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Family Place Library

Sacramento Public Library

Innovation Leader: Sarah Dentan, Acting Youth Services Manager, sdentan@saclibrary.org

Problem Statement

The Sacramento Public Library received a $15,000 LSTA grant through the California State Library in order to implement the Family Place early learning area in our Southgate Branch Library. The Southgate Branch Library was selected because it sits in an underserved area with a high proportion of very young children, and is adjacent to a school serving parenting teens. Built in 1975, the library, and particularly the children’s area, was grim and uninspiring. While the grant was enough to cover developmentally appropriate materials and basic furnishings, we would need to locate approximately $9,000 in additional funds to create a space as lovely as it is useful.

Innovation

Working with our project manager, the scope of work was determined to include significant rearrangement of shelving and carpet repair. Newly exposed walls would be slatwalled, and new canopy tops would be installed. Because we used Library facilities staff, our labor costs were minimal, and the Library Foundation granted us $7500 to cover these physical improvements. Additional low-cost upgrades were covered by the facilities budget. The Friends of the Southgate Library contributed $2000 to purchase three high-end interactive panels, providing a focal point for the space as well as a draw for children and parents. Because we were able to push these costs to other funders, we were able to use grant funds to purchase higher end furnishings, without skimping on materials. By leveraging internal resources and partner funding, we were able to create a model early childhood environment despite the relatively small size of the initial grant.

Progress

The work is complete, and the space opened on March 5, 2011. Our formal evaluation is in process, and initial outcomes appear positive. Parents who have previously left children unattended are now interacting with them in the play area. Parents who have ignored fussing children while using computers are now playing and reading with children while waiting. We are developing strong partnerships with local agencies, and making successful connections with a diverse group of parents. Staff and patrons have embraced the space, many noting the importance, in a struggling neighborhood, to have something this positive come to the community.