Toy Library at Lincoln Branch: a KidsOutAndAbout review | Kids Out and About Rochester

Toy Library at Lincoln Branch: a KidsOutAndAbout review

Rochester Toy Library at the Lincoln Branch: a KidsOutAndAbout review

by Kathleen McCormack

Imagine a place filled to the ceiling with thousands of toys of every variety, a veritable Wonka’s Factory of playthings. Imagine your children freely exploring this seemingly endless collection and then walking away with armloads of new toys. Imagine that it’s completely free.  Now open your eyes and get excited because this is no dream, this is the Toy Library at the Lincoln Branch of the Monroe County Library System. It's located on Joseph Ave in the city of Rochester.

Wait, what? We have a toy library in Rochester?

Uh, yeah!! In fact, it opened in 1985 and contains 5,000 toys available for check out to anyone with a valid Monroe County library card. Perhaps the concept is new to you because it’s one of only about 400 toy libraries in the entire United States. And best of all, it’s staffed by a certified teacher to help the library fulfill their mission to provide “expertise in early childhood development, high quality toys, and a space designed for active learning.”

Give me the brass tacks. What will I find at the Toy Library?

Toys are organized by category: School Play, Creative Play, Pretend Play, Game Play, Sensory Play, Physical Play, and Infant/Toddler Play. Check out up to nine items, everything from puzzles to board games, play food to building blocks, rubber stamps to card games. Homeschool kits are bursting with every item necessary to complete a thorough study of a particular unit. Bring the truck and load up a teeter-totter or a slide! And for you germaphobes, like myself, rest assured that all the toys are cleaned before being reshelved; can you say the same for library books…?

I already use the Toy Library. So, what’s new?

Everything! New hours are far more convenient. Summer hours are 10am – 5pm, Monday through Wednesday, but closed on weekends.

Just as traditional library branches are preparing fantastic programs to go with this year’s summer reading theme, “Every Hero has a Story”, the Toy Library is offering a six-week program exploring the heroes of our community. Construction workers, hospital helpers, ocean explorers, and more, children ages 3 – 8 will explore various careers using costumes, toys, and props all available in the Toy Library.  Check out their listing on KidsOutAndAbout to see all the details.


Aww shucks. It sounds awesome, but I don’t live nearby.

First of all, even if you don’t live in the city, it’s worth a drive. (Nothing in Rochester is really that far.) But coming Fall 2015, the Toy Library will be available at your local branch. A recent grant was awarded creating a program that would allow patrons to peruse a few hundred toys online that they can then place on hold to be shipped to their local library for pick up.

Who else could make use of the Toy Library?

Teachers can find items that specifically relate to the unit they’re teaching. Try the United States board game during a geography unit or the math puzzle when teaching addition. One kit includes plush animals so kids can act out the popular book Mouse Counts. Another includes foods divided by food group for teaching about nutrition. Who has enough room in their classroom to store all the resources you need? Or enough money in your wallet for that matter? Let the Toy Library help you supplement.

Parents who have children with special needs can get an idea of what toys will be most appropriate for their child’s abilities. Concerned about small parts or loud noises? Try before you buy! Special needs or not, no parent wants to invest in a toy only to discover that their child isn’t really interested in it or ready for it.

Hosts of children’s parties or playgroups can supplement their personal stock of toys with something new from the Toy Library. Having a dinosaur-themed birthday party? Load up on dinosaur toys to decorate the tables! Need an easy craft idea for your next playdate? Bring home the big bag of stencils and the spirograph.

Bottom line:

Remember that the Toy Library is part of the Lincoln Branch library, so a visit can include playing in the Toy Library as well as checking out books from the Children’s Area as you’re used to doing. You could easily fill the entire afternoon between both spots. One more reason why Rochester is a fantastic place to raise kids, the Toy Library is a hidden gem and guaranteed to become part of your regular rotation of favorite places to play.

© 2015,

Kathleen McCormack is an editor with She gets bored easily and was possibly more excited than her two young children to play with new toys.