Family Place Libraries is a model for both physical space and family engagement programming with a focus on early learning, early literacy and parent and caregiver education. The goal is to build a foundation for children learning in the critical first years of life with the parent as the child’s first teacher. Through the program, parents become equipped with the tools to develop their child’s social, emotional and cognitive skills so when their child enters school, the child is both ready and able to learn.
Family Place Libraries at Houston Public Library
Houston Public Library (HPL) is a dynamic organization that serves 2.2 million Houston residents and 4.3 million residents in the greater Houston metropolitan area. Houston Public Library’s commitment to customer service is brought to life through the daily activities in its 42 locations throughout the city. Library staff is committed to the delivery of all services, programs, outreach and material circulation that occurs in each location and online. To paraphrase author James Patterson, Houston needs libraries that change lives and save lives through literacy.
Houston Public Library’s Stimley-Blue Ridge Neighborhood Library & WIC Center is an official Family Place Library with a family friendly design which includes a large youth collection, a children’s nook, a parent learning center, toys for children, daily activities for children and a living room style lobby. The space encourages parents to interact with their child through play. The library offers weekly playgroups.
Stimley-Blue Ridge provides targeted family workshops in two (2) series of 5-week classes that promote family engagement, a healthy child and learning for all ages. The workshops show parents how to teach their child through play and model to how to read or share stories with their child. Each session features a special guest professional who has a one-on-one conversation with each family. For example, upon spending time with a child, a speech therapist shares if the child is developmentally on track, may offer early intervention strategies; or make a referral. Staff has undergone intensive and specialized training in child development and children’s library services. These staff conduct Family Place Workshops/Playgroups, a Born to Read program with Prescription for Reading handouts, baby times, toddler and preschool storytimes, and storytimes for school age children. In addition, they provide early literacy advisory and information on child development, health literacy, and parenting support. HPL has established contacts and built relationships for the Family Place Workshops that feature experts in areas such as nutrition, speech pathology, early literacy and play. As a Family Place Library, Stimley-Blue Ridge partners with community organizations and conducts extensive outreach to widely promote Family Place Library to ensure success.
HPL’s Family Place at Stimley Blue Ridge Neighborhood Library and WIC Center positions HPL to implement this program with staff expertise, full awareness of the programmatic elements, and confidence of how to make it work in different library settings and communities. Based on Houston Public Library’s Stimley-Blue Ridge Neighborhood Library & WIC Center Family Place implementation, the transformation of the neighborhood library as a result of the Family Place training and programming and design of spaces, has had significant impact on usage. Staff noticed that not only were more families coming to the library, but that they were remaining in the Children’s Area for longer periods of time. Stimley Blue Ridge Library became a thriving location within four years, based on the following contributing factors: 1) the library is perceived as a place for programs for babies; 2) the library is perceived as a place with programs and materials for the entire family; 3) the library is perceived as a consistently welcoming space; and, 4) the library staff is perceived as knowledgeable and respectful.