completely blew her away.

    You can also ask how they handle donations of books- maybe you can help enrich your library? But do ask before you drop off donations- our library saves them for the Friends of the Library book sale and doesn’t add them to the collection on the shelves :(
    erica’s latest post: Tentative School Plan 2012-13

  32. I visit the library almost weekly with my 2 year old. We often do story time and while the first 6 weeks or so were more difficult getting him to sit (normally in my lap) and wait through a story, he’s gotten much better as he knows what to expect. They also do a small craft after the story. (Is it terrible of me to admit that I like story time better when school is in session so there are fewer children who attend? It just makes it so much easier for me and my easily overwhelmed son when there are 4-5 children and not 20-25 talking and jumping around such a small space.) Our library is small (military base library) and has a separate kids room with their books in it as well as a few small toys/bean bags. Unfortunately, it also has 4 computers down on child level with games on them that my son beelines toward. He’s not allowed on them – there’s nothing beneficial to him at this age on a computer at the library. I normally just gently redirect, but much of my time is spent doing so or putting the movies back on the shelf that he pulls off. I can’t imagine having 2 or 3 or 4 children to do this with.

  33. Sorry to hear that the layout is difficult, but it looks like you did a great job of finding how to make it best work for you in the new ways in which you approach visiting.
    Becky’s latest post: Burpee Gardens Open Farm Tour

  34. This is exactly how we use the library in our homeschool too! I go to the library on my “night out”. I use that time to read in a completely quiet room, all alone; it’s wonderful! I will also pick up books for myself and my kids that I have put on hold or on a subject that’s caught their interest. I take my kids (6 1/2, 4, 1) about once a month to help pick out books on their own, but it’s usually rather hectic and they always beg to get DVDs that I have to set that rule, “No DVDs, only books.” before we even enter.

    Like you, I enjoyed our old library, their storytime was AWESOME, but I have only gone once to our new library’s storytime, it doesn’t even compare. You could hardly hear the librarian’s voice and it was so crowded. It just didn’t work for us at all.
    Caroline’s latest post: New Pasadena Produce Buying Club

  35. I do the same thing. I pull up book lists that come highly recommended and place a hold. As a Christian not ALL of my books are available. However, my library is awesome and I put in an order for the book and normally they buy it and add it. I feel great knowing that other kids may run across the books we selected. :D Nice article.

  36. I go every other week with 1 child at a time. We look up books and reserve them or we look them up and write them down to make sure our library has them. We NEVER go without a list, and we never stray from the list. Lol!! The library can be our best friend as long as we avoid the twaddle, but it just keeps getting more and more junk it seems!!! :/ love the post!! :)

  37. Like you, we used to live near an absolutely wonderful library with a separate room for children. It was well-organized, fun, had puzzles, puppets, etc. We went at least once a week, if not more. Then we lived in a place where all of the library branches near us were tiny and had the children’s books in the main part of the library. Also, those libraries were all SILENT and I got the dirtiest looks when I came in with my three kids (who were, at the time, 1, 2, and 3 years old). We just could not go, especially because they had funky hours due to budget cuts, and I couldn’t go alone after my husband got home. It made me feel so sad and guilty, but that was just how it was.

    We’ve since moved again, and live near a much better (though not nearly as great as the first) library. We go about once every two weeks. It can be a little tough with three young kids (mainly my wild 2 year old), but I manage to make it work.

    On the subject of “twaddle”–I don’t know about everyone else here, but I consider that to be the Dora the Explorer, Backyardigans, Barbie, etc. books. My kids frequently grab them and bring them to me, but they just never make it into the library bag. Darn… So far it hasn’t been an issue for us, but I definitely wouldn’t consider it a reason to avoid the library. We read lots of good books at home, and if that’s what they look at during the 30-60 minutes we’re at the library, they’ll be just fine.

  38. No time for a longer comment but just have to take a second to say….YES YES YES me tooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (my kids are 7,5,3,1)

  39. I will join the chorus of those who thank you for this post! I’ve felt so guilty! Mine – 18 months, 3.5, and 5.5 – have been a few times, but it stresses me out so much just to _think_ of a trip to a place with so many books to take off of shelves and eat and rip up…so many things to exclaim loudly about…so many things to misfile….

    Add to that getting three kids dressed, out the door, in the car, strapped in, then back out of the car, through a parking lot, etc., etc., etc….

    Thank you! It’s good to know that I’m not alone! I’ll definitely have to look into their programs though!
    Melissa Jones’s latest post: MommyBee Designs

  40. Fantastic post.

  41. I know some of the frustration with libraries at times, I have lived in many different areas with many different systems and worked for a couple years at a library as well as volunteer weekly at our local library.
    I think that your way of handing your frustration may work right now, while you have little ones, but I would work on instead working when you bring the books home or are choosing them, to point out what you are looking for in a cover, content or other. Bring them one at a time with you to the library and use it as a teaching exercise. They will not know how to choose, if you do not help them and eventually, they will be growing up and needing to choose their own. My own mom told me that all fiction books in the library were bad and to stay away from them. It was her way of not knowing how to protect me from the bad ones. But, in a short time, she worked at home, with beginning to teach me how to choose a book. If I chose one that was not okay, she worked on teaching me why by asking questions about it, until I came to my own conclusion with her guidance. This has served me well, and I work hard to teach my children the same thing. We do visit the library. We bought our house based on where the library was located, but one of the reasons we visit the library often is to make the library a place that I enjoy to be. When you use it and are an active participate in it, they likely will listen to what you have to say. They know when you request a book, that someone will check it out. When I ask them to buy a book, it is rare that they do not buy it. I had 4 under the age of 6…all boys and often the library was the only place I could afford to go at the time. We made it a special place. I appreciate the computers actually, as there are sometimes it is nice to let all the children play at once for an hour. It is nice to see them love to check out audio books when they have struggled with reading and graduate to reading the books themselves. I agree that many books in the library are trash, but I think that in order to change that, it is up to us. Talk to your librarians, request the kind of books you want and request that changes be made to how it is organized. You would be surprised how much they listen when they know you.
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Peach dessert

  42. Wow when i first started home schooling we went every week for 2 years.. now we have a great selection of books at home, and we go to special events and go when the children are wanting something specific.. I was feeling bad that we don’t go religiously like we were and often questioned my thoughts on the library this has reassured me I am not a bad mother just know now that it is ok to not go every week the kids read every day and are often given books. we have our own library here.. feeling relieved..

  43. michelle waite says:

    We love our neighborhood library that we can just ride bikes to on a nice day. I still like to go to our library website and put books on hold and the go pick the up at the library when rhey are available. We don’t have a scheduled time to go to library, we just go when books are due or need to be picked up. The kids are learning to to computer searches and how to look up books they want with the help of librarians. They are often looking for Calvin and Hobbes books, but they are buildng skills.

  44. This is a great reminder to me of how lucky we are! Our county library is consistently ranked as the best in the state, and they offer homeschool programs in their state-of-the-art children’s department. The librarians and clerks are knowledgeable and helpful, as well.

    We’re moving in a couple of years, quite possibly to a new county, and I’m nervous about the kind of library we’ll be close to. Ours has been an invaluable resource. I’m glad the author has found a way to make hers work for her and her family. :)
    Jen’s latest post: The Iraq and Such As

  45. I don’t feel so bad now. Although I only have two kids right now (#3 coming in a few months), I stopped taking them when there was a children’s ball pit set up for some special event, but it wasn’t really for “playing” if you know what I mean. We live too far out to make the trip worth it when I’m stressed out the whole time. I do use the hold feature occasionally, so we don’t have to go past the check-out window, but even that’s not a smooth process. I will start taking them more one at a time though, after we move, so we can check out the new library.

    But to make up for the no-library situation, I’ve started my own home library. I go out once every couple of weeks alone, and that is when I am able to spend my time leisurely at goodwill or book sales, buying books I know I will approve, and they still get “new” reading material on a regular basis. We have such a great collection right now that I am still rotating new books into our book basket.
    Brittney’s latest post: TOS Review: Reading Kingdom

  46. We love our local library and spend a lot of time there! My kids are 9, 7 and 4 and with the exception of summer (because of outdoor activities/vacation time) we are there at least once a week. We utilize the hold system for subjects we are currently studying or if we discover a book or author that catches our fancy. This cuts down a lot on time spent wandering aimlessly down the aisles. Our library is also downtown where all parking is metered. This has actually made our library trips less overwhelming since we have a definite time we have to get back to the car our time inside the library has become much more focused!
    Also, in order to keep the types of books we bring home more balanced, I require each school-aged child to check out at least one book in each category (science, history, biography, etc.) before they are allowed to check out “just for fun” books. They are allowed to pick whatever books they want within the categories, but I give lots of suggestions and reserve the right to re-shelve any books that I think are inappropriate. The first time I tried doing it this way, the kids complained a lot. But now, they enjoy it and treat the book hunting like a scavenger hunt!
    We also talk frequently with the children’s librarians. They looove to help homeschoolers find books and are very supportive when I tell them what we are trying to do. My kids have learned a lot about how the library is organized and I’m often surprised to discover what catches their interest!

  47. Thank-you sooooo much for writing this article! Tomorrow I begin my homeschooling adventure, and I’ve been very apprehensive about library time. I too have three children, 4, 3, and 1.5. You’ve shared some wonderful tools on how to get the most out of library time. Thank-you :)

  48. I realize that I am so blessed by our little library. The kid room is upstairs, teens and adult downstairs. There are games, a giant teddy bear, bean bag chairs, books arranged by theme (or even theme bags of books and multi media), and story time has been rather relaxed and led by a nature loving Mom, former homeschooler AND Kindergarten teacher. She just retired and I really really really hope her successor is nearly as magically wonderful!

  49. I can relate to this post as well. While I strongly believe each library is very different and offers a different experience (good and not so good), the ages of kids make a big difference too.
    I was lucky enough to have 2 very different libraries that we frequented. One of these was with kids and they small children’s area was perfect for them with the train table, puzzles, puppet theater, and books for teens were in a separate area. The other library was larger and had more of what I needed but I also made those trips mostly solo. I would reserve books on-line so I mainly just had to pick them up. As my older daughter go more interested in art I would take her with me to choose books of her interest. But taking all 4 kids was an accident waiting to happen.
    We are now just exploring our new library since we moved this summer. I can tell it will be a learning experience. The large aquarium and wooden sailboat look exciting to kids, but of course, these are a bit far away from where I need to look for books. Who designs these layouts?? I’m hoping for the best but time will tell….

  50. We go each week to our branch, but I also use our computer catalog to request books ahead of time, which saves me a lot of trouble. This actually pulls books from the entire system, not just our branch so I don’t have to drive around to get certain books The first branch we were using when we moved here had the children non-fictions mixed with the adult non-fictions. I would not have expected that and actually had to ask for help finding things. I have since switched to a more child friendly branch that has children books (fiction and non-fiction) in a separate area. Young adult books are even in their own section. We are much happier with this branch and it make the extra few minutes of a drive well worth it. There is a small park next door that we go to frequently, and our Science and History co-op has started using one of the meeting rooms at this branch, so we are here at least once a week.
    Michelle’s latest post: Dinosaur Stampede at San Antonio Botanical Garden

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