Library Spotlight

"Partnerships Fuel Popularity in Tempe, AZ..."


Imagine a library program where two-year-olds shriek with laughter.  Where toddlers are allowed to have melt-downs.  Where a father can talk to an expert about his 14-month-old’s diet and a grandmother can get a referral for her granddaughter’s hearing problems, all in the course of casual conversation over Legos.  A place with toys, with songs, with unstructured time where adults can compare notes on parenting the Terrible Twos.  Now imagine that this family-centered space could exist not just at the library, but in multiple networked community centers, accessible to families throughout the region.

Welcome to the Tempe Public Library’s Family Place, an initiative that has turned its strong partnership ethic into a dynamic alliance of agencies and practitioners who work together to offer diverse resources to families across Tempe, Arizona’s Metro Area.  What started as a single Parent/Child Workshop at the Tempe Public Library now offers up to ten programs each year.  Tempe Library’s Family Place maintains a full roster of dynamic early childhood programs, as well as family-friendly space, collections and services.  In addition, the library also offers Family Place programs at two of Tempe’s Multigenerational Community Centers, bringing its resources to families not typically served by the library. 

It is these strong community partnerships that stand out in making Tempe’s Family Place programs so popular and effective.  Each session of the Parent/Child Workshop has at least two service providers who can answer questions and, if necessary, make referrals.  Through a strong alliance with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, a pediatric resident and a child nutritionist attend every session.  This arrangement has turned out to be mutually beneficial, giving the specialists an opportunity to observe parenting practices in the community, and parents a place to get questions answered and fears alleviated by qualified experts in the field. 

With close to a dozen community partnerships, Tempe’s Family Place is a bridge connecting local agencies to the library, and bringing a whole network of resources to families where they are.  Families at the North Tempe and Escalante Community Centers are introduced to pediatricians, speech pathologists, nutritionists, car safety information, social service representatives and child councilors.  And, of course, they are connected to one of the best resources for parents and children alike: the public library. 

“We’ve seen a big increase in non-traditional users at the library,” said Nick Escalante, Senior Services Coordinator and Family Place Director at the library and the North Tempe and Escalante Community Centers.  Partnership with the community centers has brought an increase in circulation of parenting materials, and use of the library’s space is also way up.  Taking these statistics as a sign, the library is now building on this relationship to allow community center patrons easy access to its services.  “It’s a huge deal,” said Escalante.  “It allows people to get library cards at the community centers, when before they thought they could only do that at the library.”

With only one full-time staff member working on the rapidly-expanding community center programs, Family Place can be a lot to keep up with.  “I have a waiting list for all my classes,” said Escalante, with a mixture of pride and trepidation.  But he’s quick to look on the bright side.  “Because I work in all these different places, families who need to seek help know they can come and talk to me.” 

As a result, Nick Escalante has become a community resource unto himself.  “One of the kids from the Escalante Center came in to the library with his whole family, so I stopped what I was doing and gave them a tour.  It took probably 45 minutes.”  He gave them all library cards and helped them pick out books.  “That first experience is so important.  I’ve seen them back a lot of times.  And that’s happened more than once.”  With libraries, community centers, hospitals and social service centers allied in support of diverse family needs, it is the parents, grandparents, caretakers and the children they love that have truly become the community’s centers. 



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Kids learn through play at
Family Place in Tempe, AZ

Library: Tempe Public Library


City, State: Tempe, Arizona


Family Place Library Since: 2000


Community Partners:

  • Escalante Multigenerational Community Center
  • North Tempe Multigenerational Community Center
  • Phoenix Children’s Hospital
  • University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
  • City Social Services Department, Tempe, AZ
  • Arizona Department of Education, Early Childhood Department
  • New Directions Institute on Brain Development
  • Arizona Literacy and Learning Center

Learning by doing at the new
North Tempe Multigenerational
Learning Center