Blogger Meg Smith

How to Best Serve Parents of Our Young Patrons

 When my husband and I were blessed by becoming first time parents, I was able to see from a personal perspective just how our library system excelled in meeting the needs of caregivers to young children. As I visited the library as a patron with my daughter, I tried to turn away from evaluating the story time as a manager and instead, enjoyed that program as a parent.The question for us working in public libraries is this: are we as children’s librarians giving the caregivers who walk through our doors the same welcoming smile and nonjudgmental attitude we give our youngest patrons?  If the answer is “yes,” do our libraries’ policies and procedures reflect this same view?   

Do we recognize this patron from our libraries? How may we best provide support to this customer?
Do we recognize this patron from our libraries? How may we best provide support to this customer? Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com

At our library system, we do not have age restrictions for our regular story times and do not require registration for these types of programs. While we communicate that story times are geared for a specific age range, we welcome everyone, thus allowing those parents with children of multiple ages to attend.  With no registration required for our story times, this encourages our parents to drop by when it is most convenient for them.

We have also introduced laptops that customers may use within the library. The adults frequently use these computers while in the children’s department. This allows them to get the work they need to do accomplished as well as the chance to spend that time with their child. Thirdly, we have also trained staff on the rights of those who choose to nurse in public. By ensuring staff are trained on how to respect these customers’ choice, we minimize the chance patrons will feel uncomfortable caring for their child in the library.

How can we best assist parents who struggle to juggle it all?
How can we best assist parents who struggle to juggle it all?  Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com

Becoming a support to parents does not need to be at the expense of your other customers, your time, or your staff. Simple ways in which we approach caregivers can have a tremendous impact.  The suggestions above may not be the best choice for your community, but you may have developed another procedure or policy to support those parents you serve.

As a parent to a young child, I know I will continue to gravitate toward activities and places that are the most welcoming for my daughter and me to share together. Our library system is at the top of those destinations on my list. How do you provide an encouraging place for caregivers in your community? What have you most enjoyed about experiencing the library from the patron’s perspective, as a parent, a caregiver, or a grandparent? Please share in the comments below!

 

One comment

  1. Renee

    When you decribed how flexible the storytimes are at your library, that connected with my experiences at the library I work at. I am a part-time Children’s Librarian as well as a mom with two boys, ages 3 and 5 years old. When I am not at work, I am often at my library with one or both of my boys.

    We offer 3 weekly morning storytimes: Preschool ages 3-5, Toddlers ages 2-3, and Mother Goose ages 2 and under. Like you mentioned, these are guidelines but we are flexible with the ages of the participants. We make sure to let families know that siblings are always welcome! Registration is not required but we do give parents and caregivers the option to give us their name and phone number to call incase we need to cancel a storytime at the last minute due to a librarian being out sick.

    Our Children’s Coordinator is very passionate about making families with children of all ages feel welcome with our drop-in storytime programs. The element that siblings are always welcome has been very important to him. I agree with it. I have experienced the problem as a parent at other public libraries when I had a 3 and a 1 year old. I wanted to bring the boys to a story time but the one for 3 year olds didn’t allow siblings and the one for 1 year olds didn’t allow siblings. What was I supposed to do, hire a babysitter just so I could attend a storytime with one of my kids? It was very frustrating. I also didn’t like having to committ for 8 week sessions or having to race to sign up to make sure I got on the list for the storytimes as some libraries had limited spots. Drop-in programs as nice because we all know that some mornings, we just can’t make it out to the library in time. If there isn’t a sign up requirement, I don’t feel as bad about missing any classes. To me, as a parent with young kids, a flexible drop-in program that allows siblings is FAMILY FRIENDLY:-)

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