The Fairfield Area Public Library near Richmond, Virginia, has a designated space called the 'Work and Play Station,' a creation of two working moms.
The Covid-19 pandemic changed the workplace dynamics forever and it has been particularly impactful on working parents who juggle work and child care. Working mothers often work in shifts because they are challenged by increased childcare needs at home or because their workplace doesn't have a daycare facility where they can keep their kids while also working. However, one library provides a space for parents with small children. Fairfield Area Public Library near Richmond, Virginia, has a designated space called the 'Work and Play Station,' a creation of two working moms, reported CBS News.
"I would see moms and parents and caregivers struggling when they needed to do an adult task on an adult computer, and they had a little one in tow," said Barbara Weedman, the Henrico County Public Library director, who manages all libraries in the county, including the Fairfield Area Library. The library opened four years ago, and parents across the county gush over how helpful it is for them. "At home it's impossible," said T'keiah Woodson, a kindergarten teacher. "Here, I can kind of, like, turn my head for a second, finish up paperwork, respond to emails and just get things done without the worry of her crawling away." She added that the library makes things "much, much easier" for parents. "They're close enough where I can just reach over, but I can still do what I need to do on the computer."
When Weedman was a single mom to her now-grown son, she realized how parents struggled to use the computers while balancing a baby on their lap. In 2017, when the Henrico County Public Library started building a new location, Weedman had the idea of incorporating a safe place for kids in the same room as their parents. In 2019, when the Fairfield Area Library opened, her vision came to life, and Computer Work and Play Stations were ready. "On opening day, a mother with an infant and a small child sat down at a Work and Play Station to use the computer and placed her children in the carrel — without having received any direction from staff," Weedman told Insider. "It was gratifying to see that the design was immediately intuitive."
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
Matt Hansen, a dad of a 2-year-old daughter, said that the Work and Play Stations are functional because he has no babysitter or caregiver to call to look after his daughter while working. "A couple of times a week, I need to hold some office hours to knock out some emails, place inventory orders, and take care of the many other things that require me to sit down at a computer to accomplish," Hansen said. "It's amazing to have access to something like that." Hansen added that he hopes the word gets around on greater awareness about the work-stations. "I wish more people knew about them. I feel like libraries would need sign-up sheets with time slots and have time limits on how much you could use them if they were more well-known."
Moreover, Weedman said that the library support all families, not just kids, and that the library's mission is to allow people to gain information and learn. "These Work and Play Stations are just another way libraries can be supportive, a piece of infrastructure that helps meet information needs and makes our spaces more accessible and inclusive for caregivers of small children."
She added, "Parents and caregivers of children have information needs of their own," she said. "The public library can be a crucial source of computer access to caregivers who don't have internet or computers at home. For anyone seeking a career change, reentering the workforce, or starting a small business, computer access can be critical to their lives and livelihoods."