Library’s ‘work and play stations’ let toddlers play while parents work
Imagine you’re a working mom with a baby or toddler. You need to sit at a desk and work on your laptop and keep an eye on your curious, high-spirited child. Does this sound impossible? For patrons of the Henrico County Public Library in Virginia, it definitely won’t be.
This extremely family-friendly library has a room with “work and play stations,” where baby cribs and toddler play areas are attached to the desks.
The concept was the brainchild of librarian Barbara Weedman, a single mother of a now-grown son. In 2017, when the library she worked for was planning to build a new location, Weedman considered how they might give parents access to work on computers while safely caring for their young children.
“These caregivers may not have internet access at home, or they may just need a quiet place away from home to get a little work done,” she told Insider. “People with all different kinds of needs use these workstations, just like how people with all different kinds of needs use the library.”
With the help of community leaders and a design group called TMC Furniture, the library was able to create these special spaces (officially called The Fairfield Parent + Child Carrels) when it opened its doors in 2019.
After a 2022 tweet from the policy director for Families Forward Virginia went viral, the library received lots of media attention.
A new public library in my area has these work stations for caregivers with babies! Maybe these are common in other places but Ive never seen anything like this before. pic.twitter.com/svmhWu7QbK
— Ali Faruk (@FamiliesFwdVA) January 22, 2022
“At first, we were surprised to see them go viral and some of the impassioned responses online,” Weedman told Insider. “But then we understood that people with small children were happy to feel seen and considered in a public space.”
She says the library has heard from many other organizations and individuals who want to emulate what they’ve done, including libraries, universities and parents. And some other institutions have begun to follow suit. At the University of Michigan, they’ve installed a family workstation in their Shapiro Student Parent and Caregiver Study Room.
In the meantime, the lucky patrons of the Henrico County Public Library are enjoying the fruits of Weedman’s labor.
“We believe people shouldn’t need to arrange childcare just to visit us and use the computers,” she told Insider. “We want intergenerational groups to visit us all together, and we want the library to meet all their needs at once.”