Local library joins Family Place Libraries program





Trish Ebert has been taking her children to the Finney County Public Library for more than a decade.

The mother of four children said she appreciates the library's year-round programs and options for children of all ages.

Wee Readers, a children's story-hour program, gives Ebert a place to take 2-year-old Hannah during the week. Thursday morning at the library, Hannah played and about five other children did the same at the Thomas the Train table, which features trains going up and down hills and in and out of tunnels.

The library is a place for the whole family, Ebert said.

And a place for families is just what the library is aiming for under Family Place Libraries, a nationwide program that provides a network of community services and education.

According to its website, Family Place Libraries is powered by a network of children's librarians who believe literacy begins at birth and that libraries can help build healthy communities by nourishing healthy families.

Local library staff have begun to implement the characteristics of a Family Place Library. The children's area has grown, developed and has been decorated. New toys and books have been added to the room.

Madella Williams, who serves as 0-to-3-year-old coordinator, said the toys, trains, cars, kitchen set and dolls all are part of the Family Place program.

"We just want a place outside the home where parents can spend time with their children," she said.

It also connects parents to other parents, according to Judy Cole, youth services supervisor.

"They want to be around people who are going through the same things they are, or share similar experiences," she said.

The goal is to make the place inviting for parents as well as children.

At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, starting Jan. 15, the library will offer community resource professionals to children and families. Meetings will take place in the children's section, a revamped addition that was added in 1998. Since then, the section has undergone many changes including new paint, decorations, books and toys for the children.

Also on Jan. 15, Williams and Cole will give an overview of the program. On Jan. 22, a speech language pathologist will visit. On Jan. 29, a nutritionist will address the families.

On Feb. 5, a physical movement specialist will be on hand, and on Feb. 12, a child behavior specialist will be available.

Williams said instead of professionals simply speaking to the audience, the children and families will go to different stations at the library, and one station will have the professional.

"That way they can get some one-on-one time and ask questions," Williams said.

Erin Francoeur, library director, said the library will start to offer more such programs. Library programs remain popular in the community as a place for young children to go during the winter, and children of all ages during the summer.

According to Cole, the library has offered 760 programs with more than 13,000 participants.

"We stay steady in both the winter and summer," Francoeur said.

She takes her children to the library to burn off steam. "This is a place we can come play."

Francoeur and the staff want the same for other children and families. They believe the brighter paint, decorations, new books and toys will make families feel more welcome,

Williams, who has been working for the library since 2001, said the changes have been welcome.

"We're loving it. It's different. But libraries have to continue to grow and change with the times. The children are sure excited about it," she said.

"It's changed by leaps and bounds. It's so bright and lovely in this space," Cole said.

Francoeur said all of the toys added are research-based and have positive effects on children's learning. They can help teach developmental skills.

"We chose the toys based on developmental research," she said.

Williams said it's important for children to play, and uses the following quote from Susanna Miller: "Play practices and so perfects skills needed in adult life."

Ebert said Thursday morning that she's glad Hannah can come and play with other children her age, which teaches her how to share and helps her develop social skills.

Plus, it gets her in the library.

Ebert's other children, Ayla, a GCHS junior; Nathan, a sixth-grader; and Gregory, 7; have always gone to the library.

"If you start them really young in life, it helps them become strong readers," Ebert said, adding the updates and appearances of the children's section at the library are impressive.

"They've done a really great job. We love coming here," she said.

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