Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dear Fellow Moms: Changing your library visits may transform your life

By some people's standards, I visit the library a lot. Two or three times a week, I'll find myself walking through those familiar doors, greeting the librarians, and guiding my kids back to the Children's Area. I'll see the sweet elderly woman in her all-blue or all-red outfit as she works through sudoku puzzles. I'll see "virtual school" students huddled at tables with their teachers. I'll see a few people lounging in the back, trying to find warmth and respite from the cold winter days. And I'll see other moms as they walk from shelf to shelf, piling books in their arms for their children to peruse later.  

None of these sights seem too out-of-the-ordinary. In fact, at every library, there are probably individuals doing similar things to what I regularly witness. And yet, despite the normalcy of these sights, I find myself wondering what would happen if these loving mothers I see slightly altered something about their library visits. I think it's wonderful that so many women bring their children to the library, and that they see a need for their kids to read books. However, time and time again, I see women walk into the library for a toddler program, spend the entire time after the program finding books for their children, and then leave under the weight of Berenstain Bears and Fancy Nancy-without anything for themselves. Yes, there are exceptions to this trend, but honestly, I see it happen all the time. And so I wonder-what if we changed this? 

What if we made time to look for books for ourselves while visiting the library? 

Could this possibly convey to our children that we also need books as we form ourselves and grow as women? 

Could this show our children that our lives do not solely revolve around fetching them books and movies, and that we have interests beyond chatting about potty training with other parents? 

Could this teach our children that literacy is still important when one is an adult-that libraries are not just for kids, but that they can be a refuge for all people? 

If anything, perhaps this would help us as women, as mothers. 

Perhaps it would help us remember that we can nourish our minds and souls through literature. 

Perhaps it would cause us to rediscover the joy of finding a new book on the shelf and eagerly reading it before we recommend it to all of our friends. 

Perhaps it would assist us in finding non-parenting topics to discuss with other moms, since it's not imperative that all of our conversations revolve around our kids.

Perhaps it would even aid us in discovering a new interest or learning a new skill.

Maybe you haven't looked for a book in the library since you were a kid. Maybe the thought terrifies you, since the Dewey Decimal System is incomprehensible to your sleep-deprived brain and you don't even know what's worth reading from the fiction section. Perhaps you just don't see a way to fit time for yourself into the mix of hauling all the kids to the library and keeping them from terrorizing the place before you maneuver checking out books and herding everyone back to the car. These are reasonable reservations to have, so I want to offer some suggestions that perhaps we can consider: 

Let your kids have time to pick out their own books.
I know that this idea may seem shocking in our helicopter-parenting culture, but seriously consider it. Allow your children the joy of scurrying around the Children's Area and discovering new books. Help them figure out how to locate specific authors on the shelf if they need it. Yes, you can certainly go through the stack of books before you hit the checkout counter and remove any unwholesome ones, but please don't feel like you need to personally select each and every book from the library shelves. By allowing your kids to hunt the shelves, you will both be teaching them good skills (how to find books at the library!) and you will be helping them get to know the library intimately-which is never a bad thing. Also, this will give you more time to talk with other people, sit in a chair nearby and read your own book, or work on your latest knitting or crocheting project. 

Make time to select your own books.
You can do this in a variety of ways. If your library is situated in such a way that the adult section is right next to the Children's Area, you may be able to look for books as your children do. Alternatively, once your children have acquired their stacks of books, you can bring them to sit in chairs next to the shelves you want to peruse. While they read, you can look for a book or two to enjoy later. If your kids are small enough, you can put them in the stroller and bring them down the aisles with you. If your kids will not sit in the stroller and you don't feel comfortable letting them sit nearby, you can always turn Finding Mommy's Book into a treasure hunt! Write down the author's name (or the number, if you're looking for, in the case of a non-fiction book) and allow your kids to explore with you, hunting for the book. And if you have no idea what to look for, talk with the librarians! They are very knowledgeable about books, and they should be quite willing to help you find something worth reading. 

Use the inter-library loan system liberally.
About once or twice a month, make some time and request various books online through your library's system. When they come in, they will all be sitting nicely on a shelf together, making it very easy to find your preferred books. It's like online shopping, except for books that you don't have to pay for (unless your library system requires a small fee for this, which thankfully ours does not). 

Find creative ways to make library time happen. 
Maybe you are at a complete loss because your kids seem wild and there is no way they can do a "book treasure hunt," sit in chairs or ride in the stroller. Maybe your kids are having meltdowns and are throwing themselves on the floor and becoming limp when you try to lift them up. Maybe you are so worn out that you can't look for books if your kids are in any way involved. We can find reasonable excuses to not make time for books endlessly, trust me. Don't let yourself be trapped by these reasons! You can pair up with another mom and take turns watching each other's kids while you each peruse the shelves for an appointed amount of time. You can also ask your husband to hold down the fort at home after work or on a weekend while you take a library trip by yourself. You could even hire a nanny or babysitter to visit the library with you and watch the kids while you look for books. Or, see if your children's grandparents want to visit the library with all of you. Think outside the box! 

Overcome mental obstacles which make you believe that "I don't have time to read." 
It seems to be a common perception that regardless if you hold down an office job or if you stay at home full time with your kids, you don't have time to read. I cannot count how many times other women have told me some variation of: "I love to read, but I don't really read since having kids." If you need to overcome this mentality or simply figure out when to read, I talked about this topic in this post, and I wrote about reading strategies for moms in this post. 

Reading is vastly important for the lives, health, and overall development of our children; there's no mistaking this. It's important to bring our kids to the library as we introduce them to the vast world of literature. However, we should not believe that library visits are only for our children; selecting books from the library for ourselves can nurture our mind and show our children that our literary needs are important, too. Reading can open our minds, enhance our vocabularies, and even lower our stress levels. If we change how we visit the library, then we may see our lives transformed as we recognize the value in caring for ourselves-and as we rediscover the power and beauty of literature. 


  1. Yes! Although the idea of dragging kids along whIke I hunt books for me is not appealing. I just put my books on hold so they are ready.

  2. I like your tips. Usually our visits to the library are for the kids' books, and when I hear about something I want to read I will just reserve it online and pick it up next time we're there. Browsing the shelves would be way too stressful for me with the pressure to keep track of everyone and keep them semi-quiet. I get most of my book recommendations from people I know, or GoodReads, or I'll hear about them on NPR.

  3. We finally have access to a library--the library at Angel's school, and I made it there a couple times last semester, because my classes end at 4, and the library closes at 5. Angel would meet me at the library, take Cyrus around to meet all of Angel's school friends while I look for books, and then Angel would drive us home. I'm hoping to go this semester, too, but now Angel is staying so late for track season I would have to stay at the school till well past library closing time...and I don't want to. :P I want to go home and make dinner! We'll get new books in April, when running is over. haha! I am so glad to have access to a library!

  4. I always have books waiting for me when I take Gracie to the library! She sees me reading at home all the time, and I hope and pray that will help instill a love of books in her.

  5. Yeeeessss! I notice G already seems interested in books not only for the stories themselves but also because she sees me reading...modeling/imitating.

    I will say though that I rarely check out books at the library anymore ever since I got a Kindle! So I probably look like those moms you see at the library but I promise I do read, haha! I have read exponentially more with the Kindle because it's so simple to check out/return books from it without leaving the house. I do occasionally still like to look at them on the real shelves at the library and pull some good ones, but for the most part I request them online via Kindle from browsing online or from others' recommendations.

    I've always been a bookworm for as long as I can remember and I hope my kids will be too!

    1. Good for you!!!! Reading books on the Kindle is still reading ;) For some reason, even though I have checked out books via a kindle reader before, I always seem to forget that this is an option!

      I think it's really cool that you've already noticed G being interested in books as she imitates you. If there isn't currently a study on this yet, there really needs to be; I am convinced-just from observations in my own family-that there is a direct correlation between parents reading books in their free time and their children also reading for fun.