"The experience at the library, especially in the Children's Room, is everything a mom dreams of and more in a library."
The Spencer family moved to Port Washington by way of Utah when their daughter Eleanor was only three weeks old. As a new mother, Amber was determined to find friends in the area. She joined the New Parents' Support Group at the Port Washington Public Library, which is now in its sixth year with over fifteen active members. Amber visited the library regularly to introduce Eleanor to books, story times, and the devoted librarians. She attended the New Parents' Support Group for three years, made countless friends, read countless books, and received the support she needed. "Our perfect library experience begins when we walk through the front door and Eleanor is greeted by name by Marianne and Virginia at the circulation desk. She sees Mingo, the custodian, and they wave hello to each other before she marches down to the Children's Room. Rachel, Fran and Karen all greet her by name. She usually ends up sitting by Fran in the reading pit to sing songs that Fran taught her in Mother Goose. Her Favorite song is Open Shut Them. Eleanor feels important sitting on Karen's lap 'helping' her search for a book on the computer. Sebastien, Eleanor's new younger brother is getting the same kind of reception and attention," says Amber.
When the Port Washington Public Library, located in Port Washington, New York became the first Family Place Library in Nassau County in 1997, the library staff had no idea of the enormous impact that the Family Place Libraries™ initiative would have on the community. Since then, Family Place has grown to encompass library programs beginning at birth and an ever-expanding parenting collection containing books and DVD's with a special emphasis on children with special needs. Other major components of Port Washington's Family Place are effective outreach and collaborations with local and national agencies, such as the National Association of Mothers' Centers and The Parent-Child Home Program. The Parent/Child Workshop has been ongoing since 1997 and is offered three times a year in five-week sessions. "We consistently have waiting lists for the workshop. It's one of the most popular programs that the Children's Room offers," says Family Place Coordinator and children's librarian Fran Powell.
As part of Family Place outreach, Port Washington Public Library offers the Parent-Child Home Program(PCHP), a home-based early literacy/parenting/school readiness program for diverse families in the community Since 1998, seventy families in Port Washington have participated in PCHP and have entered school on par with their peers. Two-year-old Max did not speak and made virtually no eye contact when he began the Parent Child Home Program. Max's mother expressed concern to their PCHP home visitor who was able to connect the parents to Early Intervention services. After an evaluation, Max began speech and occupational therapy. He received early intervention services and graduated from the PCHP program two years later.. The last anecdotal entry his home visitor wrote was, "Max told me today 'I don't like mashed ato, I like skittie and meatballs.' Max has come a long way and I am very proud of him." Max mainstreamed into public school kindergarten and is doing quite well. The Port Washington Library offers the New Parents' Support Group which is a partnership between the library and the National Association of Mothers' Center. New Parents' Support Group offers mothers a non-judgmental environment to discuss the challenges and joys of parenting, while meeting in a familiar community environment. This successful partnership has a core group of participants and always generates new interest within the community.
The Port Washington Public Library's Family Place initiative continues with the development of age appropriate early learning play environments. The Spencer family moved to Maryland long before they could take pleasure in these new changes. They were sad to leave Port Washington and their library, but before leaving, they thanked the library for Mother Goose, the New Parents' Support Group, and the Parent Child Workshop. Amber had found her network of friends and much needed support in this Family Place Library commenting, "The experience at the library, especially in the Children's Room, is everything a mom dreams of and more in a library."
Port Washington Public Library has been named a 5-Star Library and its patron usage has increased 15% since 1997. The staff feels that Family Place has played a major role in this success, as the philosophies adapted through the Family Place initiative have helped the library become a major part of the community family support network.