Fifteen years ago, I started a new adventure—one which granted me the sacred title of “Aunt,” one which made me privy to my brother’s anxiety about being a new father. In one particular late night conversation, I remember trying to assuage his various and sundry concerns the only way I knew how. I reminded him that our family used to always say that “children don’t come with instruction manuals” and assured him that he’d do the best he knew how when the challenges arose—even if neither of us had the slightest idea of what that would entail. While children don’t, in fact, come with instructions, as key institutions in their communities, libraries do offer a wealth of resources—useful appendices to that non-existent handbook—that may come in unexpected forms. There’s more to the story of your library than just books!
Many Texas public libraries address early learning by joining the Family Place Libraries™ network—a nationwide community of children’s librarians who believe that literacy begins at birth, and that libraries can help build healthy communities by nourishing healthy families. They not only transform their physical spaces but also build a foundation for learning during the critical first years of life. In short, libraries provide the kind of key early childhood and family support services that new parents need. Whether it’s toddler time, storywalks, free play, or a collection of parenting books, there’s more to the story of early learning at your library.
After my nephew’s first weeklong visit, I deliquesced on my couch. Exhausted, I realized that I needed a plan for future visits. Having no children of my own, he had no cousins or friends to play with when he visited. How could I keep him entertained without depleting my energy reserves?! How could I engage him in learning experiences that he also enjoys?! How could I fund all this without draining the budget?! Once again, my local library proffered a bevy of solutions. There was FREE programming where he could learn, play, and learn through play with others his own age. Moreover, each year, the annual theme for the summer library program provided a sense of familiarity as we bounced from branch to branch and took advantage of the offerings throughout the city. Whether it’s kids yoga, LEGO® labs, LARPing in the library, or Miyazaki watch parties, there’s more to the story of children’s services at your library.
Now that my nephew is about to enter high school and has begun considering what options he’ll have as a new adult, I continually urge him to use the library. Many libraries offer classes where he can learn skills ranging from basic cooking to tie tying to digital literacy. Their makerspaces offer places to tinker and explore concepts that could be fodder for entrepreneurial ventures. Test preparation workshops provide insight into those high-stakes gatekeepers that are so often part of an application process. And, of course, access to databases provide relevant, trustworthy information sources for both personal and academic research. Whether it’s homework help, adulting workshops, or probing life after high school, there’s more to the story of teen services at your library.
After a childhood rooted in library services, I hope that my nephew understands that the library has so much to offer him. And, as he moves through each stage of his life, there will always be more to the story.
This year’s National Library Week is April 23-29, 2023, and will be celebrated with the theme “There’s More to the Story.” Each April, all types of libraries across the country celebrate the contributions of libraries and librarians, as well as promote library use and support in observance of this event. For more information about that story, celebrations throughout the week, and free programmatic resources, visit the event website.