A visit to the local library is one of the best ways to get a child interested in learning. At the most basic level, a children's library provides a collection of reading materials. Then there are libraries that go far beyond that. We've uncovered some of the country's most dynamic libraries for kids. These libraries are designed to stimulate young imaginations and foster engagement with books and literacy programs. They play a vital role in not only educating children, but getting them excited about books.
"The children’s section of any neighborhood public library is invariably the first public place where children are exposed to educative activities," says Vanessa Morris, professor of Library Science at Drexel University. "Typically, children will visit the public library before they enroll into preschool. Thus the children’s library is a vital starting point for intellectual, academic and social inspiration for all generations."
"Each one should be responsive to its community rather than beholden to some kind of national standard," says Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book, which reviews and tracks children's and young adult literature. "The best libraries pay attention to their communities, and the best librarians are those who really pay attention to the child in front of them, as well as the child who is not there but should be."
Armed with that input, we sought out institutions in our 500 cities that have gained recent attention for excellent children's programs, library activities for kids and community outreach. We looked for libraries that have visually appealing spaces for children, a full range of programs, large collections, integrate new technologies and proven success in getting kids to engage.
Read on for our ultimate picks for the Top 10 Libraries for Children, and be sure to tell us about your favorites, too!