By Emily Wetzki
“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people - people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.”
― E.B. White, in a note to commemorate the opening of Troy Public Library, Michigan, 1971.
For many foreign families in Shanghai, public libraries are one of the things kids and parents miss most from back home. While you won't find the same variety of books and activities in Shanghai, we found three libraries worth checking out.
The Shanghai Children’s Library lies in a big old building down a lane off Nanjing Xi Lu. Established in 1941, it houses a great selection of Chinese language children’s books as well as many other types of educational material for early readers through to teenagers.
You’ll find magazines and audio-visual materials and the library can even arrange for books to be sent to you on request. Their selection of English language books is much smaller, but is still your best option from a public library in Puxi. To get a lenders card you’ll need your passport and a RMB100 deposit. You can apply for as many membership cards as you have passports, so depending on age, your kids can take ownership of their own book lending accounts. The signing up process should not be difficult, but if you are not a Chinese speaker, it may be good to have someone on hand who can assist you with the process.
// 9am-5pm weekends; 1-5pm M-F, 962 Nanjing Xi Lu, 南京西路962号 (6217 7029, www.sst.cn)
Visiting this huge building might make you feel like you’ve just stepped into an airport terminal but don’t let that put you off. The children’s section is located on the second floor, which is inviting and well laid out for families arriving with kids. It has a good selection of Chinese books for children and limited options in English.
One of the best features of the library is the three padded mat play spaces for young kids just outside the reading area, where you’ll find plastic rocking horses and wooden play kitchen equipment. The library also hosts a Saturday story hour in English and Chinese for 3-6-year-olds. This is a great venue for something different with the kids but if English books are your aim, the Shanghai Children’s Library may be a better option for you.
// Mon-Thurs 2-6pm, Fri 2-8pm, Weekends, Summer/Winter Holiday 9am-8pm (Mondays 1-8pm) 88 Qiancheng Lu 浦东新区前程路88号 (近锦绣路) (www.pdlib.com, website in Chinese only)
In 2013, Awesome Kids Club took over the 2,000-book library donated by not-for-profit group Mom Central. Founded and run by a group of committed expat mothers, Mom Central wanted to see a better English books library in downtown Shanghai. The book facility now functions from Awesome Kids Club Wulumuqi Lu base through donations from members, friends and other donors. Their collection comprises hundreds of children’s and also a good collection of parenting and pregnancy titles.
Children can choose from special sections including Christmas and Holiday themed books, titles covering the topic of getting a baby sibling and a wide selection of Dr. Seuss. Annual membership to the Awesome Book Club is RMB300 plus a refundable RMB200 book security deposit. Membership allows you to borrow five books at a time and you’ll also get access to their Monday 10am story sessions which involve reading, singing and activities.
// Summit Club House, Lane 99 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, Suite B106 汇贤居会所, 徐汇区乌鲁木齐中路99弄B106室 (5403 9916, awesomekidsclub.com.cn)