There are 13 Milwaukee Public Library branches offering amazing programs for kids and families. Six stand out above the rest, in our humble opinion. Read on for little-known facts, library art, and secret hiding spots!
NOTE: Check www.mpl.org for the most up-to-date COVID protocols, available services and mask-wearing requirements. Currently, all MPL locations have their children’s collections open for browsing. However, no toys (puppets, LEGO, trains, etc.) are available. MPL hopes to resume in-person programming this spring. Until then, you can pick up take-and-make craft kits and coloring sheets at most branches.
Thank you to our partners at CTSI of Southeast Wisconsin for sponsoring this article, and for providing brain-building tips powered by Vroom!
1. Bay View Library
2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53207
Artist Peter Flanary created three mosaic maps that depict Bay View throughout history. You’ll find them on the linoleum floor of the lobby. One mosaic represents Bay View at the time of settlement in 1832. Another depicts the area around 1900, when a steel mill on the lakefront contributed to rapid growth in the community. The third mural represents life in Bay View today. Don’t miss the children’s area in the library with toys, stuffed animals, computers, books, and more.
2. Central Library
814 W. Wisconsin Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53233
The Betty Brinn Children’s Room at Central Library gives kids their very own separate area to explore. There’s a lighthouse, plenty of cozy reading alcoves, 30 computers, and special children’s book collections grouped together. Note: Climbing the lighthouse is currently restricted due to COVID-19.
Fun Fact: The stained glass window in the Central Library Children’s Room is called the “Hans Christian Andersen Window.” It was designed by Marie Herndl in 1896, one of the only women in her field at the time. It was restored for the grand opening of the children’s room in 1998.
3. East Library
2320 N. Cramer St., Milwaukee, WI 53211
Visit the East Library and check out unique and functional public art with your kids. Artist Ray Chi designed a leaping, circular sculpture that is at once art and a functional bike rack. He also built a living, growing sculpture of a serpent that winds along the ground and grows into a planted wall. Even the entrance of the library is unique, with outdoor seating that is inspired by the pebbles found on Lake Michigan. The East Library offers family-friendly programming all year round, such as pajama story time and family yoga. (Photo by Grace Fuhr)
4. Martin Luther King Jr. Library
310 W. Locust St., Milwaukee, WI 53212
Each year, the Martin Luther King Jr. Library hosts a celebration on Martin Luther King Day that includes hands-on activities for kids, visits from dignitaries, and live entertainment throughout the day. The library also houses a collection of permanent art, some of it having to do with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Look for Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.’s accordion book, which showcases Dr. King’s most famous quotations.
5. Mitchell Street Library
906 W. Historic Mitchell St., Milwaukee, WI 53204
Renovated in 2017, the Mitchell Street Branch used to be home to a department store, and it’s the largest of Milwaukee Public Library’s branches. You’ll find a bright and expansive space with a high-tech makerspace, laptops for checkout, a children’s collection, puppets, bilingual (English/Spanish) programming for all ages and a cozy reading area with a fireplace.
6. Tippecanoe Library
3912 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53207
Renovated in 2015, the Tippecanoe branch is home to a “secret garden” inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 book of the same name. It’s a lovely outdoor space for children accessed from the children’s area. It is currently only open during special events, which you can find on their calendar. Kids can read, play, and think in this special space designed just for them.
Other Milwaukee Public Library Branches:
1960 W. Atkinson Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53209
3969 N. 74th St., Milwaukee, WI 53216
2727 W. Fond Du Lac Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53210
7715 W. Good Hope Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53223
5190 N. 35th St., Milwaukee, WI 53209
2121 N. Sherman Blvd., Milwaukee, WI 53208
3501 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53215
Our Instagram community reached out with some of their favorite libraries outside of Milwaukee, and here’s what they had to say:
Cedarburg | Germantown | West Bend Libraries
“The BEST play areas!”
“They have it all! Kiddos love it there.”
New Berlin Library
“There’s way more than books to check out. They have ice skates in winter, puzzles, zoo and museum passes and more!”
Oak Creek Library
“Giant light bright!”
Shorewood Public Library
“The play area is a life saver!”
Wauwatosa Public Library
“Adorable kids’ reading room where the walls are all giant book covers.”
“Play area with train table, block, and puzzles. Great story time / rhyme time.”
Which library is your kids’ favorite? Email us and tell us why!