"Our Family Place spaces have become popular community hubs, providing early learning benefits for our young families while raising the profile of our libraries. Staff now have the opportunity to connect with families who visit the Family Places, and are able to promote additions to the collection, library resources and services, and programs for young children. ”
The Arapahoe Libraries in Centennial, Colorado began implementing Family Place in 2012 and now operate Family Place sites at the Koelbel, Smoky Hill and Sheridan libraries. Serving a diverse population of 250,000 people, Arapahoe Libraries has seen a tremendous benefit from the Family Place designation at the aforementioned libraries.
Staff decided to pursue the Family Place designation after considering how a local museum was able to attract families with very young children, which was the same demographic the library sought out. After attending the Family Place Training Institute, staff redesigned children’s spaces at the libraries and added comfortable seating for adults, resulting in more intentional and recognizable play areas for young children within each library.
While Koelbel Library already featured a play kitchen and puppet theater, an early literacy toy cupboard with blocks, dolls, and a variety of manipulative toys, as well as a Duplo and writing table, were added to create a larger and more interactive environment for parents and young children. At Smoky Hill Library, an alcove room was completely repurposed by adding language-inspiring learning toys, trains and a dollhouse. Grant funding for the Sheridan Library, which serves a more urban population, allowed for the purchase of a custom-play structure that serves as a café, vet clinic, science lab, building station, or puppet theater. In addition to a Duplo and writing tables, a large magnetic board offers even more early literacy activities.
After the addition of these newly designed spaces, families with young children began to flock to the Family Place libraries for hours of play and interaction. The local museum was no longer the only interactive and educational option for family fun in the community, and parents reported that children were asking to go to the library.
“Our Family Place spaces have become popular community hubs, providing early learning benefits for our young families while raising the profile of our libraries,” said Betsy Brainerd, Family Place Librarian. “Staff now have the opportunity to connect with families who visit the Family Places, and are able to promote additions to the collection, library resources and services, and programs for young children.”
The Family Place spaces have fostered stronger staff and patron relationships. Last spring, a mother with 18-month-old twins started visiting one of the Family Place libraries. She was clearly overwhelmed and was not always able to manage the active toddlers. Library staff built a relationship with this mother and invited her to attend an upcoming Parent Child Workshop. After attending the first session, she was thrilled with the open-ended nature of the workshop, and felt that it addressed her active twins’ approach to learning and exploration.
At one of the sessions the mother attended, she mentioned that her children would not sit still to listen to books. The early literacy specialist at the workshop that day was Lori Romero, Arapahoe Libraries’ Coordinator of Child and Family Library Services. Lori demonstrated a few different reading techniques that did keep the twins engaged and interested in reading, and the mother also was able to receive advice and assistance with regard to feeding issues from the nutritionist as well as behavioral support from a child development specialist. “After attending the workshop, we saw a big improvement in mom’s willingness to play and interact with her twins,” said Betsy. “This is just one example, among many others, of the increased support and service we now provide to our patrons at the Family Place libraries.”