As a professional who started my career as a children’s librarian, I have often said that children’s services are the heart and soul of public libraries. The faces of joyful children picking books off the shelves then sitting on a cushion to read them is a beautiful thing. However, this is more than simply a feel-good image. Public libraries are essential for early childhood.
In a recent article on the Bloomberg web site, City Lab reporter Kendra Hurley shares the unique way public libraries serve this unnoticed demographic. In her article called The US Has No Early Childhood Infrastructure. Libraries Are Picking Up the Slack she shares the following:
In the United States — the only rich country without paid parental leave — babies, toddlers and their caretakers are routinely neglected by both policy and city planning. It’s rare to find even a step stool in a public restroom, said Kristy Spreng, a child-care program director and former librarian who co-created a baby play area with a workstation for Ohio’s Loudonville Public Library. “Those basic simple things just get overlooked,” said Spreng. “It’s crazy, because there are always babies. We reproduce. The need isn’t going away.”
To fill this gap, children’s librarians are developing new approaches to service.
For librarians, the big takeaway was that literacy starts at birth and the early years set the stage for future learning. “Children become readers on the laps of their grown-ups,” Payne recalled the philosophy of the time. Children’s librarians began regarding themselves as coaches for parents with small kids, and “laptime” story hours where librarians model how to read, sing and play with babies and toddlers cropped up at libraries everywhere.
Learn more about how public libraries are serving very young children by reading the rest of the article.