PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
A child’s first visit to the public library is an event remembered for a lifetime. Over my years of librarianship, people have shared their “library story” with me many times, and it is as fresh in their mind as the day it happened, often countless years ago.
Years ago, a local woman told me that she first entered the “Carnegie Library” in 1931 with her mother following a streetcar ride down 4th St. from their home in the North End.
The library looked massive to a child, and upon entering the interior of the building looked even larger. In those days, the children’s area was to the left in one of the Reading Rooms.
It was decorated with pictures of animals and literary characters, and little furniture adorned the area. The formidable librarian approached with eyeglasses on a chain, and hair twisted into a bun, pencil protruding from the base.
She sat gently on a bench, and asked the little girl to sit with her while she described the library and where everything was located.
Thus began a 70 year library habit that was started by mother and a library visit.
Today our library system is a “Family Place Library” which is a network of children’s librarians nationwide who believe that literacy begins at birth and that libraries can build healthy communities of nourishing healthy families.
The Family Place Libraries extend across 23 states with 300 sites. Family Place Libraries builds on the knowledge that good health, early learning, parental involvement and supportive communities play a critical role in young children’s growth and development.
The first years of a child’s life are very important to their future success in school and a learning environment.
Studies have shown that children who are not proficient in reading by the third grade level are four more times as likely to drop out of high school as those who read at or above their reading level.
A child’s brain reaches 85 percent of its capacity by the age of 5 years of life. This is why our library system offers so many programs for early childhood literacy.
Looking at our schedule for only the Fall Season, our system offers over 130 programs around the county, all listed on our web site or in handouts available at our libraries.
Some of the programs offered include Babygarten, which is a sit-down lap program for early literacy skills. Tot Times is an interactive program for 2 and 3 year olds to again promote early literacy.
Story Time and Story Hour are for older children and are combined at some library locations.
Play and Learn and Play and Learn the Alphabet are geared for the child and parent/caregiver to encourage development at an early age.
Adding to these early childhood events, the library system offers adaptive toys for special needs children and theme-related materials in backpacks.
Periodic workshops for parents and caregivers introduce library resources and provide special programs to assist with early literacy.
My first visit to the public library was in 1962 when my 2nd grade teacher made arrangements for all of us to go with our parents and obtain a library card.
I thought the library was a magical place, with all kinds of displays to tickle the senses, and what seemed like endless rows of books just for my age.
With the help of the librarian, I selected the book “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey as my first checkout with my new library card; which turned out to be my key to knowledge and literacy.
Little would I know that 7 years later I would be working in that library as those early librarians became my mentors to what would become my career.
Any library I enter remains a magical place to me, and I often check to see if my first book needs replaced because too many children may have entered their magical place through that book.