An interesting and important result of diminished educational budgets is that teachers, parents, and students are finding public libraries with creative librarians can be rich resources in providing services far beyond book lending. One such library, the Village Library in Farmington, Conn., offers programs and activities which could well serve as models for any community desiring to expand and broaden its library services.
Nancy De Salvo, who is responsible for developing these imaginative and stimulating programs, is a liberal-arts graduate with an additional degree in library science. She devoted 18 years to bringing up six children before starting the career for which she had been trained two decades earlier.
The inviting climate of the Village Library is largely due to Mrs. De Salvo's personal warmth and interest as she greets each child and parent by name. Each patron's needs are her concern. For a child who has lost a grandparent, she has set aside a special book that can help heal the loss; for a child who feels displaced by a new baby, she has just the right book to reassure the child that new siblings don't mean the end of parental love for them.
Small wonder that mothers come from neighboring towns to bring their offspring into such a warm, welcoming atmosphere. (Under Connecticut's library system, Connecticard, a person's hometown library card enables him to use almost any library in the state.)
In the Village Library, providing services for children and parents is regarded as important as book-lending. As a consequence, Mrs. De Salvo has worked closely with the community to meet specific needs. For example, on days when the Farmington schools close early in the afternoon for parent- teacher conferences, she plans programs at the library so that parents can leave their children there while they attend the conferences.
With the burgeoning enrollment in day- care centers and nursery schools, she has assumed initiative in instructing interested parents and teachers in child development through use of films and community resource speakers.
Currently, she is assisting in a program called "Beginnings," which trains children's librarians and community resource volunteers in developing and implementing effective library programs for two-year-olds, "The Terrific Twos," which she helped to develop. The main goal for this program is to provide information to parents on child development and introduce them to materials available for young children: films, records, and books. Most of these could then be used by the parents on a one-to-one basis with a child.
As a mother, Mrs. De Salvo has special insight into the needs of both children and parents. In how many other libraries would one find a stroller, playpen, and toys for use while mothers browse? Teachers of the young child and parents find the realia collection of toys, puzzles, games, puppets, maps, globes, and costumes invaluable; the children find them irresistible. All of these items are available for loan in addition to books: films, filmstrips, records, cassettes, as well as the equipment to use them.
To celebrate the International Year of the Child, Mrs. De Salvo developed a cultural awareness program for the preschool child on children in Poland, China, Africa, Mexico, and Alaska. Inagine the delight a nursery- school class experienced recently when they discovered that learning about the Eskimos of Alaska involved singing an Eskimo song, using potato block prints of whales, fish, walrus, and ptarmigan, eating fish on crackers, and watching a film based on Eskimo folk tales.
Programs such as this are offered both at the library and at nearby nursery schools. In addition, follow-up resources and activities are available for teachers, parents, and children.
The range and variety of programs offered to children and parents stem from Mrs. De Salvo's conviction that meeting the needs of children and parents is a vital function of the library. Following is a sampling of some of the programs for parents that were coordinated with other agencies:
* A child psychologist conducted two sessions on "What's Ahead for Two-Year-Olds?" reviewing children's development from three to five and giving parents an opportunity to talk about their feelings and experiences with their own toddlers.
* A consultant in early childhood education for the state helped parents select the type of nursery school they wanted for their child in her presentation, "Some Ways of Distinguishing a Good Program for Your Young Child."
* The manager of a large toy store spoke on "How to Select Toys and Use Them With Children."
* The special child was the topic of one program. Following a movie on the topic, there was a display of materials for the special child.
* Marie Winn, author of "The Plug-In Drug," spoke on the effect of TV on children's language development and on their ability to form social relationships, as well as TV's effect on the way parents bring up their children and on family life in general.
* An elementary music teacher presented a program, "Music With Young Children."
In addition, programs for children and parents covered a wide range of topics: safety, tree-trimming, making Christmas candy and cookies, a Colonial cooking workshop, energy conservation, and puppet workshops.
Varied programs for children included: puppet and marionette shows, story hours, reading clubs, creating puppets and puppet shows, book discussions, and films.