When kids come to visit the library, why not make it fun? There's more than one way to explain to kids the nitty gritty of how the library really works. This is what we've found works for us!
Each year we choose a theme for the tour based on a favorite children’s book. This year we are using Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar. We start the visit by sharing the story. That settles them in and they are ready for the meat of the visit.
We tell the kids that the library is like a house that the books live in. But books love to visit with kids at their house! With a library card, children can take home materials for a nice visit. And, just like a visit from a friend (we all know that visiting friends don't stay forever), the books have to return home to the library after a few weeks so they can visit with other children. This simple explanation hits home with kids and helps them see how a library works.
Then its time for a walk about the room. Wooden fruits and veggies are plunked down in strategic areas we want to highlight (specific book collections; Check-out and Info desks; book drop, etc) . Then we walk around using a caterpillar puppet to find the food, munch it and describe to the tour group what area they are in. Kids often spot the food first which adds to the fun and the excitement of discovery. Once we've finished the walk, kids are free to go back and browse and/or select material for check-out.
Kids remember the food on subsequent visits with parents when library staffers are overheard saying to kids “Remember, you check out your books over by the banana.” It brings a grin to all our faces.