2014-10-10 / Front Page

Library is a ‘Family Place’

By Jason Glynn
Contributing Writer


From left,Thomas Memorial Library Director, Jay Scherma; Cape Elizabeth Town Council Chairman Jessica Sullivan; Assistant Director/Children's Librarian Rachel Davis; and Family Place Library National Coordinator Kathleen Deerr, are presented with a Family Place Library banner. (Jason Glynn photo) From left,Thomas Memorial Library Director, Jay Scherma; Cape Elizabeth Town Council Chairman Jessica Sullivan; Assistant Director/Children's Librarian Rachel Davis; and Family Place Library National Coordinator Kathleen Deerr, are presented with a Family Place Library banner. (Jason Glynn photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth has been officially recognized as a Family Place Library. The Family Place network was started with a grant from the Hasbro Children’s Foundation in 1998, and is a national model to bring replicable child and parent developmental programs and services to libraries across the nation, according to Familyplacelibraries.org.

The network provides “comprehensive family-centered services, early childhood information, parent education, early literacy, socialization, and family support,” said Family Place Library’s National Coordinator, Kathleen Deerr.

On Wednesday, Oct. 1, Thomas Memorial Library hosted a presentation by Deerr.

The library joined the network in September 2013 as part of a $450,000 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and has since revamped the “children’s program and space to adhere to Family Place principles and philosophy,” said Rachel Davis, assistant director/children’s librarian.

The core components of a Family Place Library include: developmentally appropriate programs, toys, and materi- als; parent/child workshops; library staff trained in family support; coalition building with community agencies; and the redesigning of spaces within the children’s area for families with young children.

The goal is “putting everything together in one spot for people,” Deerr said.

“It took a lot of work to build those (cooperative] relationships,” Davis added.

Thomas Memorial Library recently finished up its first five-week Parent/Child Workshop, aimed at children ages 1 to 3 and their parents and/or guardians, which seeks to facilitate early intervention through sharing strategies in child development.

The workshop is the centerpiece of the Family Place Library program.

“It is such a terrific model … for everyone, no matter their economic background,” Davis said.

The workshop emphasizes the role of parents as their child’s first teachers.

“The evidence is equivocal, children learn through playing,” Deerr said.

The workshops are all about “getting kids to wonder and explore … it is important for kids and families to learn together,” Deerr added.

The sessions offered through the last Parent/Child Workshop included early childhood development, early literacy, speech and hearing development, nutrition and health and music and play. For the workshops, held on Fridays, the library’s community room is converted into a family room with age-appropriate materials, Davis said. Renovations also included adding toys and a small family area to the children’s section of the library.

Despite living in an area that is pretty populated, there were no other resources like Family Place Library outside of area schools or churches, Davis said. This is why “there are parents who feel isolated in this town,” she said, sharing a story about a woman who moved to Cape Elizabeth out of state and didn’t know anyone.

“She was connected with neighbors here,” Davis said.

“We want to be a hub for families,” Deerr added.

Being part of the Family Place Library network doesn’t come cheap; a one-time fee of $12,000 is required for ongoing technical assistance and a three-day training session at the Family Place Training Institute, which Davis attended last November.

“Even if you don’t care about children … you care about the community’s pocketbook … and this is a program worth investing in,” Deerr said.

Thomas Memorial Library is eager to reach new and underserved audiences. To find out when the next Parent/Child Workshop is, or to find out more about what Thomas Memorial Library has to offer as a Family Place Library, visit 6 Scott Dyer Road in Cape Elizabeth, or see their website, http://www.thomasmemoriallibrary.org.

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