With eye-catching designs, the best books for kids, and impressive community programming, these children’s libraries stand out as some of the top choices in the United States. I think you’ll want to see these most magical of children’s libraries from around the country, so take a virtual tour of the spaces below — or grab your kids, hop in the car, and visit the public libraries in person!
Thomas Hughes Children’s Library | Chicago Public Library
Thomas Hughes is a children’s library paradise with over 20,000 square feet of newly remodeled space. It’s organized into three neighborhoods by age range: early learners, middle childhood, and tweens. Each area offers kids STEM activities, tech, play opportunities, and, of course, lots of high-quality books. “[We want to] bathe the kids in good books,” Liz McChesney, Director of Children’s Services, told me.
Commissioner Brian Bannon brought leaders in child development, education, and play with architects to thoughtfully design the experience children would have in this library space: child-directed active learning, play, STEM learning, collaboration spaces, and a constructivist approach. The end result beautifully reflects the team’s intention. Both program attendance and circulation are up since this recent 2017 renovation.
The librarians integrate activities and books in a cohesive way. For example, on any given day in the middle childhood neighborhood (ages 6 – 10), you might find books on weather and clouds with a STEM activity to make a cloud in a jar. In this area, like the others, there is plenty of floor space so that kids can take their time with projects.
The early learning space includes an area for pre-walkers (babies) with foam rectangular blocks, a large baby mat for tummy time, and baby toys.
The tween space offers a plethora of digital media including laptops, cameras, and VR tools, as well as its own age-appropriate STEM learning activities and books.
Thomas Hughes also offers a sensory-sensitive area located within a suite at the back of the children’s library that also includes a family washroom and nursing room.
The City Library — Children’s Library | Salt Lake City Library
Families love the beautiful Children’s Library in Salt Lake City for its impressive book collection and beautiful spaces. Children enter the Wild Woods to give an impromptu puppet show in a cut-out tree trunk. (Puppets provided!) STEM-loving inventors visit the Tinker Lab where they create, tinker, or attend programs like Code Club and Minecraft Club. Interactive spaces like the Attic provide kids with more cozy areas to enjoy a good book or play with giant LEGOs.
The Salt Lake City Children’s Library provides a multitude of free activities for families and children. Take the preschool-age kids, for example. Every Monday, young children visit the Preschool Zone for interactive, thematic stories and activities. The first week of the month is Dance Zone, an ultra-active movement-based storytime. The next week is Building Zone, an open play time with plenty of building-focused toys. The third week is Animal Zone with introductions to new animals through activities, books, videos, songs, and crafts. The fourth week is Science Zone which focuses on science themes with exploration stations.
Bookmarks | Dallas Public Library
Bookmarks is a welcoming children’s-only library located within the NorthPark Dallas shopping center. The library offers incredible free programming for children and families, sometimes there are over 50 choices each month.
Parents, caregivers, and babies can attend a special Baby Basics Storytime four times a week. Children ages two- to five-years-old can choose Preschool Palooza STEM Storytime which focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts.
Another favorite activity in the Bookmarks Children’s Library is the Children’s Early Learning Computers with kid-sized equipment preloaded with educational games and programs.
Artist, Suzanne O’Brien, created beautiful murals and paintings for the library of classic children’s literature characters. Kids (and parents) love to look closely to find the hidden golden rings hidden in each work of art.
Waunakee Intermediate School Library | Waunakee, Wisconsin
In a time when schools are cutting libraries, it’s wonderful to see new and excellent libraries like the new 800-student Waunakee Intermediate School library designed by Eppstein Uhen Architects. Books are located throughout the open space plus the room has two “Creative Spaces” meant for crafts, tech, and STEM activities. High ceilings, bright colors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and flexible seating allow students to read, actively learn, and study. “Our library is pretty amazing,” says student Abby Bascom. The library opens up into the lobby’s staircase where there are more cushions for reading and studying.
Lake Mills Elementary School | Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Also designed by Eppstein Uhen Architects, the LEED Platinum-certified Lake Mills Elementary School boasts a newly built children’s library filled with cubbies, quiet reading areas, wall cut-outs, and plenty of books as well as group activity spaces and movable furniture. This flexible learning environment benefits staff and students who can arrange the space to meet their specific learning needs. The interior design of the library reflects the natural world outside with brightly colored walls for the sky, white lighting for the clouds, winding bookshelves for the rivers, and earthy toned flooring.
Brightly, A Penguin Random House Company