What do you do when you’re out of state for a week with three kids? Head to the library, of course! Our family tagged along when Josh went to Canandaigua, NY for a conference last week. I don’t mind admitting that one of the kids’ favorite things about hotels is watching television in bed, but the channel choices were more abysmal than usual. That meant I had to be extra creative to fill the hours between trips to the pool and meals. We ended up visiting two different libraries in the area, and each time I was reminded what a cool place libraries can be.
We started the day at The National Museum of Play, which turned out to be a great choice. The morning was too crowded for my poor nerves (which I can’t even type without thinking of Mrs. Bennett and this meme), but things calmed down nicely after lunch. I’ve been to many different children’s museums in my day, but this has to be one of my favorites. In addition to the incredibly intricate grocery store and the amazing second level, the museum is a library branch in its own right. There’s a desk downstairs where local residents can get library cards and check out books! It’s genius, really. Upstairs near the Barbie collection and doll house is a bookcase full of books about dolls: Toys Go Out, The Secret of the Cupboard, The Doll People and more. The Sesame Street exhibit is full of vintage Sesame Street books. The grocery store has a bookcase full of, you guessed it, cookbooks and other books about food. The integration of play space and library access was incredible.
After a long day playing, we almost didn’t make it to the library at all. I had initially planned on visiting the Central Library of Rochester and Munroe County for two reasons, though, and both were still valid despite my exhaustion: it was right down the street from the area children’s museum, and its website said the children’s section includes a secret room. As one of those people who’s always wanted a room hidden behind a bookcase, I hoped it would be worth the trip. Once we made it to the library, I knew we’d made the right choice. I warned the kids we were just staying for a minute, but we ended up settling in for a full 45 minutes. The older two read books while the toddler and I explored the children’s section.
What impressed me most about the Central Library was the consideration that went into the children’s space. I watched one mom and her son take advantage of the adjacent parent and children computers (inspired) while I admired the huge magazine collection. The whole children’s area is closed off from the rest of the library by a set of glass doors, which helped keep the noise and children contained. (Mine aren’t the only wanderers, right?) I felt serious patron envy at the number and variety of books as well. I’m quite happy with my local library, but it has nothing on the Rochester system. We ended our trip with a visit to the secret room, which houses a projection screen and a collection of dolls from around the world. My eight-year-old spent the ride back telling me all about his plans to incorporate a secret room in his next game of Minecraft, so I can safely say he was impressed.
Later in the week, we visited the Wood Library in Canandaigua for no other reason than I was out of things to do. The children’s section has little carts for the kids to fill with books, which my girls loved. We missed story time thanks to a missing room key, so we found an oversized chair and I read book after book until we all felt rested and the weather had cooled down. We all felt a little sad we couldn’t check out any of the neat books, but it did also make the visit much less complicated than library trips at home. (No schlepping a giant bag of books to and from the car? That’s quite nice, actually.)
This is the first vacation where I’ve braved the library with children in tow. I’ve wanted to stop at many libraries on the road before, but I’ve worried it would be too much hassle. It turned out to be a (relatively) relaxing and free way to spend the afternoon, which was just what I needed while sharing a tiny room with four other people for the week.