When I came into my current position as Children’s Librarian, I was interested in building relationships with other agencies that focused on children as valued community members and took their needs and development seriously. As a result, I ended up involved with a couple of initiatives of the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.
The Nebraska Children and Families Foundation is a non-profit focused on creating communities that support children from birth into young adulthood, it is also the funding entity for two local initiatives, Rooted in Relationships and Communities for Kids. Communities for Kids addresses needs related to childcare and early development in communities across the state, as well as offering opportunities for licensure, professional development and funds to assist in updating facilities. Rooted in Relationships aims to provide evidence-based practices to enhance social-emotional development in children ages birth -8.
Through Communities for Kids, we’ve been able to grow the library’s early literacy outreach to include daycare facilities as well as the school district. I created a survey, which Communities for Kids pushed out to their childcare providers, asking if facilities would be interested in having a staff member come out to facilitate storytimes or other early literacy programs. Monthly visits were coordinated with one childcare facility as well as four preschool classrooms. It was also through Communities for Kids that I met the coordinator of Rooted in Relationships for Lincoln County.
Rooted in Relationships is still new to our community. At the time I got involved, they were looking for ways to reach parents and care providers for young children, with one of their primary needs being the need to secure a meeting space for their Play is the Way event in October of 2022.
Play is the Way is designed for caregivers and children ages 2-6 years old to encourage caregivers to interact and play with their child, as well as practice some of the social-emotional development techniques from the parenting classes offered by Rooted in Relationships. The library offered our meeting space and play materials for the event. Over the course of the day-long event, we built relationships with over 50 families, some of whom had never visited the library.
The library’s involvement with Rooted in Relationships not only opened up our services to new families, but also introduced the library to new agencies serving children in the community. Through our partnership, the library has found reciprocity with several additional organizations looking to use library spaces. In return, these organizations are willing to promote our early literacy programs to the families they serve. The library is continuing to partner with Rooted in Relationships for their 2023 Play is the Way event, and will be bringing presenters from the organization to our storytime and preschool outreach visits in 2024 to bring the social-emotional development practices used by the program to a new audience.
There are a number of agencies and organizations in any given community that serve the needs of children and families – from daycare facilities to public schools to various non-profits and, of course, the public library.
This post addresses ALSC competency V.6 Communicates and collaborates in partnership with other agencies, institutions and organizations serving children in the community to achieve common goals and overcome barriers created by socioeconomic circumstances, race, culture, privilege, language, gender, ability, religion, immigration status, commercialism, and other diversities.
Anne Price is writing this post on behalf of the Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee. She can be reached at anne.price712 at gmail.com.