Libraries and Kids: The Only True Magic

where-the-wild-things-are-680uw True Story:  I remember getting my library card more vividly than I recall getting my driver’s license.  My best memories of childhood were going to the library with my mom and checking out armfuls of books, which she would read to me for hours on end.  At two, I am told, I would stand on tiptoe at the librarian’s desk and request  favorites or authors (I didn’t know why the lady laughed at me.  I guess most toddlers weren’t as particular.) I would rather go to the library than the movies, or the park, or anywhere else.  Still true. The libraries I recall were nothing fancy.  Maybe some bulletin boards heralding an upcoming holiday or new books perched half-open, standing on top of shelves. Of course in 197…(cough, cough), there were not nearly as many ways for a child to be entertained.  The television had four channels (as God intended):  ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS.  Cartoons were from 7am to 10am, period. No LOL cats, no Youtube…. I like to scare my son with these tidbits. Today, libraries are competing to keep your child reading and finding some interesting ways to do so, by engaging the imagination.  Here are a few of my favorite new spaces, and some words from others who continue to love libraries:


Spain’s Playoffice, a child-centric design firm, created the “reading net” in an attempt to making reading more fun for kids. The “reading net” stretches across the length of a library room, and kids can play on it in between chapters.

“As a child, I felt that books were holy objects, to be caressed, rapturously sniffed, and devotedly provided for. I gave my life to them. I still do. I continue to do what I did as a child; dream of books, make books and collect books.” — Maurice Sendak


Washington libraries are taking a new approach to teaching reading by having children read books aloud – but instead of reading to other children they are reading to dogs. The theory is that children who are too scared or insecure to read out loud in front of their classmates don’t experience those same issues when the children reading aloud have a canine audience

“When I was young, we couldn’t afford much. But, my library card was my key to the world.”   — John Goodman, Actor


Mobile libraries are not a new concept — but this converted shipping container that can transform to double its size certainly is. Conceived to help support local Dutch schools that lack the funds or space for a library, the BiebBus can pull in, pop up, and let kids participate in a parable or two. The design is also a lot of fun — with a transparent floor, cool lights, and huge portals for kids to see out, the BiebBus makes kids excited to grab a book, kick back, and explore the written word.


The fun design uses a transparent floor to help light the lower section of the library and let adults keep an eye on the youngsters above.

“As a child, I loved to read books. The library was a window to the world, a pathway to worlds and people far from my neighborhood in Philadelphia.” — Ed Bradley, Journalist 60 Minutes

“A library card is the start of a lifelong adventure.”  — Lilian Jackson Braun


Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library in Memphis, TN (Photo by Urbanart73)

“Every child needs a safe place to fall – a place where he or she can explore things without worrying about failure and judgment. A library is one of those places. In a library you can learn by following your own nose, which is very different from someone telling you what you should learn. Once a kid learns a library is hers, to use as she wants, the world opens up., I’ve seen it happen. It happened to me.”  — Bill Harley, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter


Camarillo Public Library in Camarillo, CA (Photo by Gbucknor)

“At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better. It’s an enormous force for good.” — President Barack Obama


Central Library in Kansas City, MO (Photo by Kansas City Public Library)

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”  — Jorge Luis Borges

“Books may well be the only true magic.”  — Alice Hoffman