A few months back I saw a photo from Hennepin County Library on Instagram. It showed how much fun they had at their Sensitive Family Time — a time for families living with autism to explore the library. As I was looking for a way to partner with our local Autism Centre, I jumped on this fantastic idea. After a few phone calls and emails, we had a date. We opened one of our branches for 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon, just for these families. The families had signed up in advance with the Autism Centre, so we knew who to expect. Staff from their centre attended, and welcomed the families. Our staff were on hand to show them around the library, read stories, and get them signed up for library cards.
We had some toys out (I had these already from storytime), and just let the kids roam around. They played, I read a few books, they enjoyed themselves. Many of the families had never taken their child to the library before– they feared disruptive behavior and did not want to cause a scene. The kids were great — once they found out that the library was a safe, welcoming place, they had a grand time. And so did I. I tried something outside my comfort zone, something I really knew nothing about other than I knew there were families that wanted to use the library but maybe felt uncomfortable doing so.
We’ve got another one in the works, and I look forward to it. It was such a simple idea, such an easy way to reach out. I have to thank Hennepin County Library for their great program, and for graciously allowing me to borrow their idea and run with it. Try something new. It just might be worth it.