Top 15 Public Libraries In The D.C. Area

Published on December 02, 2019 - Updated on February 10, 2020

In recent years, library modernization became an essential priority for the communities and counties in and around the D.C. area. The hard work and fundraising required to make this initiative a reality show throughout the DMV. Whether or not your local library has been a focal point of this mission yet, it is a great time to refamiliarize with your nearby library, before branching out a bit in the colder months to experience a few (or all) of our favorites.

The Library of Congress

101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540

The Library of Congress is the second largest library in the world. With its vast trove of multimedia resources – including millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps, and manuscripts – it deserves the top spot on our list. This library is the oldest federal institution, and thus a great place to imbue kids with a sense of curiosity and wonder. It offers free tours, exhibits, and A Young Readers Center open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 4:30 pm. It's easiest to travel there by Metro, as the library is two blocks from the Capitol South Station on the Orange, Blue, or Silver Line and just half a mile from Union Station on the Red Line.

Folger Shakespeare Library

201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003

The Folger Shakespeare Library offers programs that make the great playwright's works accessible and fun for children of all ages. The free Shake Up Your Saturday event series has hour-long programs for children ages four through eleven. The events take place on the first Saturday of each month from 10 am to 12 pm. The Folger also has free walk-in tours and exhibitions. The library is just steps from the Library of Congress, near the Capitol South Station on the Orange, Blue, or Silver Line.

Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library

4450 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20016

This D.C. public library, steps from the Tenleytown-AU metro stop on the Red Line, hosts multiple events for children of all ages each day. Many of these, like the Story Time series, prove both healthy and educational, incorporating physical activity to engage the mind and body simultaneously. Be sure to get your tickets at the Children's Desk, which starts distributing them an hour before the start of the storytime on a first-come, first-served basis.

Chevy Chase Neighborhood Library

5625 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20015

Near the Friendship Heights Station, this next D.C. library is on the Red Line. It also hosts the Story Time series, with regular time slots for pre-crawlers, one-year-olds, toddlers 18-36 months, and children 3-5 years old. There are also a variety of movie-oriented activities, as well as a kid's chess club.

Georgetown Neighborhood Library

3260 R St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007

Another fantastic D.C. library for kids, Georgetown Neighborhood Library has the same storytime series as the other D.C. libraries, plus events that cater to a wide array of kids' interests. These events showcase comic books, teach video game strategy, and design and introduce kids to musical instruments, to name just a few. Metered street parking is available.

Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library

3310 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008

The last (but not least) of the D.C. libraries to make our list, Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library is just two blocks from the Cleveland Park Station on the Red Line. After taking its turn in the renovation cycle, it reopened in 2018, seeking LEED Gold Certification. The modern and eco-friendly library stands apart with its aesthetically pleasing design and ample green space for kids to enjoy. It puts on the storytime series, as well as Zumba, chess, yoga, and music classes. Also included in its roster are superhero-themed events, quiet homework time, and foreign language storytimes.

Arlington Public Library – Central Library

1015 North Quincy Street, Arlington, VA 22201

This library in Arlington has a number of kid-friendly free events. Animal lovers will delight in its Paws to Read program, which pairs children in Kindergarten through fifth grade with a dog to practice reading in a stress-free environment. The American Girl Lending Program teaches young girls about different eras in American history through the fictitious stories of the iconic dolls. In addition to the excellent extra programming, the children's librarians are memorable, and as a result, storytime is very popular, so get there early to reserve your spot. Parking is free and space is ample.

Arlington Public Library - Columbia Pike Branch Library

816 South Walter Reed Drive, Arlington, VA 22204

The Columbia Pike Branch Library is smaller than Central Library but has plenty of reading nooks for kids, plus stuffed animals and educational toys to keep them entertained. This branch also has a popular summer reading program for students below fifth grade. Its regular programs inspire kids to read, move, play games, create artwork, and learn foreign languages. There is ample free parking near the library.

Arlington Public Library - Shirlington

4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206

The new Shirlington Library location opened in 2007 in a lively neighborhood with neighboring shops and restaurants. There are reading programs, storytimes, and activity clubs, as well as Paws to Read, a program designed to encourage reluctant readers to build confidence through the nonjudgmental attention of dogs. There is parking designated for library visitors.

Alexandria Library – Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library

5005 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22304

The Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library was built in 2000 and hosts fun and intellectually stimulating events for kids nearly every day. Children can earn prizes for reading books, get homework help and play literary games here. The Parents Corner provides books that aides kids and parents as they navigate things like potty training, fear of the dark, adoption, and divorce. The library has a large parking lot with 175 spaces.

Alexandria Library – Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library

717 Queen Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Storytime at this renovated branch incorporates songs, games, and activities, and the first week of every month features a children's book retold with yoga geared toward toddlers and kids ages two and over. The library is beautiful and has a lovely garden. Located in Old Town, there is much to do and see nearby the library. Still, it lacks a parking lot, so expect to circle a couple of times before finding convenient street parking, or utilizing a paid lot is also an option if you would rather not use public transportation.

Fairfax County Library – Sherwood Regional

2501 Sherwood Hall Lane, Alexandria, VA 22306

Located between Richmond Highway and Fort Hunt Road, this library is well-outfitted for kids. A separate room for kids to play and read is adjacent to the children's section, and at least two educational computer stations with headphones sit between them. Found to the left of the entrance by to the information desk, the children's area has a convenient location. The checkout area is on the opposite side of the main entrance, so it is easy in and out if you are there for a quick visit. As is true for all Fairfax County libraries and in many other counties, there is a reading program with rewards titled "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten." There is also ample parking at Sherwood.

Fairfax County Library - John Marshall

6209 Rose Hill Drive, Alexandria, VA 22310

John Marshall Library in the Rose Hill Community of Alexandria in Fairfax County reopened in 2018 to glowing reviews. The library closed for about 18 months for renovation and drastically improved on many levels, including more light, technology, meeting spaces, beautiful gardens and a much more welcoming children's area. The staff is very knowledgeable, and in addition to a variety of storytime options, the library hosts "Playdate Cafe" for socialization geared toward little ones from 0-5 every Friday.

Montgomery County Library - Connie Morella Branch

7400 Arlington Rd, Bethesda, MD 20814

The Connie Morella Library is two blocks from the Bethesda Metro Station on the Red Line. It has 20-30 minute long Storytimes with "books, songs, rhymes and bounces" to bring texts to life, thwarting boredom and inviting the audience to immerse themselves in the story. Events aim to instill in attendees a "lifelong love of learning." The library has metered parking that costs $1/hour.

Montgomery County Library - Rockville Memorial

21 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850

To start, this library features a huge play area for kids outside the library's entrance, which is a bonus encouraging little ones to run free before or after quiet time inside. The children's section is well stocked, airy, and very clean. There are a variety of storytimes, and on the second floor, there is a relatively new public "makerspace," which is a community center with inspiration built-in for creative projects for all ages. In a business district, there are restaurants close by the library, but keep in mind that this also means if you plan to spend more than two hours, you will likely have to pay for parking.

Library projects are always in motion, and renovations are in the works all around us. Watch for the highly anticipated reopening of Martin Luther King Memorial Library, otherwise known as D.C. Central, in the fall of 2020. We look forward to adding it to our list, and welcome suggestions if you have a favorite we should check out in the meantime. Feel free to send us a message, or tag us on Instagram @happyactivefamily.

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Randi Banks
Randi (Betts) Banks grew up in New York and graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. She moved to Washington, D.C. more than thirteen years ago with her husband, Eaghmon, and they love to explore the area and seek out adventure, now with their two young children along for the ride. Growing up right near the beach, they are happiest when on or near the water, so exploring the rivers, lakes, and streams in the greater DC area is a favorite pastime for their family. In addition to serving as one of the Washington, DC area ambassadors, Randi is also the Editor in Chief and Co-founder of happyly.
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