Visit our library on a Tummy Time evening and you’ll wonder if you are in a public library or if you wandered into a friendly, neighborhood playgroup. Strollers line the wall, diaper bags hang on coat hooks and moms and dads happily swap and share extra diapers, wipes and even backup onesies.
Public libraries have been reinventing themselves for years, working hard to establish themselves as the “third place” between work and home. If community members had one additional place they could stop each day, would they pick their local library?
At Twinsburg Public Library, there has been a steady focus for the last decade to welcome a sometimes forgotten customer: new parents. Twinsburg has always offered Lap Sit Storytime for babies, birth-24 months and their caregivers. Lap Sit Storytime is offered multiple times during the week and has had a great following in the community. However in recent months, Twinsburg Youth Services Staff decided to go beyond Lap Sit and began offering a casual program for babies 0-6 months and caregivers called Tummy Time.
Tummy Time is a relaxed, drop-in program offered in a story time room. The program begins about an hour before a scheduled Lap Sit class. Multiple stations are set up throughout the room with creative, baby-friendly activities. Families can drop in anytime during the hour and stay as long as they like. Often, babies will spread out on blankets in the middle of the floor and moms and dads will bring the activities to them. When a small group gathers, the librarian will read through a board book or sing a few songs. It’s relaxed, safe, and it’s easy to see why new parents are happy about adding it to their schedules.
Why Tummy Time?
Parents, specifically new parents, tend to be nervous venturing out anywhere with a new baby. Inviting these families to a group where they know there will be other individuals that are in the same boat was the initial inspiration behind the programming. Adults can talk about parenting issues and share advice. Babies can interact with each other and play with an assortment of wonderful toys and props. The Children’s Department Staff understands there will be crying babies, nursing moms, and sometimes frazzled adults. Welcoming patrons during a vulnerable time is such a great opportunity to demonstrate that we want them to visit the library, even on the hard days.
In addition to establishing a welcoming atmosphere for new babies, the library also wanted to be sure that parents with infants felt the value in coming to the library.
Babies are unpredictable and Lap Sit is typically a short (20 minute) story time. If a baby needed to be unexpectedly changed or fed before leaving for the library, sometimes caregivers would decide to skip class entirely and just stay home. Offering a supplemental time prior to Lap Sit has been a welcomed addition. Parents with young ones don’t feel so rushed if they are a few minutes late. They know there is a larger window of time for baby-centered programming.
Being a new parent can feel isolating at times. Experiencing the support and comfort at your local library can be a game changer. Specifically during the first five years it’s crucial to establish strong, trusting relationships with our local families. For many parents and babies, the relationship with the librarian is one of the first adults they will see on a regular basis. Working together with families to establish a strong early learning foundation is essential to the development of the child, and ultimately the community as a whole.
(Photos courtesy of guest blogger)
Today’s blog post was written by Katie Johnson. Katie is the Community Outreach Librarian at Twinsburg Public Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bonnie is the creator of Tummy Time at Twinsburg Public Library. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.