One of the programs we do for the littlest patrons -- and even the not-yet-here-but-will-be-soon patrons -- is making baby bags. These are library-provided bags requested by patrons who will be expecting or recently had a baby. It is an extremely simple and inexpensive way for patrons to know what's available at the library and make them feel welcome to use it for all of their newest family member's education and recreational needs (as well as their own!).
In our youth services area and in the adult non-fiction area, we have parenting sections. In both of those areas are the forms patrons can fill out that ask for their names, addresses/contact information, their due date, and whether they have other children (and their ages/gender). We do not ask for library card information because we see this as a way for new people to come into the library and because we serve such a huge population that changes depending on the season -- we have summer tourists who own summer homes here, and we serve a wide rural community that oftentimes have a library card with another library but can still patronize us.
The components of the bag are simple, and the items which come at an expense are paid for by our Friends group. Since we average around 2-3 baby bags per month, the cost really is minimal.
So what's inside?
- The bag itself: this is our library's bag that usually gets sold for about $5. It's a blue tote with our library's image on one side, and as seen in the photo above, an applique of balloons. That job is done by our lovely Friends group. We have a stock pile of about 20 and since I've been there, we have only restocked once.
- A congratulations card from me, with my business card inside.
- Three tri-fold pamphlets that tell the recipient about our library services, give information about early literacy skills, and highlight the value of family time.
- A MOPS flier and magnet (provided by our local Mothers of Preschoolers group)
- A die-cut "B-A-B-Y" decorative sign.
- A coupon for "baby's first library card."
- Born to read stickers.
- "Raise a reader" bookmarks.
- Ten bookmark sized fliers from the public library early learning initiative of the Department of Public Instruction. You can download them all here. We put them on different colored pieces of paper, and we include appropriate fliers depending on whether baby has siblings or not. One of the huge things I love about these is they're already translated into Spanish, too.
- Baby's first board book! We purchase Hello, Baby.
- For those who will have brothers or sisters, we also include either I'm a New Big Brother or I'm a New Big Sister. I keep these for those who are younger, and I've been thinking about how I can better accommodate those who are older -- I've had a number of siblings who are 7, 8, or 9, and these books don't seem quite appropriate.
When I get a request, it usually takes me a couple days to pull everything together. It's such a simple, cost effective, and easy way to remind parents how much the library offers them as they begin a new chapter in their lives. And as someone who isn't particularly strong when it comes to working with babies, it makes me feel like I'm still offering them something important.