Little kids, big brothers and sisters, parents and caregivers snuggled with library books and staged elaborate stories in a traveling puppet theater. A girl and her auntie received a tutorial on accessing eBooks from their phones. Some checked out and returned books, while still others knelt at kid-sized tables to play with magnetic blocks. With the announcement of storytime, they brushed the grass off their knees and joined in.
This summer, Hennepin County Youth Services librarians have been taking the library into the communities they serve.
In Hopkins and Minnetonka, the midsummer closure of Hennepin County Library-Ridgedale created an opportunity. Children’s librarians hit the road with a pop-up library that followed the Hopkins School District’s summer meals truck to city parks and visited summer school programs through early August. Staff will continue to visit the Minnetonka Farmers Market on Tuesdays through September.
Since the program started in late June, more than 2,200 people visited the Ridgedale Library staff’s pop-up libraries. Books and early literacy toys help young children get ready for school, and engage parents in reading and playing too. Visitors have checked out more than 1,000 books and 75 people have gotten library cards. In addition to keeping in touch with patrons and their families during the yearlong closure, staff members were hoping to reach families that don’t use the brick-and-mortar libraries, in the places they already go, said youth services librarian Dana Bjerke.
“The library wasn’t part of their lives, and now it is,” Bjerke said. “We remove all the barriers for them, to make them feel like the library is easy.”
Vahini Byinagari, of Hopkins, visited the pop-up library with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Yajurv. She said she appreciated having the park, the library and the food truck all in one place. They have been reading more at home this summer, she said. “We get four or five books, and then come back and grab more books.”
On the other side of Hennepin County, Youth Services Librarian Kay Yang Cha has been setting up shop at the Brooklyn Park Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons. Yang Cha’s goal in her very diverse community is to reach families in underserved communities. She was inspired when a neighborhood tour of the new Hennepin County Library—Brooklyn Park drew 100 people.
“They didn’t know what we offer,” she said, “so that is a main thing. We have to go out and promote our services.”
The pop-up library is another part of spreading the word. After only seven market visits, Yang Cha says they have issued 35 new library cards, checked out 17 books and had about 450 visitors.
It’s starting to feel like the public library in miniature is a valued part of the market, as they learned the one week that a scheduling conflict kept them away from the market.
“The next day, I got feedback,” Yang Cha said, laughing. “People said, ‘Kay, you weren’t there!’”