Photo: To help parent-child at-home learning during the pandemic, Ms. Rachel, children’s librarian at the Kingsessing Branch has been providing resources for caregivers. To learn more about their needs Ms. Rachel holds Parent-Library Coffee Hours, the next pair taking place Thursday, March 25.
Connecting with Community in a Disconnected World
By Benjamin Remsen
This past year of the Covid-19 Pandemic has presented unique challenges to parents and caregivers trying to sustain the nurture and development of beloved children. Quietly and effectively, the Free Library of Philadelphia branches have been trying to support these vital efforts with books, periodicals, and ideas.
For her part, Rachel Robinson, Children’s Librarian at the Kingsessing Branch has hosted Parent-Library Coffee hours to find out firsthand what the critical needs are and to foster interaction between the home helpers.
Her next two Parent-Library Coffee Hours are scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 25. To obtain a link for one of these gatherings email her at robinsonr@freelibrary.
Until the cold weather intervened, Ms. Rachel ventured out to playgrounds with her own toddler. Even with everyone wearing masks she still recognized parents and children who used to be library regulars. They would come to storytimes, stop by her desk to learn the scoop on new releases or just share about challenges with bedtime or childhood fears. While Ms. Rachel was so happy to see these parents (and sing a few storytime songs with their children for old times’ sake) she also felt how demanding the pandemic had been on them. She felt sad that services were so limited when people were most in need.
But Ms. Rachel also knew that reason services were limited was in the safety interest of those very same people. What she felt was missing wasn’t necessarily safety protocols or virtual programming, but the voice of parents and caregivers in determining what they needed from their library both in terms of safety and services. So she started gathering phone numbers and emails. She asked parents if she could send them texts with service and program ideas for feedback and to help her pilot them. She asked them what was missing and so often it was daily structure and adult connection.
Ms. Rachel started calling them her Parent’s Advisory Council, a completely flat “organization” whose only job was to speak and be heard. At community give-backs and over Southwest Philadelphia community facebook groups, Ms. Rachel spread the message that she wanted to hear from parents and share what the library was trying out. The vision for children’s services at Kingsessing Library had to come from the people most connected to those children, Kingsessing parents.
“If you are interested in shaping that vision, or just being heard by your local librarian and other parents, please join one of our next virtual Parent-Library coffee hours,” offered Ms. Rachel. “The zoom coffee break is a space to connect with other parents, share, refresh and ask questions of a local children’s librarian.
“The library wants to hear from you and be there for one another. Caregivers sharing at previous coffee hours have led to services and programs like book bundles and outdoor storytimes.”
(Ben Remsen is the Adult-Teen Librarian at the Kingsessing Library and branch manager.)
This event is primarily intended for caregivers in the Kingsessing neighborhood, but Globe Times readers may let Ms. Rachel know if this is something you’d like to see at your local branch.