WAXAHACHIE — Taking the next step to strengthen Waxahachie families, the Nicholas P. Sims Library, in conjunction with the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce, held a ribbon cutting for its new Family Place program last Friday, Sept. 15.

“This is an exciting chapter for Sims Library and serving our community,” began Holly Browning, the children’s librarian, and community liaison. “We’re serving the whole family, not just readers and up.”

“So as soon as you’re born, we want to help take care of you at the Sims Library with brain development and the growth of your child to all if you are homebound and elderly, and can’t get to the library,” she added. “We will come to you, and that is what a Family Place Library is all about.”

After receiving a grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to implement this service, the nationwide program has transformed the local library into a family center for the community to share.

“It means a lot to us that they have a building and programs like this where everybody in the community can go to and find what you’re looking for in one place,” expressed Sandy King, Chamber CFO and director of member engagement.

“Holly does a lot of activities here, and it’s more than just a library, it’s a place for families to do things together,” she included.

From trained staff instituting components in child development, family support, and parent education to special collections of literacy and multimedia materials, and specially designed spaces for family and professional collaboration, the program is a one-stop place for connection and engagement.

“In this department, it’s even more special because we have all of these great developmental toys, we will have programs such as the ‘Parent-child Workshop,’ which connects families with young children to professionals from places such as Hope Clinic and Family Dentistry,” Browning listed.

“Parents can ask them all the questions they want. Anything you might need to know or that you’re curious about, and maybe asking, ‘My child is doing something strange, is this normal?’” she joked. “You have the opportunity to connect with these professionals and invest in your child’s growth.”

What began in 1996 as a search for a parent program in public libraries, the Libraries for the Future (LFF) soon formed the Family Place Libraries program, remolding community involvement in over 1,200 libraries in 31 states since.

“That support system for us has been a dream,” Browning acknowledged the effects of the newfound network. “We’re excited to be the ‘newbies’ in the program and offer it here because we’ve already had great success with it so far.”

“Since starting it, families are staying longer, they’re playing together, sitting on the floor and playing pretend with their children - and that’s what we really like to see,” she smiled. “They used to come in, get their books, and leave but now we’re seeing they’re spending two hours together.”

With attendance and the use of programs increasing, Browning is confident the Family Place program will only rise in popularity as more families stop by the library.

“We’re seeing families realize that they have us as a resource and that we do fun things and it’s been great,” Browning recalled. “In the future, we’ll also have ‘Baby bump Boot camp’ for first-time moms, and we'll develop something for teen moms with questions if they can still fulfill their dreams while being a mom.”

“We’ve also expanded our parenting collection, so if you’re not the type of person to ask for information on autism, teething, or potty training, parents can come to the children’s section where we’ll have all of those types of topics for you,” she encouraged.

Joined by students from Pettigrew Academy and Chamber members, Browning cut the ceremonial ribbon, officially opening the library’s program to the public.

“It's about community,” King affirmed. “And we want to always support what the city is doing, but the fact that Holly has really made this library come alive for our community means a ton to us.”

Becoming a secondary home and a family hot-spot, Browning emphasizes they could not maintain a program like this without the support of local residents.

“The best part about being a Family Place library is that it connects the community because we could do it without the community,” Browning affirmed.

“Everyone works together to help make our kids grow up big, strong, and smart, and we just want to be a hub for all of that energy, love, and dedication. We want to strengthen our community by starting with our children first,” she finished.

For more information on the Nicholas P. Sims Library, visit simslib.org or call (972)-937-2671. To connect with the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce, visit waxahachiechamber.com or call (972)-937-2390.

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Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer

(469)-517-1450