"Almost ten years later... "
As one of the first five Family Place pilot sites,
The first Providence librarians were trained in 1998, and quickly integrated the FP philosophy into every aspect of the children’s departments across Providence’s branches. With the administration behind them, Family Place librarians have improved space and collections and offered the PC workshop regularly at most of their branches and formed partnerhips with other family serving organizations. This positioned the Providence Public Library to develop into what is now considered one of the top organizations in the region serving children and families.
In 2000 they were asked to join the Mayor’s Early Childhood Task Force. From there, things really took off. In 2002 they began to play a key role in
Erica Wilder, Family Place librarian at Providence PL, believes that the library was poised to take on this position due mainly to its involvement in the Family Place program. “So many librarians at Providence have been trained in Family Place since 1998 that the Family Place philosophy is ingrained in the institution. This set us up to take a place at the table when our community started the R2LP initiative.” During the first phase of Providence PL’s involvement with R2LP, R2LP helped library staff build on their FP training with a summer of regular early literacy workshops for all the children’s staff, including visits by the early literacy expert to evaluate each branch’s PC workshop program (called “Cradle to Crayons” in Providence).
Five years later, R2LP has grown to employ 23 full time staff members and 30 AmeriCorps members, 10 of whom now work with children in library-based programs and in the community. With 10 Spanish-speaking AmeriCorps members, 8 of whom are bilingual, the library is now better able to serve the populations in their area. “The library has always been committed to serving our Spanish speaking community, but with 78% of family child care providers and a large percentage of families in Providence speaking Spanish, there were never enough staff members who spoke Spanish,” Ms. Wilder noted. Now that the Providence Public Library is entering their 3rd year working with AmeriCorps members, they are both working in the library and doing huge amounts of outreach to the surrounding communities, visiting formal and informal childcare settings and introducing providers to all they can do at their neighborhood library branch. R2LP AmeriCorps members have also greatly increased the numbers of Spanish-speaking childcare providers and families attending the PC workshop program in some branches. The attendance at the South Providence Branch, for example, has grown from an average of 3-5 children 2 years ago to 20-25 children every week during the past year.
From a small Family Place program to being a key player in the R2LP initiative, the Family Place librarians in Providence have changed the way they interact with children, families and childcare providers; “AmeriCorps members have been able to take the library to the community, helping to promote the visions and missions of our library, R2LP and Family Place.”