Family Place Library Initiative

Solution Story from The Broomfield Library

Adult smiling at two children listening to stories.

The Family Place Library Initiative was originally launched in 1996 by Libraries for the Future and Middle Country Public Library in New York. The program was developed to transform libraries into community centers for literacy, early childhood development, and family support. At Family Place Libraries, librarians connect with families and then connect them with books and resources related to parenting and child development. Common themes of the resources include promotion of early literacy, knowledge of child health, speech & language development, and more. Family Place Libraries are designed so that parents always have a safe space to go for information and support, without fear of judgment.

In 2012, Broomfield Library applied for a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to become an official Family Place Library. At the time, there were many Family Place Libraries on the east and west coasts, but not many in the western part of the United States. Broomfield Library was awarded the grant, and from 2012 to 2015 worked on fulfilling the grant obligations to establish the program.

The majority of grant funds went to pay for the membership fee and training for two staff members. However, the grant funds did not cover all of the costs, and Broomfield Library matched funds for supplies and eventually applied for an additional grant in order to pay for a third staff training.

After becoming a Family Place Library. Broomfield Library now has an educational play area, which is highly accessible and open daily. The play area is designed so that parents and caregivers from all walks of life have the opportunity to meet and interact with each other in a comfortable setting, and offer support to one another. Experienced parents often model positive parenting skills to new parents.

Children have the opportunity to learn and grow their own social skills from watching the adults interact. In addition, Broomfield Library offers a parenting program five times per year that lasts for six weeks long. Parents and children attend the program to play with and spend time with other families, and community resource professionals come into the library to work with parents one-on-one. The community resource professionals work in a variety of early childhood development specialties, including early literacy, speech and language, nutrition, child therapy, and play & movement. Parents have the opportunity to ask these professionals questions to inform their parenting while simultaneously bonding with other parents. 

Over the course of the program implementation, Broomfield Library staff learned how to engage with parents in positive ways in order to earn their trust at a new level. They needed to approach parents in a different way for this program, as they had to convey that the library was a safe, nonjudgmental space where they could have access to resources and maintain confidentiality. This was a process of trial and error at times, but very important in garnering participation and engagement from a variety of families.

Broomfield Library staff maintain that listening to parents is the most important part of implementation of a program such as the Family Place Library Initiative. The safe space that the library creates for parents in a Family Place Library is essential to the effectiveness of the program, and must be continually maintained. Also crucial to the success of the program was support and buy-in from the local government. Though Broomfield Library had to gain official approval to launch the initiative, the local government and community had already embraced the importance of early literacy and social-emotional development, and as such it was not difficult to advocate for the program. Lastly, the ongoing reporting and training that Broomfield Library has conducted has been very important in maintaining the ongoing success of the program.

After becoming a Family Place Library, Broomfield Library consistently has at least one family playing in their educational play area. The library has become a true community meeting place; many community members regularly meet friends and family at the library. They have gained trust from the community and their reputation has grown immensely. People are connecting with each other and utilizing the library resources to expand knowledge, find support, provide education and play for children, and connect with other parents.

Advice on Replication

Since Broomfield Library is replicating a national model, a true replication of the program would mean becoming a Family Place Library. They recommend doing so, if possible, as they have found it has been well worth the investment for their community. It is possible to offer similar services without becoming a Family Place Library, but with the model there is access to continued support, research, and proven techniques. Additionally, they have found that it is easier to gain support locally and from funders if an organization is following a research-backed model that is in line with the Protective Factors Framework.

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