PGSS Family Collection: creating a welcoming library space for student parents and their children

Keeping busy in the stacks with the PGSS Family Collection.

Keeping busy in the stacks with the PGSS Family Collection. Photo credit: Sabrina Hanna

We may not celebrate Family Day in Quebec but the McGill Library is taking a baby step in helping student parents keep their children happily busy in the Library. Through the PGSS Library Improvement Fund, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University in collaboration with the PGSS Family Care Caucus and the McGill Library created the PGSS Family Collection in order to assist students who bring their children to various branch libraries. The collection is available at library service desks and includes a small chair, crayons, colouring sheets and both fiction and nonfiction works suggested by PGSS for a variety of age groups.

How did this idea come about? Several years ago, Laura Risk, Co-Chair of the PGSS Family Care Caucus dropped by McLennan Library to pick up some books. She had her two-year-old daughter with her in a stroller. Risk logged into one of the computers on the main floor to get call numbers. What only took about five minutes felt like an eternity because her daughter, who was in a particularly good mood, sat in her stroller and sang at the top of her lungs the whole time. Risk continued,”Of course, all the other students kept looking at me and finally one of them said, “Is that your baby?” I felt embarrassed but, even more, angry and frustrated. I was a student too, but I had a child. I wanted the libraries to be accessible to students in my situation.”

Risk joined the PGSS Family Care Caucus shortly after the incident and asked the group for ideas on how the libraries could be more family-friendly. “First we thought of bed runner tables, then educational toy kits, but eventually it occurred to us that what the libraries do best is, of course, books. Everything fell into place in 2013: the PGSS Executive, especially Jonathan Mooney and Adam Bouchard, put us in touch with Diane Koen of McGill Library. The PGSS Library Improvement Fund donated $1,200.00. My Co-Chair Lerona Lewis and I met with Diane Koen and Maya Kucij from the Library and we worked out the details. We’re thrilled with the result!”

We believe it is important to make these sorts of resources more available and accessible to parents and children. The PGSS Family Collection will be able to do just that.                              –  Lerona Lewis Co-Chair of the PGSS Family Care Caucus

A colouring sheet featuring the Library’s superheros Tablet Girl and Book Boy. Designed by Greg Houston,  Digitization Administrator, McGill Library.

A colouring sheet featuring the Library’s superheros Tablet Girl and Book Boy. Designed by Greg Houston, Digitization Administrator, McGill Library.

How did the student group select the books to be included in the kits? Lerona Lewis Co-Chair of the PGSS Family Care Caucus explained, “We consulted with our kids and with colleagues in Community-University–Talk  (C-Unit-T). They suggested some titles from A Different Booklist  to make sure that we chose books that would be appealing to kids from diverse backgrounds. We also wanted to have resources that were aligned with the libraries in which the Family Collection is located. For instance, there are children’s books related to Music in the Music Library.”

Maya Kucij, Librarian for the Faculty of Education and Coordinator of the Curriculum Resources Centre was part of the planning group and supports the initiative fully. “As a former student parent myself, I know how important these types of services can be for our users with children. The Library’s provision of these book kits and chairs acknowledges their presence in our community and lets them know that we care about their needs. It’s great that the PGSS Family Care Caucus had this idea and that we were all able to work together to make it happen. I look forward to continuing to work with their reps to figure out what else the Library can do to meet the resource and services needs of our users with children.”

For a listing of branches that offer this collection click here.

For more information on the PGSS Family Care Caucus visit: https://pgss.mcgill.ca/en/family-care

Additional resources are available to McGill students with children. Please visit: http://www.mcgill.ca/students/studentparents/

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