Visiting the Library of Congress Young Readers Center with Kids

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.

Young Readers Center at Library of Congress
Source: Library of Congress

What to Expect

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.

Kids Love the Library? Make sure to take them to the annual National Book Festival in Washington DC!

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.

Politicians reading to kids at the Young Readers Center
Source: Library of Congress

Children’s & Teens Rooms

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
  • Toys, puzzles, games
  • And of course, books and more books

Board books are handily stored at ground level.

Congresswoman and her child reading at YRC
Source: Library of Congress

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.

Story Time

The Young Readers Center used to offer story times but no longer do. Hopefully that’s something they bring back. My kids loved it!

They do also have activities based on their book collections as well. For instance, if they have a particular gallery on display, they’ll use items to create a craft and do other activities that will be a lot of fun.

In February 2024, they started having monthly Family Days. Make sure to check their event calendar for the next one. The dates do differ depending on other happenings so there is not a set Saturday of the month at this time.

The best way to find upcoming events for kids (even if they’re not directly hosted within the Young Readers Center, is by visiting the Library of Congress’ events page.

Did You Know? There’s actually a lot of Washington DC, Maryland & Virginia themed books that are excellent (and super fun!) for kids!

Timed Entry Tickets

The Young Readers Center can only hold 24 visitors at a time. Make sure you get a free timed-entry ticket before you go. This is the same timed-entry ticket you will need for the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building.

As the hours differ for the Library, make sure to select tickets for with the Young Readers Center is open (see hours below).

Tickets can be reserved up to 30-days in advance. There is a limited number of same day tickets that can be reserved starting at 9am using the link above as well.

Hours and Admission

The Library of Congress and its Young Readers Center are free, and no tickets are required.

Visit the Young Readers Center Wednesday through Saturday from 10 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.

Getting There

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.

Good to Know

  • The Young Readers Center & Program Lab is located in Room G51.
  • A reader’s card is not required to visit the Young Readers Center
  • 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 here – 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.
  • 10:00am to 12:00pm tend to be the highest toured times for the Library of Congress in general so if you want a glimpse from the overlook, it is likely to be busiest during this time.
  • 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.
  • This Library of Congress page has some nice resources for kids and families
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OK Editorial Team

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