Monday, November 14, 2011

Teaching Children About the Library

Today, I was reminded of the harsh reality that many people have no clue about the library. There were two moms who were talking to each other while their little boys were running around, practically yelling and making forts with the chair cushions. The librarian talked to them several times, and their moms did nothing. About 5 minutes after they left some parents came in for a book for their daughter. Those two had no idea how books were organized, shelved, categorized or anything. Seriously. Annoying. They tied up the poor librarian who was trying to shelve the returned books with how to find the book they wanted, which they sort of knew the title but nothing else. Then when they figured out where it was they asked if they looked for it by the title. By that time I almost yelled at them that it’s by author but I was good and bit my tongue.

The library is one of our favorite places to go and hang out. When I was a kid, I practically lived in the library. I made a point of my kids understanding the way the library works from a very young age. When they were very young, they learned that in a library you use a library voice. And that you always walk quietly to where you need to go without fooling around. They also learned to respect the books and if they take a book off the shelf and decided they don’t want it, you put it back exactly where you found it and if you can’t find the spot, leave it on the table for the librarian to reshelf. Also, we taught them to always say thank you to the librarians who help check out our books each time. As they got older, we taught them the difference between fiction and non-fiction and how the books are divided into those two categories in the library, and about how the books are shelved by author. When Princess K wanted an Eric Carl book (her favorite author/illustrator) she knew to go to the picture book shelves and look on the shelves with a C. Now, all of them spend most of their time in the non-fiction section and they have learned what numbers their favorite subjects are under.

Recently, we dived deeper into the Dewey Decimal System and they learned about those numbers on the book spine in greater detail than just that it is the book’s address on the shelve. We printed out a chart I found online that had the categories and sub categories and also found some websites about Melvil Dewey and learned about his life. They got so into this lesson they decided it would be fun to organize all of our books like the library. So all the books were taken off the shelves and put into piles.

Lots and lots of piles.

 We taped up the list so that it would be easier to categorize the books and then after they were all sorted we put them all back on the shelves.

This happened a month ago and our books are still shelved accordingly. I am really impressed with how careful they are to put the books back where they belong now. Before this was not always the case.

Our next trip to the library we did a scavenger hunt. I gave each child a 3x5 card with 3 different books and their locations. Each one of them had a different list of books. Their job was to find the book and show me the book on the shelf. They loved doing that and asked if we could have another library scavenger hunt with more books to find.

We love the library. It is so sad there are many who don’t and have no idea how to find a book if they needed to.


  1. You rock. I remember those library games as a kid. I love the library too. My friends are always buying books and one days I suggested getting it from the library. They looked at me like I was crazy. I mean, I enjoy owning books too but I can't afford to buy everything, ya know!

  2. Great post! I've seen similar things play out at our library and it is sad to see! i worked in a small elementary school library when I was in high school and thoroughly enjoyed it!
    Do you still have the link to the Dewey Decimal System chart you mentioned in the post? I would love to use it to teach my kids more about the library. My oldest is just old enough that I think she could learn to use it.

    1. Thanks. I wish I still had the link. I just did a google search. There are so many that you could choose one that fits how broad or precise you want it to be.


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