The public library sure ain’t what it used to be–and that’s a good thing. Libraries are now catering to modern kids like never before, offering live performances, story times, CD & DVD collections, and play areas in addition to, well, books. So whether your kiddo likes to snuggle up with a good read or prefers a more interactive learning experience, there’s a library out there that fits the bill. With the warm summer months coming up, we’re always in the mood for a place to spend an air-conditioned morning – and if it expands the mind, all the better! We’ve scoured the city to bring you the best in children’s libraries—reading optional. (But highly encouraged, of course.)

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Los Angeles Public Library Central Branch
A far cry from the tiny “kiddie corners” that some libraries offer, the massive and beautiful Los Angeles Public Library’s Central branch has its own Children’s Literature Department. Kiddies can browse special collections including the Mother Goose collection and the International Picture Book collection while admiring murals depicting early California history. The Children’s Literature Department hosts a slew of activities for children, including story times, puppet shows, and music. As parking Downtown can be a challenge (read: pain), consider taking the Red Line subway to Pershing Square or 7th Street.

Los Angeles Public Library Central Branch
630 W 5th Street
Los Angeles, Ca 90071
Phone: 213-228-7000
Online: lapl.org/branches

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Santa Monica Library
It’s easy to make a day out of a trip to the Santa Monica Library. Kiddies getting hungry? Have a bite at the café. Need some time to stretch your legs? Enjoy some outdoor time in the courtyard. And if you’d like your kids to do some actual reading, head to the fantastic kids’ section of the library, which offers a plethora of books and resources, as well as a large activity room where kids can enjoy story times, author readings, and even a LEGO Block party!

Santa Monica Library
601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, Ca 90401
Phone: 310-458-8600
Online: smpl.org

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Silver Lake Public Library
Eastsiders flock to this small but charming library, which makes up in imagination what it lacks in size. The toddler area offers a wide selection of books (including many in Spanish), stuffed animals, and even a kitchen set. Have a budding author on your hands? The nearby section for older kids has a table where your little Jane Austen can create her own book, which the library will stamp with a barcode and put in circulation for patrons to borrow. Throw in a weekly themed pajama party story time and prizes for book reviews and you’ve got a library to entice even the most book-phobic kid.

Silver Lake Public Library
2411 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90039
Phone: 323-913-7451
Online: lapl.org/branches/silver-lake

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West Hollywood Library
The first thing your kids may notice about the West Hollywood Library is that it’s within sprinting distance of West Hollywood Park, home to two (count ‘em) playgrounds: one for big kids, and one that’s fenced in for little escape artists. If you can get them inside the library, you’ll find a bright, open space with a sizable children’s section that includes an impressive DVD collection, mini tables and chairs, and even toys for the little-littles. There’s also a separate, enclosed children’s room for story time and special performance events.

West Hollywood Library
625 N. San Vicente Blvd.
West Hollywood, Ca 90069
Phone: 310-652-5340
Online: colapublib.org/libs/whollywood

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South Pasadena Public Library
The South Pasadena Public Library offers a wide selection of dogs for your kids to enjoy. That’s right, dogs. The monthly Barks and Books program allows kids between five and ten to read animal-related short stories to dogs from the Pasadena Humane Society Companion Animal Program. Rotating events for kids include theater classes, Lego building, and art contests. And weekly story times are divided by age group so that your five-year-old, who knows exactly where Thumbkin is, needn’t be bothered with such trivialities.

South Pasadena Public Library
1414 Mission Street
South Pasadena, Ca 91030
Phone: 626-403-7200
Online: ci.south-pasadena.ca.us/library

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Beverly Hills Public Library
After a yearlong renovation, the Children’s Library is now open, and it was well worth the wait. In fact, we were so impressed, we visited when it opened and got the scoop straight from both kids and parents of what they love most about the make-over. You can find out what they said, over here.

The Beverly Hills Public Library
444 N. Rexford Dr.
Beverly Hills, Ca 90210
Phone: 310-288-2211
Online: beverlyhills.org/childrenslibrary

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Where do you get for a good read with your bookworms?

–Sara Ring

Images courtesy of  Los Angeles Public Library Central Branch via Facebook, Stock.xchange, Sara Ring, and Meghan Rose

What’s most important to you in a children’s library—the books or the extras?