"Many low income and immigrant families are often surprised to learn that the programs we are doing in the schools are also offered free of charge at the library. These programs help break down barriers for them and open the door to a new world of opportunities and support for these families,” said Ms. Wood.
The Metropolitan Library System joined the Family Place network in 2001 and immediately began incorporating the Family Place philosophy and developing its core components. The Parent Child Workshop, renamed 1, 2, 3 Play with Me was soon offered, and a developmentally appropriate, interactive space for families with very young children was created within the children's room. Community response was immediate, positively impacting number of library visits, parent-child interactions during visits and program attendance.
While very pleased with this initial impact, Lisa Wood, Children's Services Coordinator, knew there were families in Oklahoma City that she was still not reaching. "From my time as a substance abuse counselor, I knew that there was a segment of our community that did not step foot in the library. There were cultural, language, and socio-economic barriers that we needed to cross," Wood said. The implementation of the Parent Child Workshop served as an avenue for the Metropolitan Library System to enhance current connections with various community agencies. Ms. Wood expanded her collaboration with Family Expectations, a local agency working with families with very young children, to offer a father/child play night at their local facility. The success of the Family Expectations program led to further collaborations. The library developed partnerships with the Latino Community Service Agency, Emerson Alternative High School, and a local child care center for disadvantaged children to educate families on library services and the importance of playing, talking, singing and sharing books with babies and toddlers.
Encouraged by the positive impacts of these growing community collaborations, The Friends of the Metropolitan Library System decided to fund the Play Mobile to bring 1,2,3 Play With Me to the community.
Dana Morrow, Director of Outreach Services for the Metro Library System also serves on the executive board of Smart Start Oklahoma City and brought the Play Mobile to their attention. Smart Start was eager to support the project. Through this connection, Lisa Wood was introduced to a liaison from the Oklahoma City Public Schools, and a Library/Smart Start/School partnership was formed. Soon after, Play Mobile units began traveling to a couple of local public elementary schools.
The schools provided the space in which to conduct the program and Ms. Wood brought the toys, resources, and resource professionals. The program was offered to resident families with children ages one through three. The outreach effort was an enormous success and continued to grow as additional elementary schools were calling Metro Library System to request a Play Mobile visit for their school.
Seeing the value of this program first hand, the Oklahoma City Public Schools chose to invest some of their Title I money to help expand the program to additional schools. Smart Start hired a coordinator to work with Ms. Wood to ensure capacity could meet demand. The Play Mobile is now bringing the 1, 2, 3 Play With Me program to over 40 elementary schools in Oklahoma City. Wood shared, "Teachers play a large part in promoting this program to parents and some schools even display a banner on the exterior of their buildings to reach families who don't yet have school-age children. Still, the most effective promotion is word of mouth. The word has gotten out to the community."
The partnership that Metro Library System established with Smart Start and the Oklahoma City Public Schools created a strong network of family support in Oklahoma City. "Many low income and immigrant families are often surprised to learn that the programs we are doing in the schools are also offered free of charge at the library. These programs help break down barriers for them and open the door to a new world of opportunities and support for these families," said Ms. Wood.