Milwaukee’s Central Library: Peek Inside the Betty Brinn Children’s Room

If you’re looking for a fun, free outing with the kids, I’ve got just the spot for you.

Let’s talk about the Central Library, located in the heart of downtown (and surrounded by affordable parking spots).

This architectural gem not only houses a treasure trove of books but also offers unique spaces like the Betty Brinn Children’s Room that spark imagination and curiosity in young minds.

This place isn’t just a room full of books (though, yes, there are tons of those); it’s a little slice of history turned into a playground of imagination for our kiddos.


Built in the 1890s, the Central Library is a testament to Milwaukee’s rich history, showcasing stunning neo-renaissance architecture that will have you feeling like you’ve stepped into another era.

The moment you walk through those doors, you’re greeted by the Rotunda—a breathtaking space bathed in natural light. The intricate mosaic floor beneath your feet tells stories of the past, while the grand staircase invites you to explore further.

Betty Brinn Children’s Room

For the little ones, the Betty Brinn Children’s Room is an oasis of fun and learning, complete with fun artwork, murals, sculptures, and whimsical bookshelves made to look like giant children’s books.

This isn’t your average library room. It was the biggest of its kind in Wisconsin when it was built, decked out with features designed by local talents.

When you enter, take a peek at the the decorative plaster work by local artist Julian Orlandini. Near the top of the columns he replaced the traditional medallions with mice. Can your kids find them? 

Inside the space, notice the room’s unique floor and lighting. They were designed by Lois Ehlert, a children’s author from around here. The floor is a special linoleum from Germany, reflecting Milwaukee’s German heritage.

Then there’s the lighthouse. Yes, a lighthouse in the library. It’s a mini version of the North Point Lighthouse and your kids can climb it!

There are also plenty of computers, special book collections designed just for kids, and and nooks and crannies for your kids to snuggle up into with a book.

Don’t miss the stained glass ‘Hans Christian Andersen’ window on the south side. 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.

There’s also an activity rooms for crafts, story times, and group events. You can check the library’s calendar to see if there will be an event going on when you visit.

Between the 60s and the big makeover in the 90s, the space had a bunch of different uses – everything from city departments to Discovery World. But now? It’s a wonderland for kids, with a story around every corner.

So, next time you’re scratching your head, trying to figure out where to take the little ones, remember the Central Library’s Children’s Room. It’s more than just a spot to check out books; it’s a journey through Milwaukee’s history, made fun for kids.

See you at the library!

Pro Tips:

  • Don’t worry about parking; it’s affordable and easily accessible on both sides of the building and across the street, making your visit hassle-free.
  • There are free tours of the Green Roof offered in the warm season a couple of times a week.The library’s green roof is a marvel in itself, showcasing Milwaukee’s commitment to sustainability. This living roof helps regulate the building’s temperature and manage stormwater runoff, all while providing a lush, green space in the urban landscape.

More Free Fun Ideas:

Mitchell Street Branch Library: A Milwaukee Marvel Revived

Discovering the Best Libraries in Milwaukee

25 Free Things To Do With Kids Around Milwaukee

10 Kid-Friendly Stop Along the Hop Streetcar Route

Northwestern Mutual Community Park Now Open

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