Things to do with children in the library without a library card

1024 683 Writer and the Wolf Editorial

Found yourself in a library but you either

  • don’t have a library card for this particular library
  • don’t have a library card at all
  • do have a library card but it’s blocked because you’ve got fines or overdue books (I’ve been there 😬)?

Fear not! You can still have a lovely time even if you’re not able to load up on books. Just being in the library is a fabulous way to encourage children to read for pleasure. Being surrounded by books and other passionate readers reminds them there’s a whole world of stories out there just waiting for them! It also shows them that you value reading and prioritise it enough to make the time to take them to libraries, even if you’re not borrowing any books.

Remember that I’m based in London in the UK and all libraries are different so what I’m saying here might not apply to the libraries in your country, state or even borough. Always check with your local librarians who’ll be very happy to help!

Public libraries in England are free to enter for anybody, whether or not you have a library card, so don’t panic that they won’t let you in if you’re not a member! That said, in recent months a lot of libraries have been trialling non-staffed extended opening hours where patrons can access the library using their library card and PIN via a little machine outside, so you might not be able to enter during these hours unless you’re signed up. Double check before you go!

So, what can you do once you’re in?

Read books

This is an easy peasy one! You don’t need to borrow books in order to read them. If you’re at the library with a child, you can get through a whole bunch of picture books, board books or early readers while you’re there. Although librarians have a reputation for telling everyone to ‘shhhhh’, the children’s sections of libraries are usually more relaxed (and noisy) and you won’t get into trouble for reading out loud!

Make a note of books you want

Go window shopping! I often take photos of books Caeden or I like but can’t borrow there and then. I even post them on Instagram so I don’t forget later! If there’s something you or your child wants to read but cant’t take out of the library, make a note and see if you can get hold of it in a book shop or another library, or add it to your birthday or Christmas list for somebody else to get you.

Join in events

Most public libraries have free events that anybody can join in, with or without a library card. My local libraries offer a weekly lego club, sketching lessons, kids’ movie screenings, SEND sensory sessions, story time and craft mornings, as well as one-off and seasonal events. There are usually lots of free classes and clubs for adults, too, like knitting, jigsaws and local history.

Make a bucket list

Start visiting as many libraries as you can and tick them off a checklist, scoring them out of ten or posting reviews on social media. Try to visit all the libraries in your city or county, or look at lists of the most beautiful or inspiring libraries and choose your favourites:

For more inspiration, check out the marathon Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho has just completed: visiting and registering at a library in every authority across the country!



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Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes