Who said libraries are only for quiet and reading?
I’ve mentioned it before, I’m not your typical librarian. When I say this, I mean mainly not of the “shhh!” variety. This is especially important when one of your jobs involves you working in a children’s hospital. Let me tell you a bit about what I do.
Our patrons mostly consist of patients (children) and their families. These are either outpatients, waiting for their clinic appointments, or inpatients, looking for a space to spend time in (other than their rooms). After spending hours having to sit still, being poked and prodded, you need to offer these kids a space where they can be free to make noise, play, and well – be a kid. This is where our library comes into play.
Our main service to these families is to offer resources on any topic related to a child’s health and well-being. This includes materials on medical conditions, relaxation, dealing with emotions, parenting, coping with being in a hospital, understanding medical procedures, support groups, etc. We also offer reference services, to families or any other medical/allied health professionals, to research any topics that we may have lacking in our collection, or any questions they may have. Typical library stuff, but there’s more!
Being in a children’s hospital, however, means you need to adapt to the needs of your patrons. This is why we also have a corner with toys, games, and fiction books to help pass the time. Our space is also used for those waiting for appointments or for those that just need a change of scenery. This is really important for the families that are stuck in the hospital for long periods of time, most notably for those who, I’m very sad to say, basically live in the hospital (some of these children have been living in the hospital their whole lives!). Sometimes they just need a happy space that doesn’t feel so sterile and confining. We have tables and comfortable seating, for doing homework, eating, or other activities, and a beautiful sky light offering natural lighting into the space. For those waiting for their appointments, they use our space to keep their children occupied, where they can wait, stress-free, until they are called for their appointment through the hospital’s PA system.
In addition, we offer free tea and coffee to parents, juice for the children, and sometimes bake little goodies too (we have an oven!). The hospital does have a cafeteria and a few cafés here and there, but these are usually over-priced and very out of the way. This way, when they visit, they have a free treat to enjoy during their stay.
We also have a “business center” with computers that have Internet access, printers, scanners, and phones – all free to use. Some of these families don’t have time, or live too far away, to go home to pay their bills or fill out crazy amounts of forms for hospital care. Here, they can make the calls they need, or do the work they need, without having to worry about being too far away from their children, should the need arise.
Our weekly programming includes story time every Friday (obviously we’d have a story time), usually centered around a theme, where we read a book in English, and one in French, which are then followed by some arts and crafts, or a related activity. We also host fun activities, at least once a month, for all types of patients and their families. These include music concerts, puppet shows, meet & greets with famous celebrities and athletes, magic shows, etc. Cool, right?
Can’t you tell I just love my library? Anyway, I’m wondering what my fellow librarians do that is “out of the ordinary” for their patrons? What are all of your thoughts on “unconventional” libraries? Please comment below.