The Best Libraries and Indie Book Shops in NYC

Library

It’s not a stretch to say that there are libraries and book shops all over New York City. Almost all offer a variety of great programs perfect for families. For kids, reading is a good way to keep sharp and spark creativity. Doing that outside of the home can really help instill a love of learning that will be with them for life. So whether you’re a bookworm looking for a trip to the library or on the search for great ways for your family to spend their time, these spots will help you do that!

Manhattan

Manhattan

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St. and Fifth Ave.)
917-275-6975

Sometimes referred to as the “main branch,” this beautifully structured library is home to an estimated 15 million items. Within that, there is poetry, medieval manuscripts, comic books and so much more. This branch also boasts an impressive children’s collection and a dedicated children’s center. Its main point is to showcase children’s media, literature, and music. The section is well-stocked with educational books, collections of picture books for younger readers, as well as DVDs and music collections.

Neighborhood: Midtown South

Mulberry Street Library
10 Jersey St.
212-966-3424

Like other New York Public Libraries, this location also offers a wide array of family-friendly fun. Interestingly enough, it’s located at a former chocolate factory. They have events like “Crafternoon” that focus on making seasonal crafts and “Toddler Time: Shake, Rattle, and Read!” that is aimed at fostering a sense of community, as well as help children build important early learning skills. This location has sectioned off cozy areas for children and teens, as well as two large reading rooms for adults.

Neighborhood: Nolita

NYPL for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center
40 Lincoln Center Plaza (65th St and Columbus Ave)
917- 275-6975

Unlike most libraries, this one has a singular focus — art! A trip here may be right up your alley if you love the performing arts. This spot carries some of the world’s rarest archival collections in its field. They have a huge array of non-book items like videotapes, autograph manuscripts, sheet music, stage designs, photographs and more! Luckily, all these materials are free of charge and accessible. Because this location is more art-focused, their events include weekly family-friendly jazz concerts, film showings, and plays. This library encourages all to attend!

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Grandma’s Place
84 W 120th St.
212-360-6776

Serving as Harlem’s local spot for all things kids, Grandma’s Place is described as being chock full of children’s books and toys that promote creativity and active learning. The shop itself has a homey appeal and is full of nostalgic games, diverse toys, and entertaining puzzles. It was established in 1985 by “Grandma” Dawn Harris-Martine. She imagined a place where adults and children would be able to gain knowledge and experience. It’s a place that wants to support parents, guardians and teachers. Coming from a teaching background,  Harris-Martine has handpicked each book and toy, making sure that everyone can learn from them.

Neighborhood: Harlem 

Strand Books
828 Broadway
212-473-1452

The Strand is an independent bookstore that was founded in 1927 on Fourth Avenue. Once called, “Book Row,” it spanned the length of six city blocks and housed 48 bookstores. Right now, the shop contains around five million books, covering every topic you could imagine. They also have a children’s corner where kids can meet characters like Elmo and Doc McStuffins. These characters take the time to read stories to the kids. Furthermore, children will also have the opportunity to participate in arts and crafts or other family-friendly activities multiple times a month.

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village

Poets House

Poets House
10 River Terrace
212-431-7920

If you’re a fan of poetry, this place is for you! Poets House is a poetry library that invites people to read and create poems of their own. They place importance on diversity in content so that all may feel welcome inside their space. Experimentation and learning are openly encouraged. There’s an area called Constance Laibe Hays Children’s Room where kids can make poetry, music, art, and dance. The entire room is structured so that it can promote creativity. Kids have the chance to use old-fashioned typewriters and look through their wooden card catalog filled with objects and poems that can be used as writing prompts.

Neighborhood: Battery Park City

 

Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch
10 Grand Army Plaza
718-230-2100

This library is a New York City Landmark and also part of the National Register of Historic Place. It houses the world’s largest public archive for Brooklyn’s long and incredibly interesting social and cultural history. It’s also right next door is the Brooklyn Museum. This library offers a wide variety of books, resources, and family-friendly programs. Events like “Story and Play” and “Teen Time” are specifically aimed at getting younger audiences social and involved with kids their age. If you’re interested in more family-oriented events, there are concerts and movies available for viewing.

Neighborhood: Prospect Heights

Park Slope Library
431 6th Ave.
718-832-1853

This library started off as a small collection of history books that were being housed in Prospect Park’s Litchfield Mansion. Andrew Carnegie eventually funded the opening of the library on 9th Street and it has stayed in that location ever since. The inside of the branch is described as having a level of elegance with its stained glass ceiling and tiled fireplaces. Events here range from family game nights to toddler yoga and Dungeons and Dragons games for teens.

Neighborhood: Park Slope

WORD
126 Franklin St.
718-383-0096

This bookstore popped up in 2007 as a small Long Island used and new bookstore. Currently, they have Brooklyn and Jersey City locations. The shop caters to general interest but specializes in fiction and non-fiction. They note that they have a wonderful section for kids. If you sign your 18 and under child up for WORD’s birthday club, during their birth month, they get 25% off all books and toys, as well as a postcard. Best of all, registration is totally free. Their shop aims to provide a safe space for their community to learn and flourish.

Neighborhood: Greenpoint

Queens

Queens

Astoria Book Shop
31-29 31st St.
718-278-2665

This location doesn’t seem to have that much of an emphasis on children but does host book clubs for teens ages 12 and up. There are also numerous events like the “Storytelling Show” where participants can tell audiences a five-minute story about themselves. In addition, there’s a recurring event that focuses on discussions of important social issues and how that can translate into helpful parenting techniques. The talk aims to also help bond families within communities.

Neighborhood: Astoria

Books Are Magic

Books Are Magic
788 Woodward Ave.
347-927-5680

This shop opened up a few years ago in May 2017. After the closing of their neighborhood local bookshop, the married owners founded Books Are Magic. This spot focuses on non-fiction, fiction, and books for kids. This space is kid-friendly with its various hidey-holes, reading events, and panels practically every week. Every Saturday and Sunday at 11 am, they have a scheduled storytime. Often, the books are being read by the authors themselves! The event is always free and requires reserving your spot on their Facebook page.

Neighborhood: Ridgewood

Turn the Page Again
39-15 Bell Blvd.
718-767-2341

This is an Affirmative Business program initiated store that sells like-new, used books. Ever since they opened in February of 2010, they have dedicated their time to selling books for both children and adults. They have everything from fiction, mysteries, cookbooks, classics, romance and more. Their children’s section is large and offers options for readers of all ages. This includes board books, picture books, Newberry and Caldecott winners, non-fiction, educational and more. Since their stock changes daily, you’ll never know what hidden gems you might find. Another bonus here is that they have amazing sales with prices for some books being as low as $1.

Neighborhood: Bayside

Queens Library, Central Library
89-11 Merrick Blvd.
718-990-0700

This particular location has an estimated one million volumes of materials and more than 800 titles of academic journals and magazines. Here, teens have the chance to learn languages like Russian, partake in youth groups, get homework help, and learn to code. Younger children have a lot of options here too. They can play games, watch films with family, and have storytimes.

Neighborhood: Jamaica

Bronx

 

Bronx

Bronx Library Center
310 East Kingsbridge Road
718-579-4244

This is the largest public library in the Bronx and it’s also the first New York Public Library to be environmentally sustainable. It was a $50 million project and the space takes up 78,000 square feet. They have a great collection of materials for children, teens, and adults. In addition, it has an impressive Latino and Puerto Rican Heritage Collection. They have a multitude of programs and events aimed towards adults and kids. Some notable mentions include teaching kids how to draw, library playdates, STEM programs where children can learn how to code, movie screenings, and gaming on the Playstation 4.

Neighborhood: Fordham Manor

Kingsbridge Library

Kingsbridge Library
291 West 231st St.
718-548-5656

This New York Public Library branch has a background story you’ll want to hear. It was all started when Andrew Carnegie donated $5.2 million to the NYPL. The collection here grew past expectations at an incredible rate that it eventually had to move. Currently, it features two floors worth of books for all age groups. Most noteworthy, this library also has a phenomenal outside garden, perfect for studying. Guests have access to computers and laptops, as well as a children’s story room. Similarly to other branches, Kingsbridge Library showcases a variety of events like “Lego STEM Hour,” “Teen Advisory Group,” “Chess Club for Kids,” and playing various tabletop roleplaying games. 

Neighborhood: Kingsbridge

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