At Maryborough, a small regional centre, kilometres north of Brisbane, the Maryborough Toy and Special Needs Library [MTSNL]provides a specialised service offering toys, games, educational resources and devices for families with young children and children with special needs.
This community service is funded through local Council, State Government and Federal Government as well as specific grant funding when available.
The MTSNL is located within a community centre near the Fraser Coast Regional Council office in Maryborough city centre. It is quite separate from the Fraser Coast Regional Council’s Maryborough Library service. The community centre hosts family oriented community meetings such as prenatal and antenatal meet ups, support for ADHD families, disability support and teen pregnancy support – it’s a centre where the community is encouraged to support each other, share information and borrow resources and equipment that will assist them to have better quality of life.
Twice flooded, the MTSNL is new and purpose-built for storage of toys, puzzles, games, bikes, swings, slides and play-houses which are available for loan to schools, therapists, health professionals and the general public for varying fees, according to circumstance.
A complex catalogue process, using a clearly defined thesaurus of descriptors, allows circulation of the resources which are categorised and classified into games and resources according to age and key learning areas – for example, numbers, alphabet, language, math, shapes, time, colours, visual perception, science, biology. There are also tactile toys, building toys, bikes, balls and play equipment for under 5s separately stored on floor to ceiling shelves and in a large shed at the rear of the building with shelves of larger equipment which are loaned to users to support children with disabilities. These resources are stored in order of recommended application for height and weight of the user.
The librarian who manages this centre has been at the library for more than 25 years. Her local knowledge and awareness of the extent of the collection contributed to the accelerated operation of removal of all equipment, resources, furniture and office administration documentation and records from the building during the floods in 2011 and 2013. During the second flood, the Mary River rose to the ceiling of the building within two hours of the removal of resources.
The collection is extensive and complex to administer because of the nature of the resources (pieces of puzzles, cards in a game, parts in Meccano, LEGO, teasets). Health and Safety Legislation requires that equipment, toys and puzzles have to be cleaned and re-boxed or re-bagged to make sure that all pieces are available for the next borrower Missing parts are noted on the resource. Even though this process is tedious and time-consuming it is always rigorously adhered to.
The service offers parents and carers a broad choice of educational resources and toys that will stimulate children’s imagination and develop cognitive skills. Disability equipment is provided on a rotational basis so that it can be adjusted or replaced, aligned with the natural growth rate of the child, as advised by the health professional and guided by the manufacturer or supplier.
It is the librarian’s tacit knowledge and caring and informed interaction with the community that makes it a stand out service. The librarian liaises with health professionals (physiotherapists, psychologists, doctors, disability advisors), educators, guidance officers, parents and carers to continually maintain and update the collection to meet the user needs. Analyses of statistics in relation to circulation of the collection support regular grant applications which are submitted to fund the purchase of new equipment and resources.
According to Early Years Learning Framework, learning through play is a practice that is beneficial to children, developing imagination and social skills while engaging with ‘people, objects and representations’. Similarly Jenny Kidd from the Cerebral Palsy Association states that children with disabilities gain much from play, interaction and specific equipment. A toy library allows the children and their carers to choose from a variety of resources to identify the toy that meets their needs.
This is a wonderful service in a region where there is great need to support the community who has suffered due to extreme weather and the subsequent loss of quality of life through unemployment, disengagement and financial stress.
Congratulations to Fraser Coast Libraries and Maryborough Toy and Special Needs Library on their continued support and commitment.