Blogger Katie Salo

Play in the Library!

I’ve been thinking a lot about Play in the library ever since attending the Preschool Services Discussion Group at ALA Midwinter where ALSC Blogger Amanda Roberson spoke about incorporating play. Afterwards, the group discussed different toys to buy and ways to talk about play to parents.

Family Center — you can see our Lego Table, computers, and a few bead mazes in this picture! [Photo courtesy of the author.]

My new library has a dedicated area for families to come together and play and learn at the library. And my old library did not have a dedicated space, but we added a small fabric bin full of manipulatives and puzzles to the department to be used at the tables. I’m here to tell you that regardless of your space and library configuration, you can still incorporate play (and more!) into your library.

This past week while on desk, I had a patron who was trying to get work done on a laptop. Her young daughter was getting restless and curious about her surroundings; she finally settled at one of the open computer stations. When her mother asked her what she was doing, she replied, “My homework!” Her mother laughed and told me she didn’t have any homework. I called her daughter over and said, “Let’s do some homework!”

While her mother worked in peace, I wrote letters on scrap paper. I held up fingers to work on counting. And I used my clothes to practice naming colors. I assisted other patrons and she “studied” while I did reader’s advisory and helped with homework. Eventually, the little girl settled down with some books we found together and her mom was able to finish her work. As they left, her mother came over to thank me and said, “You made her feel important. Like what she said mattered.”

I replied, with a smile, “We were just playing.”

How do you play in every-day situations?

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library District


  1. Sue Brooks

    Hi Katie,
    it was so good of you to take the time to play with the little girl. Children are often “placed” for the convenience of the adult and doing what is deemed appropriate for the environment.
    The little time you took to talk WITH and most importantly, LISTEN to the child can make a difference in the child’s ability to interact, interpret and explore the world around her.
    Sharing the importance of play with adults/caregivers is central to our roles as early lit specialists.
    I am planning a lapsit storytime for infants and parent/caregivers. I’ve never seen/participated in a program for infants/parents. Can you provide some guidelines and perhaps some pics/videos?
    Thank you for all you do. You’re reaching out is sure to touch many lives.

    With Care,
    Sue Brooks
    Early Lit Specialist
    South Boston, Va

  2. Lisa Underwood

    Your new library looks fantastic! We also have a family play area (implemented in December) and it quickly has become everyone’s favorite place in the library. We often have times that our entire bank of children’s computers are empty while the play area is filled with children. However, despite the kids loving the area, we still have problems getting parents to play WITH their children. How much of a focus do you place on that, versus letting the child play and be content while a parent is working?

  3. Christine

    Hi Katie,
    I love that story. Delete the word “just” before playing. As Sue stated, sharing the importance of play is extremely important. Play is a child’s “homework”, so the little girl was correct in that statement. That child is extremely lucky to have you as her librarian. I don’t think many librarians would take the time to play with their patrons.

    Thank you for all you do. Your blog has been a constant resource to me since its inception. Your ideas are not only practical but child-centered. I always try to present activities that as a child I would have enjoyed. I have never lost that insight.

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