How to go to the library and come home with books you actually want to read
When I had just one child, I used to go to the library without a plan. We would go to storytime, then leisurely pick out books to take home. She would do puzzles or look at books while I scanned the shelves for classics and particular authors in the literature section and interest-based finds in the non-fiction section. I would sit and read her anything she brought to me, and we would take home just the good stuff. Fast forward a few years and add two more kids to the mix and a trip to the library can become embarrassing chaos in mere seconds. I have a toddler who alternates between running away to hide between the stacks, pulling dozens of books off the shelves and reshelving them elsewhere, and yelling that he needs to “do work” on the computer in the children’s section. My five-year-old fills her bag with books that are as vapid as I can imagine, and my 8-year-old asks to check out books that are perfect for her very advanced reading level but not so on target for age-appropriate content.
So now, most weeks, our leisurely library mornings have morphed into a strategy of get-in/get-out as fast as humanly possible. Some weeks, we all still peruse the library to pick out books (I might tell them a number limit or a time limit for choosing) but most of the library books we check out are waiting at the circulation desk when we get there.
For years, I had been religiously keeping a list of kids’ books to read and books read on Shelfari. I combined books of interest from many great booklists (Bookshark, Mensa Kids, Ambleside, Five-in-a-Row and Beyond Five-in-a Row, Mighty Girl, Living Math, etc.) as well as suggestions from friends into my list of books to read. Shelfari would help me get organized as I requested books on hold through our excellent library system. Most weeks, I scan through my list of books to read and select ones to request from the library that we may want over the next month or so. I try to anticipate holidays and request those books before others think to check them out, at least 3 weeks ahead of the holiday. It’s rare I can’t get a desired book through inter-library loan and each week, I get to pick up a stack of great books for the cost of the occasional fine. We don’t always get through the books the first week, but with renewals, I can have a book out for about 6-7 weeks.
On Shelfari, I would tag each book by grade and topic and rate it before we returned it to the library. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing. My kids loved scrolling through the covers of the books they had read. But now Shelfari is shutting down. I have transferred our information to both Goodreads and Library Thing but a lot of the information we had stored on Shelfari was lost in the transition. I hope by the fall, I have our reading lists more organized again on one of these sites.
Our free-reading library books go into a wooden crate in the living room for my oldest to consume and the books I intend to read with the kids go onto our Ikea cart in the family room. The twaddle my five-year-old picks out goes right back into her library bag after a single reading and typically she does not request it again. Because of my online planning and hold requests (which have just increased to 10 each at a time– heaven!), my oldest can feed her reading addiction safely, my middle has learned to enjoy high-quality literature in addition to the twaddle, and my toddler does not get the whole family kicked out of the library.