If you live in King County, Washington, you have access to one of the best public library systems in the entire country! And it’s all FREE of charge. Here’s an overview of the services they offer for parents with young children, both in person and online.
Going In Person
There are LOTS of library locations. (Click on that link for directions AND hours.) You may choose a favorite one to go to over and over, or you go on a grand tour to see them all! (When my kids were little, I did a weekly field trip that would include a different library and park each week.)
When you arrive, you can go to the children’s section – if you don’t see it right away, just ask someone to point you there. You can choose any book on the shelf and read it to your child then and there, or you can choose to take it home. If you want to check it out, you’ll need a library card. Just go to the information desk and they’ll help you set up an account. You can check out up to 100 books at a time! You can keep videos for up to 7 days and books for 28. You can often renew for longer. (More details on borrowing.) When you’re done with materials, return them to any branch of the KCLS library.
When my children were little, ee went to the library once a week. I allowed them each to have ten library books out at a time. We kept them on a special shelf at home. Before we went, they could choose which books they were ready to return, and which they wanted to keep a while longer. If they brought 3 back, they could get three new ones. If they brought all 10 back, they could get 10 new books that week.
Accessing KCLS Online
To get started: If you don’t already have a library card, go to https://kcls.org/library-cards/ to set up an account.
On their website at https://kcls.org, you can search for any book you want. The results will look something like this:
You can choose a physical book (and sometimes a book with a CD of the book read aloud); an ebook that you can read on a browser or download to a device; or a downloadable audiobook.
If you choose an ebook or audiobook, and a copy is available now, you can download it right away. (Learn more about downloading e-books.) If a copy is not currently available, put it on hold, and you’ll get an email notification as soon as one is available to borrow.
If you want a physical book, then place a hold. You’ll then choose a library branch to have it delivered to for pick-up. There are lots of locations all over King County.
If no one else has requested it, you’ll typically have it within a week. If you see that there are something like 83 holds on 12 copies, you know it will be longer. When your book arrives, you’ll get an email. You can go to your library to pick up the book during business hours any time in the next week.
Once you’ve checked out a book, you have it for 28 days (21 days for e-books). You’ll get an email when it’s due. If you want it for longer, you can renew online, unless someone else has placed a hold on that book.
KCLS has books available in over 20 languages. You can do an advanced search that limits your results to books in that language. Learn more at: https://kcls.org/world-languages.
Online Resources available through KCLS
There are several libraries of online children’s e-books. We can access, for free:
- Libby – ebooks and downloadable audiobooks
- Hoopla – movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to stream or download
- Tumble Book Library Video storybooks and read-alongs for readers in grades K-6, including some in Spanish and French
- BookFlix Classic video storybooks paired with non-fiction eBooks. Preschool to 3rd grade.
- Kanopy – Watch thousands of films from independent filmmakers and popular producers. Titles include The Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, and PBS.
Learn more about these, and other services at https://kcls.org/resources-types/ebooks-format/). You can see samples of what kinds of books and videos they have at: https://gooddayswithkids.com/2021/10/13/online-resources-kcls/
For more information on where to find book recommendations and how to preview books on YouTube and through online reviews, check out https://gooddayswithkids.com/2020/09/29/choosing-books-for-your-child/.
Story-times are one of the best things to do with your toddler or preschooler to prepare them for kindergarten. They are free and fun, and a good learning experience for your child that will help get them excited about reading. Read more about them in my post on Story-Time: Cheap Dates with Toddlers.
If your family speaks a language other than English at home, they do have storytimes in some other languages, or the English storytimes offer a great opportunity for children (and parents!) to get more familiar with English.
In winter 2023, King County libraries are offering several story-times every single day at various branches across the county. For example, on Wednesdays you could attend story-time in Burien, Issaquah, Kirkland, Maple Valley, North Bend, Redmond or online. There are 8 online story-times every week, including ones in Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Tigrigna, and one that focuses on LGBTQ pride themes. Find the current schedule at https://kcls.bibliocommons.com/events.