Our outing to the Library of Congress Young Readers Center began with two whining girls: “What? A library? Seriously? We have to go to a library?” And a couple of hours later: “Wait! We can’t go yet! We haven’t seen this yet! When can we come back?” The 12-year-old and 7-year-old had been thoroughly impressed and won over.
Housed below the gloriously breath-taking Great Hall of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, the Young Readers Center is an oasis for kids and families who love books.
We made our way from the Great Hall down to the ground floor and down a long, dim corridor. At the end we reached a bright and inviting 3-room space that houses both current and classic books for children and teens. Upon entering, we were immediately welcomed and given a brief tour of the Center. A member of our group asked if we could check out books, and we were told that we could enjoy the books onsite; if we found one we especially liked, the librarians would gladly help us locate a circulating copy at our local public library.
The preteen who was previously unexcited about the outing was quickly impressed by the teen room, in particular the display of numerous advance copies of yet-to-be-released books.
The larger children’s room is next door, with comfortable furnishings, including a rocking chair, and toys, puzzles, games, and of course, books and more books. Board books are handily stored at ground level.
One wall features two computers, which only access kid-friendly websites, more games and puzzles, a section of foreign language books and books in Braille.
For a family who has spent many hours in wonderful libraries, the Young Readers Center was interesting, enjoyable, and a place we’ll look forward to visiting again and again.
The Young Readers Center offers story time for infants and toddlers at 10:30 a.m. Fridays. Because the number of adults and children is limited to 50, free admission stickers are distributed beginning at 10 a.m. To confirm story time for a particular Friday, call the YRC at (202) 707-1950.
The closest Metro station is Capitol South, located two blocks away. Limited street parking (metered and two-hour zoned) is located in the surrounding neighborhoods, and some public parking lots are available, such as at Union Station, about a half-mile away.
If bringing a stroller, use the Library’s Carriage Entrance at First and Independence.
Hours and Admission
The Library of Congress and its Young Readers Center are free, and no tickets are required.
Visit the Young Readers Center Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is closed weekends and all federal holidays. (Note that the YRC follows a different schedule than the Library of Congress, which is open more frequently.)
Good to Know
- A large women’s restroom with changing table is located just outside the YRC. There is also a water fountain immediately outside. Our review team did not see a men’s restroom located near the YRC.
- Two activity sheets are available online – print and bring these along to help get kids excited about their visit to the Library. The first page is geared to younger children and the second page, a word search, seems more appropriate for slightly older kids. Beware though that completing the pages can be tricky if the Great Hall is especially crowded.
- The Library offers many awe-inspiring exhibits for older teens and adults, but other nice touches for families of all ages include wooden picnic tables outside the Library’s main entrance (bring your own snacks as only vending machines are available in the basement of the Jefferson building), a fantastic view of the Capital across the street, very helpful docents at the information stations, a gift shop with clever finds and books for the whole family and, again, the magnificent Great Hall.
Photos by Erin Link.