I come from a long line of library users. My grandmother was a library technician in Toronto and kept a special bookshelf in her front hall full of discarded picture books for us grandchildren. My mother carried on the tradition with weekly visits to our local library, four young children in tow. These visits have achieved epic proportions in my memory, especially the winter our library underwent a huge renovation and the entire collection was moved to a warehouse across town for the duration, where it remained open for business as usual. We’d pile our books and my youngest sister onto the wooden sled and trek home in the snow, past the train tracks, through the woods, into the early dark of a winter night. When we moved to the West Coast in my teens, it was a thrill to discover our new library allowed us to check out literally eight times as many books as we were used to and to keep them for twice as long!

Three years ago, after my book-themed baby shower, I was all set…for a little while. For a book lover there can never be enough and there are only so many times you can read Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? to your baby before you start to wonder if other books still exist in the world. That is when I discovered the Drop-In Baby Time at the Greater Victoria Public Library. At first I was reluctant, envisioning over-enthusiastic parents making their babies clap along to the same old cutesy songs. I greatly underestimated our wonderful local librarians and their ability to engage not just babies and children but adults as well. Certainly there were songs but I can’t recall one single rendition of Pat-a-Cake. And how lovely to have my childhood love of Raffi rekindled. In addition, there were puppets, musical instruments, stories (of course!) and singing games so interactive I sometimes felt I’d attended one of those mommy/baby boot-camps and not a library storytime.

Before Nicolas was born, I had been a regular library patron, visiting monthly and checking out as many as 60 books to supplement the weekly themed programs at my job in out-of-school care, not to mention the many books, CDs and movies I had on hold for myself. These days I find myself at my nearest branch as often as twice a week, toddler in tow. We have “graduated” to Family Storytime and it is one of my greatest joys to observe how Nicolas’ level of participation has increased as his confidence grows. Twisting his hands the right way for finger-plays, calling out colours during felt-board stories, and jumping up for movement songs—he tries them all these days. I love the way his face lights up when familiar books are on the roster. And when storytime is over, his greatest joy is to play on the oversize foam blocks, jumping from one to another, using them as motorcycles and showing me all his “cool tricks.” On days when we have a spare hour before dinner, we head to the library where I have watched him persevere through challenging puzzles, practice sharing the farm animals and put away the stuffed animals all on his own. I have seen him figure out how to turn the pages of the Biggest Word Book Ever, spin a globe and even flush a toilet! He can also return books, recycle hold slips and is rapidly learning how to check out books for himself. All this, and more, at your favourite local library.

Elizabeth Poppe is mama to Nicolas (who will shortly have his very own library card) and would like to say an extra-special thank you to Adrienne the librarian for all the wonderful Friday mornings.