Library accommodates families with babies and young children with work-and-play stations

Tap… tap… tap… kjcb siufjkbvkhf… Babies and young children are brilliant and capable little beings, but they have little to no regard for what it means to function efficiently in our fast-paced, demanding world. They are, of course, quite curious too, and the clicking of computer keys coupled with the reaction of their caregiver is always a thrill. Tap… tap… tap… So when parents attempt to complete schoolwork or work at the computer with their little one(s) by their side, it can prove quite daunting. Tap…tap…kjsbdfjhbduhsfbcagquyiuroofhs… 

Photo Credit: Henrico County Public Library

Henrico County Public Library – Fairfield Area Library Community Relations Coordinator Patty Conway and colleagues noticed this challenge: parents attempting to get work done typing one-handed,  balancing a small child on one knee, or “another similarly inconvenient arrangement,” as Conway puts it. 

“We thought that if a computer station existed that allowed a parent to work on the computer next to their child, who could be placed in a comfortable and enclosed playspace, we would be solving a common problem facing many of our library users,” she explains. 

The Computer Work + Play Stations at Fairfield Library conceptualized by library staff were materialized by architects at Quinn Evans and TMC Furniture staff. 

Conway says they anticipated the stations to be well received, but when the library shared the set up on Facebook, they didn’t expect their idea to go viral. 

“The stations are popular and were shared so widely because they meet the needs of parents with small children in libraries.” Conway begins. “On social media, they have also been recognized as being potentially helpful for working parents at home or in other work settings. We were happy to see the positive attention the stations received.”

The stations are still in their pilot phase, so staff continues to gather feedback from the community and may modify the design over time. 

Along with the play stations, Fairfield Area Library offers other family and baby-friendly features and programs.

Conway describes how  picture books are organized in collections called Neighborhoods that group fiction and nonfiction items by subject of interest. 

“The books are shelved on child-sized bins that little ones can search through on their own, with minimal adult assistance,” Conway continues. “Due to the input of one family in particular at the community design planning sessions, the library’s second floor was designed to meet the needs of parents and families with multiple children as they age out of the children’s area into the teen area. The children’s wing on the left side of the second floor is connected to the teen space on the right side of the second floor by an open, central Family Collaboration Zone.”

Photo credit: Henrico County Public Library – Fairfield Area Library

The library offers a Family Comfort Room with a soft rocker, dimmable lighting and a basket of board books, ideal for breastfeeding or calming an overexcited child, as Conway points out. 

“We think it is an engaging and supportive space for families and parents with babies and children of all ages,” she says.

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