Inspiring a love of reading in kids can sometimes be challenging, but a visit to a library can unlock a world that kids will never want to leave. While every library has something special to offer, some go above and beyond to create a truly magical experience for kids and grown-ups. We’ve rounded up some of the best libraries in the U.S. and you’re going to want to check them all out.

Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library - Little Rock, AR

This 30,000 square foot library offers so much to do and explore you could literally spend all day here and your kids will want to. Besides a massive book collection for babies to teens, this state-of-the-art library features a computer lab, a teaching kitchen where kids can develop culinary skills and a 165-seat theater that offers kids a hands-on experience in everything from playwriting to costume and lighting design. The discovery doesn’t stop indoors. Families can also learn about Arkansas’s ecosystems as they explore the walking paths outside.

4800 W 10th St.
Little Rock, AR 72204
Online: cals.org/childrens-library/

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Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library - Denver, CO

Besides a sleek modern design this Denver Library offers something many others don’t: a place to make noise. Musical noise, that is. The library’s Digital Arts and Media Studio gives kids and grown-ups alike a free space to rock out on a variety of instruments, including guitars, keyboards, drums and microphones. You can even record and mix your jam session using software like GarageBand. All you need to do is make a reservation in advance. Another awesome bonus offered by the entire Denver Public Library system is the Phone-a-Story program. Patrons can dial 720-865-8500 24-hours a day and hear a story, song or rhyme in English, Spanish, Amharic and Vietnamese.

1498 Irving St
Denver, CO 80204
Online: denverlibrary.org/content/rodolfo-corky-gonzales-branch-library

Harold Washington Library Center - Chicago, IL

Located on the second floor of this Chicago Library branch is the Thomas Hughes Children's Library. The Children’s Library is divided into three distinct neighborhoods by age group. The Early Learner Neighborhood features a puppet theater and baby garden, the Elementary Learner Neighborhood gives school-aged kids an opportunity to explore STEAM-activities and the Tween Neighborhood provides older kids with a digital media space that features cameras and a blue screen they can use to create their own digital art.

400 S. State St.
Chicago, IL 60605
Online: chipublib.org/childrens-library/

Hamilton Grange Library - Harlem, NY

This historic library built at the turn of the century might not seem high-tech on the outside, but inside you’ll find a state-of-the-art library offering plenty for kids of the digital age. The colorful second floor is dedicated to tweens and teens. Bright bean bags all over the sprawling, open floor offer spots to plop down and study or read a book. If you feel like making a little noise, however, you can check out the glass-walled media room at the center where you can enjoy the library’s digital media offerings like movies and games.

503 West 145th Street
New York, NY 10031
Online: nypl.org/about/locations/hamilton-grange

Seattle Central Library - Seattle, WA

The stunning architecture alone is worthy of a visit to the Seattle Central Library. The unique glass and steel exterior walls allow natural light to stream into the 11-floor building that features a “Book Spiral” with zig-zagging, accessible ramps that lead visitors up through each section. On the first floor you’ll find the massive Children’s Center where you can participate in story times in multiple languages as wells as the LibraryLab where kids can create and experiment with STEAM-based projects.

1000 Fourth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104
Online: spl.org/

Minneapolis Central Library - Minneapolis, MN

Art and literature go hand in hand and at the Minneapolis Central Library you can see imagination spring to life in works of art by world-renowned and local artists displayed all over the library as well as in the fourth floor gallery. Besides the artwork, the impressive children’s section offers plenty of inspiration as well. Giant dragonflies welcome visitors into the cozy reading space and play area that’s lit with floor to ceiling windows.

300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Online: hclib.org/about/locations/minneapolis-central 

Central Library - Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles boasts several very impressive libraries, but none is quiet as stunning as the Central Library downtown. Inside the 1920s-era building you’ll discover murals depicting the history of Los Angeles among other sculptures, art work, a garden and exhibits. In fact, you might feel like you’ve entered a museum if it wasn’t for the nearly 3 million books housed inside. The third largest public library in the country is also home to a huge Children’s Literature Department where you can check out some special collections, like the International Picture Book collection and enjoy activities, like magic shows and puppets.

630 W 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Online: lapl.org/branches

Laramie County Library - Cheyenne, WY

The entire second floor of this library is dedicated to kids and some of it is even run by kids. The Laramie County Library system has a Teen Advisory Board that is made up of students in grades seven to 12. The members meet monthly to give input and ideas on programs and activities designed for teens in the library. The children’s section offers plenty for younger patrons too with several interactive learning spaces like a pretend book mobile, an over-sized chess board and an imaginative book return machine that looks like it belongs in Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

2200 Pioneer Ave.
Cheyenne, WY 82001
Online: lclsonline.org/youth/

Public Library of Cincinnati - Cincinnati, OH

Sometimes you just want to grab a book and enjoy it outside in the sunshine. You can do exactly that at the Children’s Garden at the Public Library of Cincinnati. On the first floor of the library you’ll find the 9,200 square-foot Children’s Learning Center that opens to the outdoor walled garden with plants, sculptures and benches perfect for getting lost in a good book. Inside the library also features a saltwater aquarium as well as offering dozens of fun programs for kids, like art classes and theater programs.

800 Vine St.
Cincinnati, OH, 45202
Online: kidspace.cincinnatilibrary.org/

Cerritos Millennium Library - Cerritos, CA

It’s not often you can visit the library and spot dinosaurs outside of the pages of books. At Cerritos Millennium Library a giant T-rex greets visitors to the Children’s Library within. Besides dino-lovers this interactive library caters to all kinds of passions with a model space shuttle, a reading space inside of a lighthouse, a mini Banyan forest, an aquarium, an art studio and more.

18025 Bloomfield Ave.
Cerritos, CA 90703
Online: menu.ci.cerritos.ca.us/kids/index.html

Parkway Central Library - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This library has something for everyone, from an extensive rare book collection that includes children’s literature, like original artwork by Beatrix Potter, to a children’s library that features titles in 55 different languages, and even a culinary center with classes for all ages. One Sunday a month the library also hosts a live, family-friendly performance featuring renowned artists like musicians, dancers and theater performers.

1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Online: freelibrary.org/locations/parkway-central-library

Salt Lake City Public Library - Salt Lake City, UT

The unique architecture is just one of the aspects that makes this Salt Lake City library such a special place to visit, but it’s by no means the least. The curving glass-walled structure offers stunning views inside and out and is topped with a massive breathtaking skylight that sends daylight streaming through the entire building. The Children’s Library takes up a 5-story atrium that includes Craft Rooms, Story Rooms and a Tinker Lab where you can take part in the extensive offering of kids programs. There are also two very special hidden spots made just for kids. The first room is called Grandma’s Attic and it offers a cozy reading nook made to look like a warm, treasure-filled attic with wood beams and stuffed animals. The other special room is named the Wild Woods, a mini forest that features a cascading waterfall on the adjoining terrace and acts as a relaxing outdoor storytime space during summer months. The library is also home to The Plot community garden where visitors are welcome to use it as a learning lab.

210 E 400 S.
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Online: slcpl.org/kids

San Francisco Public Library- San Francisco, CA

Voted as the 2018 Library of the Year by the Library Journal, the San Francisco Public Library is all about diversity in its offerings. Programs for everyone highlight inclusivity for all regardless of age, race or gender. The library recently launched the “We Love Diverse Books” initiative to feature books that counteract stereotypes and showcase different cultures. It is even home to the country’s first Drag Queen Story Hour.

100 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Online: sfpl.org/

ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center - Charlotte, NC

A collaboration between the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and the Children’s Theater of Charlotte, this very special space just for kids is more than just shelves full of books. It’s a place where kids can see the written word come to life both on stage and through innovative hands-on programs. The Center features two stages that produce kid-friendly productions as well as offering theater classes and workshops for kids. It also features the “Studio I” Makerspace where kids can get creative with their own projects.

300 East Seventh St
Charlotte, NC 28202
Online: cmlibrary.org/branch/imaginon-joe-joan-martin-center

 

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building- New York City, NY

No list of the best libraries in the U.S. would be complete without this famous spot. From the lions outside the building to the basement archives, this iconic library is one of the most highly depicted in film and television. Just for the historical and kitsch value alone this library is worth a visit, not to mention the awesome gift shop. The Children’s Center offers young book lovers a wonderful collection and programming, but the real gem is that it is also the home of the original Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh and his stuffed animal pals that inspired A.A. Milne’s classic tales are on display for fans to check out.

476 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY, 10018
Online: nypl.org/locations/schwarzman

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: CM Library via Flickr

 

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