How Their First Library Card Teaches Kids Responsibility

To kids, a first library card can symbolize the power and responsibility of adulthood.

Think of all the cards in your wallet right now. Visa? MasterCard? American Express? Starbucks?

All those shiny plastic rectangles in your pocket signify bills to pay, money to spend, and all the other responsibilities that come with being a grown-up. But do you remember your first card? That first time you got a wallet and couldn’t wait to fill it with grown-up things, like photos, money, and cards! Perhaps that first official card of your very own was a library card. But a library card isn’t simply a way for kids to gain access to library materials, it’s also an ideal way to start kids on a path to responsible adulthood.

Kids can learn a great deal about responsibility (and how to be thoughtful members of society, in general) with a little guidance from wise adults and a trusty library card. Here are six lessons young people can learn by being proud bearers of a library card that will prepare them for the future:

  1. How to Participate in Civil Society.
    My library card was the first official document I was actually allowed to carry in my very own wallet. Being an avid fan of public libraries, our mother took us straight to the local branch’s front desk so my brother and I could fill out a couple of crisp, official forms in exchange for keys to the magical kingdom of books. The cards were the first signal that we were part of a larger community. Who says bureaucracy can’t be totally worth it once in a while?
  2. How to Keep Important Documents (or objects) safe and handy.
    You can’t delve into the next installment of J. K. Rowling’s universe of witchcraft and wizardry without keeping your library card free of damage and close at hand. Likewise, books, DVDs, and other items that belong to the community deserve some tender, loving care. A library card teaches kids to value meaningful objects and take special care of them for others’ eventual use.
  3. How to Be a Good Borrower
    Like looking both ways before you cross the street, certain rules in life are just common sense to adults. However, kids must be shown how to be respectful, polite, and law-abiding citizens. But becoming conscious of the span of time they get to enjoy that DVD or audiobook is not just about due dates. It’s also about empathizing with that other kid who is patiently waiting to learn life lessons from Judy Blume, too. And you can be sure that when some thrilling adventure is coming due, your favorite kid will surely speed up those words-per-minute.
  4. How to Accept Consequences
    A library card helps young people understand that forgetting (or refusing) to be responsible means suffering the consequences. Whether it’s paying for overdue, lost, or damaged materials, kids benefit from learning that the effects of ignoring responsibilities can take a solid chunk of that cash they so proudly display in their wallets (as well as their trustworthiness). Ouch.
  5. How to Choose Thoughtfully
    With row after row of books, DVDs, magazines, the library is a veritable cave of wonders — but one must choose wisely. Even though we'd like to take it all home with us, there are limits. A library card is an opportunity for youngsters to learn moderation and decision-making skills, as they grow to strike a balance between their desires, abilities, and means.
  6. That the System Works (if we’re responsible together)
    Finally, a library card is symbolic of a society that takes responsibility for helping all people become more knowledgeable, better informed, and wiser. Libraries are places of discovery where everyone can learn about the universe, life, love, and all the things that make us human. That is, if the majority of people uses it appropriately.

A library card is a key that allows kids to participate in what’s right with society, while at the same time helping them to grow into decent adults. Of course, kids may not just accept these important responsibilities on their own. That is why wise adults must be there to offer guidance — a little nudge in the right direction — to help young people discover the awesome power of their first library card.


Show your support for libraries by following EveryLibrary on Twitter and Facebook: