Beyond Books: What You Might Be Missing at the Library!

John F. Germany Library, 900 N. Ashley Dr.

I admit, I have an absolute love of the library and want kids to feel the same. When I was young, it was always an exciting trip when my mom would take me to the public library for story time. Today’s library has changed a lot since I was a kid. There are still plenty of wonderful books to explore, but today let’s look at some things you might not know are available–totally free!–to you and your kids with a library card.

Tumble books: This is one of my favorite hidden treasures available to library patrons. At Tumble Books (enter your library card number), your child’s favorite books come to life with animation, narration, music, and sound. Your child can have the book read to them or enjoy reading without sound.

Movies and CDs: Buying and renting movies and music CDs can get expensive. The library has many movies and CDs your kids will love, free of cost. You can borrow up to 25 movies and CDs at a time, for up to 7 days. Just a few of the great movies available are Seasame Street,  Madeline, Elmo’s World, The Doodlebops, Clifford, Scooby-Doo, Nickelodeon original movies, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. CDs include Baby Einstein, Baby Signing Time!, Hannah Montana, Kidz Bop, and many more!

Audiobooks: Reluctant readers can boost their reading by listening and following along with text. Kids’ titles include Bear’s Loose Tooth and Froggy’s Sleepover. Audio books can be borrowed for up to 21 days.

Freegal Music: Another hidden gem available through a phone app, Mac or PC is Freegal Music. You can download up to 3 songs (in mp3 format) a week to your iPhone or Android, iPod, mp3 player, or iTunes for free using your library card. Lots of Kidz Bop songs are available featuring popular hits with kid friendly lyrics.

Programs: The main library (John F. Germany, 900 N. Ashley Dr., Tampa) downtown is one of my favorite branches to visit, with Curtis Hixon Park and the Glazer Children’s Museum within walking distance. In June, this branch offers Baby Classes (children ages 0-18 months) on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and Toddler Classes (children ages 18 months to 3 years) at 11:00 a.m. Both classes emphasize that literacy starts young. Children, with their caregivers, can enjoy these 20-minute sessions full of songs, stories, and play.

Toddler Terrace, a haven of board books!
Toddler Terrace, a haven of board books!

Many programs are offered throughout Tampa Bay area libraries. Check the calendar for the library offerings closest to you. The following Saturday programs are just a sample of those being offered at the John F. Germany Library. (Check program listings for registration requirements.)
June 15: The Tricky Dog Show, 11:00 a.m.
June 22: Family Game Zone, 2:00 p.m.
June 29: Movie Mantinee-Brave, 2 p.m.

Reading with the Rays: Read Your Way to the Ballpark! One of my all time favorite programs for school aged children! Kids pledge to read for a total of 24 hours over the summer. For each base level achieved, your child will receive a special Rays themed prize, with the “home run” prize being a free ticket to a Rays game! Visit your local library or visit for more details. The program kicks off on June 10 and runs through August 10.

eBooks: What better way to entice a reluctant reader than by letting them use technology? The library offers eBooks to download to your e-reader. Formats include Adobe PDF eBooks, Adobe ePUB ebook, and Kindle. Not sure how to use eBooks? No problem! The library has classes for that, too! Classes are offered at the following locations and times: New Tampa Regional Library–Saturday, June 15 at 10:30 a.m.; Jimmie B. Keel Library–Saturday, June 15 at 2:00 p.m.; and SouthShore Regional Library–Saturday, June 22 at 10:30 a.m.

A future doctor? Check out the model of the ear!
A future doctor? Check out the model of the ear!

Realia: Have a budding scientist on your hands? A future doctor? A kid who just wants to know how things work? The library offers realia, models of a variety of scientific based items, to borrow. Just a few samples include heart models, microscopes, and skull models.

And of course…Books: Thousands of books are available for checkout at the library. Everything from toddler friendly board books (in the cool Toddler Terrace at John F. Germany, see picture above) to picture books to juvenille fiction and non-fiction. Books cans be put on hold and renewed online (which can be a big help when you have little ones keeping you busy and forgetful!). Search for books to delight your little ones at Book can be borrowed for up to 21 days at a time.

With 27 libraries in Hillsborough County and 26 libraries in Pinellas County (with many of the same great services!), you are sure to find one nearby–and it might just be full of unexpected surprises! What do you love best about YOUR library?

Debbie enjoys spending time with her husband of 14 years, Matt and their two very active children: Calvin, a gifted and quirky 11-year-old boy, and Kadison, a creative and strong-willed 8-year-old girl. Debbie attended the University of South Florida for both her bachelor's and master's degrees in education. With 20 years of experience, she's a National Board Certified Teacher in literacy and currently teaches 1st graders. Debbie's mission is to get kids to love learning! In her spare time, Debbie loves to read, enjoy the beach, and find the perfect cup of coffee. She is always on the look-out for a great local restaurant or fun place to go to relax! Follow Debbie on Twitter and Pinterest.


  1. I love taking my kids to the library! They are only one and two, but we try to do story time weekly! I actually downloaded my first ebook yesterday and was so excited at how easy it was! I can’t wait to look into all the other tips you offered!

  2. I love the library! Some of my best childhood memories are going to the library with my parents on summer vacations! 🙂

  3. What a great post!! As a librarian {retired for now} I love love love my local library, and so do my kids!! We enjoy the science library at MOSI (talk about realia!!) and our local Land O’ Lakes branch. My kids are HUGE non-fiction fans and my oldest loves maps, we have a blast exploring the stacks looking for new things to study! So much fun!

  4. My favorite thing is the drive-through at Jan Platt. I pick my books online, get an email when they are ready and just pick them up! Of course we also love to go in and browse too!

  5. Pasco County libraries have a lot going on for kids. They even have video game days for older kids. Libraries are such an underused resource, it is amazing what they have! Even for business people too. And if kids can’t afford software at home there are some libraries that have computers with Adobe Creative Suite for design and Final Cut Pro for video editing.

    • My kids love going to the library! Ours in Seminole has a great children’s area complete with a castle and puppet show theater! They always have great activities going on and we’re spoiled….we live right across the street!!!

  6. This is such a great post! As a child, I always loved fiction and the wonderful stories in books. It is surprising to me that my son gravitates to a completely different type of book. He loves nonfiction science books. I never knew about realia. He would absolutely love to have a model of a heart at our house for a few weeks. Thanks, we will have to run to the library this summer.

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