To celebrate the third annual “Take Your Child to the Library” day on Saturday, February 1, libraries all over the world will be inviting children and their families to partake in all that they have to offer.
Children who visit the Homer (AK) Public Library can participate in the Library LEGO Club and submit a guess for the guessing jar contest. Young visitors to the Birchard (OH) Public Library will get to write a poem, make a door hanger, cover a book, and sign up for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. Families visiting branches of the St. Charles (MO) City-County Library District can have their pictures taken with giant library cards. At the Henrietta (NY) Public Library, visitors will see costumed Star Wars characters roaming the building, as members of the 501st Legion sign autographs, take pictures, and direct children to Star Wars crafts and books.
Suffice it to say that it won’t be just any normal Saturday at the library.
Take Your Child to the Library Day is the brainchild of Nadine Lipman, retired Head of Children’s Services at Waterford (CT) Public Library. In late 2011, Lipman heard a radio advertisement for an event encouraging families to visit bookstores. That ad inspired her to create a similar library initiative on the first Saturday of February 2012 with one simple goal: to encourage all children to “visit their public library regularly and use their very own library card while there to check out books.”
When Lipman shared her idea with members of a state listserv, she caught the attention of Caitlin Augusta of Stratford (CT) Library. Augusta loved the idea, and she offered to make a blog to help promote it. The blog, is still the go-to source for information and ideas for Take Your Child to the Library Day.
With a set date and blog for the initiative, all that was missing was a graphic. Then author and illustrator Nancy Elizabeth Wallace created a logo. Wallace has continued to support the initative.
“She’s been a fabulous promoter at all levels, selfless and enthusiastic,” said Augusta.
Since that first celebration in 2012, Take Your Child to the Library Day has become a joint effort between Lipman, Augusta, and the Connecticut Library Consortium. Upstart supports and promotes the initiative, producing posters, bookmarks, bags, and library card holders with Wallace’s design. Lipman and Augusta have also enlisted the help of librarians willing to serve as representatives for the initiative within their states.
Both Lipman and Augusta are pleased to see more libraries taking part every year as the initiative grows.
Since 2012, said Lipman, “we have tripled the number of participating libraries throughout the U.S. and in Canada, and last year had libraries in the U.S. Virgin Islands and an Army post in Hohenfels, Germany participate.”
“It’s been amazing to see one woman’s idea grow to include forty states and three countries,” said Augusta.
Both Lipman and Augusta attribute some of the event’s success to its open-ended nature: individual libraries can celebrate the day in any manner that suits them.
“It’s free, and every library can sponsor events that will work in their community,” said Augusta. “There are no mandated elements, so it works if you’re a library serving 4,000, people like some of our Maine participants, or millions of people, like the three New York City libraries.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of Take Your Child to the Library Day, said Augusta, is that it allows libraries to demonstrate the value they bring to the families they serve.
“It’s an initiative that markets the library in the community, and children’s librarians finally have their chance to be advocates in a way that is organic and feels natural to them,” said Augusta. “We’re a modest bunch, but welcoming people to the library is what we do, so this day is a perfect match. Everyone knows that the library is a crucial partner in the educational, social, and emotional development of children; we just need to remind people what we have to offer.”