Kidcast: Pittsburgh’s evolving libraries are finding new ways to serve families

If you haven’t been to the library lately, a lot has changed. Libraries are offering all kinds of new programming, both inside and outside the library, for kids and families. Elaine Volpe of the Allegheny County Library Association tells us how we can take advantage of all of the free and fun things to do.

Kristine Sorensen: Tell us, first, what there is for moms and dads and babies.

Elaine Volpe: Libraries really have changed drastically over the years. It’s so much more than just books. We have free storytimes and classes, and as beneficial as they are to the children, I find that parents benefit from it just as much because they’re getting that interaction with other new parents. I can attest to friendships I’ve seen develop.  Parents meet at Baby Jam and they’re still having playdates with their kids once they’re in kindergarten, so it’s where friendships are formed.

Kristine Sorensen: I really needed that when I was a new mom, to get out and connect with other parents, and my daughter loved it too. The social interaction was great for her.

Elain Volpe: And many libraries now have a play space, so even after storytime is over, you can hang out at the library.

Kristine Sorensen: Then after they’re babies and they’re a little bit older, libraries offer different things, right?

Elaine Volpe: Yes. It’s important that you still make the library part of your daily routine or your weekly routine. We have STEM classes for older children, discovery clubs, homework help. There’s really so much out there.

Kristine Sorensen: Some libraries have after-school care too, right?

Elaine Volpe: I know some kids walk to the library and hang out there, do their homework and find a book to read until mom or dad can pick them up. It’s a safe spot for kids to go, and it’s a community gathering place.

Kristine Sorensen: Nowadays, the library is even outside the four walls of what we think of as the library.

Elain Volpe: Exactly, because we realized that not everybody, especially families where both parents are working outside the home, can get to the library during the day. So we are going to where you are, and we bring our storytimes on the road. I’ve popped up at a farmer’s market with free books to give away. We even have libraries in laundromats now.  We are definitely getting out into the neighborhood and into the community to meet people where they are.

To find a library near you, go to the Library Finder at the Allegheny County Library Association’s website.