The Mansfield Public Library was honored recently with the official designation as a Family Place Library. Mayor David Cook, representatives from city management and council as well as Friends of the Library were on hand for the ceremony, which included a presentation from Kathleen Deerr, Family Place Library’s National Coordinator.
“The team here in Mansfield has already done a marvelous job,” said Deerr. “They’ve really embraced the philosophy of our program by reaching out to the entire family and setting up their play spaces and programs. We all look forward to seeing how this helps their services grow and reach the community.”
Family Place Libraries is an initiative that began over 20 years ago to help expand the role of libraries in the community and help promote child development, which research has proven to be crucial in the first three years. The organization offers extensive training and guidance required as part of the certification process. To date, over 500 libraries across the country have received the Family Place Library designation, with Mansfield proud to join the ranks.
“Qualifying as a Family Place Library is something we’ve wanted to accomplish for a long time,” said Yolanda Botello, the city’s newly appointed Director of Library Services. “It’s a huge step forward for the level of service and commitment we are able to provide for the entire community. We’re all incredibly excited for everyone to see the changes in action.”
To qualify for certification, staff must complete four days of training, create a designated Family Place play area within the library that is open to all during normal operating hours and offer the Family Place Workshop at least twice a year. Those free workshops provide a safe and fun environment for children and their caregiver to play and bond together, guided by educational toys and trained staff.
“The brain is only 25% developed at birth, but nearly 90 percent by age three,” said Deerr. “The experiences children have in those first few years are what shape their personality and development for the rest of their lives. It’s the interactive, relationship based learning that makes the biggest impact. Something as simple as sitting on the floor playing peek a boo builds long-term connections and bonds, so we’ve designed these workshops to facilitate that play and help parents get the very best for their children.”
In addition to the educational free play, Family Place Workshops have resources on-site for a huge variety of needs, from handouts and contact information to outside organizations that can help with anything from legal or medical advice to trained professionals that pop in to classes for free screenings on developmental milestones and other early childhood needs.
“The idea is to create an environment where parents and caregivers feel comfortable enough to ask for help and build a network of support,” said Deerr. “Stronger, more educated and supported families grow happier, better educated and more productive children. It’s really an investment in the entire community.”
In fact, Family Place Libraries has national research that shows programs supporting early childhood education like this give a 7-10 percent return on the investment for the entire economic area, so this designation is not just a win for the Library but the city as a whole. The Mansfield Public Library received an 18k grant that covered the costs of their training, certification applications and all of the equipment and materials purchased for the program.
Mansfield Public Library currently offers Family Place playtime for toddlers 18months- three years old on Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. Those sessions are come and go and do not require any registration.