How the Library saved my sanity

It was a brilliant day when I discovered that the library is more than roomfuls of books. It was my first week as a stay-at-home Mom, freshly acquainted with Vancouver again after a two-year absence living –and giving birth to my daughter– in small-town South America. I came for a much-missed chance to read literature in English. I left with a stack of leaflets about events for families, babies, Moms, even date nights, and all of it for free. Suddenly, my week wasn’t just a stream of wandering the neighbourhood parks with bouts of laundry in between. I heaved a huge sigh of relief and giddily penciled in dates on my fridge calendar.

Here are some highlights:

Babytime / Toddlertime / Family Storytime

What happens: During these half-hour programs, a librarian masterfully entertains a crowd of parents and kids with songs, rhymes and stories while you help your kid participate. Depending on the kid’s age, parents either hold them in their laps or sit next to them in the Children’s Area of the library. Some of the songs were ones I knew as a kid (“five little ducks went out one day…”) while others were new (“zoom zoom zoom, we’re going to the moon!”).

Why it’s awesome: Early literacy program… check! The songs are fun, you get to listen to a crowd of baby giggles during tickling songs and the babies especially get a kick out of seeing the other babies lifted up in the air during the “elevator song”. Plus, your kid gets to interact with others his/her age and you get to chat with other parents before or after the program. Since it’s only half an hour, it’s easy to fit into your day and give you the boost you need to get out of the house.

Where and when: See the Library Programs page. There are so many times/dates that you could become a Babytime groupie and go from library to library to catch the latest show every day.

BYOB (“Bring Your Own Baby”) Book Club

What happens: Moms get together to discuss a novel once a month in a baby-friendly setting. The library provides the book chosen for discussion and a librarian helps guide the conversation with interesting info about the author, questions, and criticism about the book. The babies/tots play with books or toys in the middle of a lovely circular room while the Moms (or Dads) chat while sitting around them.

Why it’s awesome: How much adult conversation do you regularly get? It’s delightful to discuss a good, or not so good, book. Just by reading and thinking critically about something more advanced than Goodnight Moon, I feel like a person again… maybe even an intelligent person. The club is relaxed and leaving to chase an errant toddler, dumping out your whole bag to find a diaper or breaking up a dispute over a ball is fine. You don’t have to even finish the book or express anything more than “I liked it” or “I thought it stunk” if you don’t feel like it.

Where and when: First Tuesday of the month, Central Library (downstairs in the Children’s Library). Registration is required, but it’s free. Pick up the next book on level two or at a meeting. Click for more details.

The Man in the Moon *Dads only!

What happens: Dads/Grandfathers/Male caregivers get together with their 0-18 month old babies to share songs, rhymes and stories. It’s similar to the regular library program but the whole tone is very Dad-friendly, run by a male librarian and includes a snack.

Why it’s awesome: It encourages Dads to take an active role in playing, reading and caring for their babies/tots solo. While lots of Dads might do this already at home, the regular library program is almost exclusively female parents and Dads don’t usually get the chance to go to weekday programs. They also get to bond with other Dads while being the primary caregiver. The songs, my husband tells me, are less “mushy” than the ones at the regular program.

Where and when: Registration is required, but it is free. Check with your local library as the most recent session of the program is ending in late November/early December. It may be back after the winter break.

  • Central (Children’s) Library: Tuesdays 6:30 – 7:30
  • Brittania Branch: Saturdays 3:00 – 4:00
  • Kitsilano Branch Saturdays 10:15 – 11:15
  • Terry Salman Branch: Sundays 10:30 – 11:30

Free “Date Night” / “Mom’s Night Out” Concerts, Movies and Talks

What happens: Free movies, concerts, lectures and events are presented in the evening, usually in the Alice McKay room on the lower level of the Central Library. For example, in November you can see a screening of “Roman Holiday”, a 1953 romantic comedy, or take in a night of live Jazz featuring Canadian Jazz composers alongside greats like Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington.

Why it’s awesome: Doing novel things together keeps couples (or friends) together. You get something interesting to experience sans bebe and it doesn’t cost you a dime. Though I haven’t taken in one of these programs yet, I’m keen to and will write a review when I do!

Where and when: Check out my Calendar and look for events in blue… these are date night / Mom’s night out events!

Bonus tip:

You can also get your kid their own library card to take out books. Monita is only a year and she was so happy to receive it from the librarian that she clutched it in her chubby fist the whole walk home. Why bother? Kids don’t get charged late fines. So if you forget to return a book amid all the other things you’re doing, no worries. Thank you, Vancouver Public Library.

Board books are available too!

Monita and her Dad play hide & seek… um, quietly

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