It was the last week of summer before kindergarten, camps were out, and I was desperate. My son, jealous of his friends who got to start school that week, was particularly demanding without his usual play dates. Egged on by choruses of “I’m bored”, we had been to the Discovery Museum twice, the riverwalk, EZ Air, daily park retreats, Concert on the Green, swimming, and what was seeming like an endless battery of kid-approved activities. Exhausted from all the fun, I casually suggested we go to the library to get his first library card.
“The library?” My son was intrigued. “We have a library by us?”
My heart sank. Parenting fail. “Yes, of course we have a library! Want to get your card? You can take home books with it.”
“They just let you take books home, without having to buy them?” (We are in the process of trying to make my son more money-conscious. He’s curious about the cost of everything.)
“Of course, it’s a library!”
Oh South Valley’s Library, why haven’t I been going to you all year? You’re only a four minute car ride away and yet you open a world of possibilities for both my boys. As we walked into the frankly gorgeous and wonderfully air-conditioned building, I felt the instant joy I feel whenever I walk into a building smelling of books. (This is no joke, I sometimes go into Barnes & Noble just to revel in the booky smell of the place.) We were greeted by a kind librarian, who upon hearing it was my son’s very first library card, gave it the grand ceremony it deserved. Joy filled his face as he wrote his name on the back of his card, and he was grinning from ear to ear.
We quickly found the children section, which my two year old greeted with an enthusiastic “WOW!” While my older son and I perused the books, looking specifically for books on space, the little one ran to the toddler area and immediately began playing with the toys they had out, including coloring books, magnet building blocks, legos, and other random brightly-colored toys. He would run back and forth every few minutes to make sure I was still in the room, but mostly he was completely content. I meanwhile was trying to limit my books to the customary 3-5 book limit when I discovered that in the Washoe County Library System there is no limit. What?!? Soon my arms were loaded down.
After about an hour looking at choices for the kids and myself, it was time to go. We were perilously close to nap time for the little one. Alas, we were too late, and as I picked him up to leave, a cacophony of screams and screeches escaped his little mouth. The librarian just laughed. “Hey”, she said “I’d rather see them crying because they have to leave rather than crying because they have to come. We hope to see you again soon.” Oh don’t worry, you will. And I was true to my word; I was back that Tuesday, new load of books in hand.
Curious about what else the library offers, I dug deeper. I found the answer was a lot. Our South Valley’s Library offers story time every Tuesday and Wednesday at 11:15, toddler time, crafting classes, knitting classes, family movie days, presentations with local artists, and board game nights. This is just September’s itinerary! For more information on your public library’s calendar, click here.)
Libraries around the U.S. are facing an uncertain future. The Great Recession definitely was not kind to them, and as many cities needed to cut budgetary spending to survive, libraries were usually the first on the chopping block. Washoe County libraries lost 40% of their operating budget and were forced to cut hours, cut employees, close branches, and cut some services. Yet the libraries soldiered on, maximizing their resources to the community’s greatest benefit and today, the Washoe County Library System has 11 branches with a workforce of 130. Let us hope that as the economy grows, more resources can be funneled into the libraries as they work to build their communities.
So don’t do what I did. Don’t wait until sheer desperation makes you think of anything else to do with your children. Make it a habit to go and support your local library. Your kids will appreciate it. You will appreciate it. Your community will appreciate it.