Photography by Danny Fulgencio.

Unlike most libraries, Bookmarks at NorthPark Center is loud. Kids play on computers. Children’s music blares, and moms find sanctuary. The Dallas Public Library branch, which opened in 2007, was the first children’s library to open in a shopping center in North America. Other libraries have duplicated the model. 

The space, which is less than 2,000 square feet, does the same amount of business as some of Dallas’ 18,000-square-foot, full-service branches. 

“This is a place I can go where if my baby’s screaming and crying, no one’s going to get upset with me,” says Jo Giudice, director of the Dallas Public Library. “The babies can go on the floor and play together while moms can have a little adult conversation. The noise level is not going to upset anybody.”

The library is meant for children up to age 12 and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Tuesdays, when it’s closed. Sunday hours are from noon to 5 p.m.

Giudice reflects on what makes this branch so special:

  • “The programming is for the parents as well as the child. We spend a lot of time talking to parents about reading at home and playing letter and number games.”
  • “Take out as many books as you want. That’s what we have to offer.”
  • There aren’t books for adults, but you can request books and pick them up at this branch. You can return books there, too, but the focus is on children. 
  • Expect children’s performers who have been vetted with background checks. “We want professional performers that are within the standards of NorthPark.”
  • The staff conducts story times. You can count on about 13 programs a week. Other Dallas Public Library branches may schedule two or three events a week for kids and families.
  • Giudice’s favorite children’s book? “Pete the Cat,” by Eric Litwin. 

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