A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Toy Libraries: Providing Abundant Play Opportunities

by on January 31, 2013

I was in my Foundations library class when I first heard about toy libraries. Entering library school I had no idea that there were toy libraries in existence, what exactly they were or what they did. Recently I had the chance to talk to a member of the Toy Library Association about just that. A toy library’s objectives depends on the community it serves, tho it is mainly to provide toys to children.  The mission of the U.S.A. Toy Library Association is  to “Provide an important dimension to America’s educational program by providing another environment of abundant play opportunity supplemented by a collection of high-grade toys; and a forum for discussion among parents, teachers and others; and to

• Provide disabled children with quality, specially-adapted toys;

• Provide trained personnel to work with families to integrate disabled children into the mainstream;

• Respond to child care needs;

• Offer caregivers valuable direction in child development;

• Help parents to play with and provide play experiences for their children while becoming more informed consumers of toys.

• Affirm values of honesty and sharing among children in all walks of life. [1]

Most toy libraries partner with other organizations such as hospitals, public libraries, and early child development centers. Such partnerships are beneficial for both parties as it is hard enough to get funding for typical libraries and toy libraries are no exception. However, such partnerships may be more beneficial than standing alone because they present patrons with a chance to take advance of services offered by both organizations and present an easier avenue for promotion and access. As an added benefit, most of the organizations that toy libraries associate with seem to have some aspect of providing services to children, who just happen to be a central part of the toy libraries patron base.

The toy library and public library partnership interests me because as an MLIS graduate student with an undergraduate emphasis in Human Development and Family Studies, I am able to combine my skills of providing information and knowledge of parenting and appropriate play with toys. At a time when more and more children are exposed to violent video games it is important to provide another means of play. This can be difficult for parents to do if they lack the resources or time to  actually play with their children. As a toy library we can provide our patrons and their children with the means to play.

As we meet a new generation of latchkey children we need to be aware that children aren’t just going home to empty homes anymore. They may go home to an electronic video game or some other form of entertainment or maybe even visit someone else’s home. While right now toy libraries seem to focus more on the developmental needs of younger children, I feel that in time they may branch out to older children and young adults. Though typically young adults have more access to activities (sports, etc.), there still is a need to provide all children with play opportunities.  Discovering this information about toy libraries has helped me to understand more about the potential of public libraries to work within the community, particularly with children. For more information visit the Toy Library Association.

[1] The U.S.A.Toy Library Association website http://www.usatla.org/USA_Toy_Library_Association/About_USATLA.html. Accessed 1/31/13.