About once a week during the summer, my two sons and I venture to the library for a “quick visit.” We emerge from the building a couple hours later, blinded by the light of day and bogged down with more than our share of books. Even with the best of intentions, we always stay longer than we planned.
I wondered: What is it about the library that causes us to lose track of time, every time? On a recent visit to , I attempted to find the answer to this phenomenon.
The children's department sprawls across the lower level of the library. It's a colorful expanse filled with interesting displays, hands-on activities, areas to lounge, and—you guessed it—books.
When we arrived, my boys, ages 6 and 10, made a beeline to the non-fiction section. My older son headed straight for the books about magic tricks, while the younger one wanted to find (more) books about hurricanes and tornadoes.
In summer especially, the non-fiction section is a gift that keeps on giving, so to speak. When we leave there with a book about origami, a drawing book, or a book of weather experiments, we spend the next week folding paper dogs, drawing airplanes, or building weather vanes. There are books on costume design, juggling, poetry, travel, dinosaurs, cooking, space, art, poetry, and every sport one can imagine. And that's just to name a few.
My sons sat among those shelves for 40 minutes, poring over their finds and pausing to read one together.
When I finally extracted them from non-fiction, they had a jam session in the “Hear It” area, where instruments hang on the wall for children to play. They checked the “Make It” corner, to see what craft or coloring pages the librarians had put out. When they were younger, they’d use the stuffed animals in the adorable stage area to put on plays for me. (They would never admit it, but sometimes they still indulge me.) We spent at least 25 minutes exploring the activities, and we didn't even cover half of them.
We took 10 minutes to select picture books and easy readers for my 6-year-old before spending another 10 talking with the librarians at the reference desk, a conversation that always yields good results. On this day, Maureen Baugh was working, as was the head of Children's Services, Laurie Scott. Baugh recommended their Playaway audio books for summer car trips.
"It's like an MP3 player with a book loaded onto it," Baugh said. "All you need is a AAA battery and earphones and you're all set. They've been big this summer."
Scott suggested a popular new book, This Book Made Me Do It, by John Woodward, which gives instructions for activities from art to science to sports. Not surprisingly, it was checked out, so we put a hold on it for another time.
Interacting with the librarians at the reference desk is fruitful even when a child doesn't have a particular book or genre in mind. Several years ago, Miss Nancy introduced my older son to the folklore section, and he was instantly hooked. He spent that summer reading richly illustrated versions of Jack & the Beanstalk, John Henry, and fairytales from around the world.
Around the same time, Miss Patricia introduced him to the wacky world of "Bill Nye the Science Guy" in the "Teach Me" DVD section. Each time we visit, I see the staff telling children and their parents about interesting books, DVDs, and library programs they'll enjoy all summer long.
Farmington Community Library's main branch is more than a place for kids to get a book or two; it's a destination. No wonder we always find our watches moving faster than we'd like when we're there. But I'm okay with that. Heaven knows, our summers wouldn't be the same without that place.
If you go
Farmington Community Library’s Main Library is at 32727 Twelve Mile Road in Farmington Hills.
The also offers a great selection of materials, programs and activities, including a charming tree house that kids can't resist. The Farmington Branch is in downtown Farmington at 23500 Liberty St.
If you live or work in Farmington and Farmington Hills, you can apply for a library card. Talk to the librarians at the circulation desk at either library.
For hours and information, visit the Farmington Community Library website, farmlib.org.