HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — A thoughtful approach to helping parents of young children has earned praise for Fairfield Library in eastern Henrico County.
Built in 2019, the Fairfield area library opened just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard. But looking inside the children’s section, you’d almost think someone had a crystal ball, or at the very least, was paying attention to what parents and caregivers need most.
Parents like Janelle Witcher, who visits with her children John, 2, and Delia, 1, as often as possible.
She said she appreciated the beauty of the facility and the ability to let her kids learn and grow without being judged or told to quiet down.
"You can start businesses here. You can just produce. The library is great. Thank God for the library," Witcher said.
One reason the library is so useful for parents like Witcher is its caregiver workstations. The design seems simple. An enclosed space next to a computer. But more than that, the workstations are regularly cleaned and there are engagement activities for the kids built into the structure.
The stations have received extra attention this week after a tweet highlighted their usefulness for parents during the pandemic.
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
"We’ve been seeing increasing numbers of parents coming in," Supervisor of Children's Public Services at Fairfield Area Library Shay Ramsey-Martin said.
The caregiver workstations are the brainchild of the librarians, designer Quinn Evans, and TMC furniture. They include a padded floor, mirrors down low for infants in need of tummy time, holes between the cubby and computer for baby/ caregiver interaction, and enrichment features that can be swapped out every few months to keep the art and activities fresh.
The library staff emphasizes they are a resource for anyone who needs help in the community, be it working remotely, finding work, or simply needs a safe space for kids to be kids and explore.