Transforming Your Library into a Learning Playground

A Practical Guide for Public Librarians

by Brittany R. Jacobs


This book helps children's librarians transform informal settings into exciting and stimulating adventure learning centers—and to do so even with resource and budget limitations.

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December 2017

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 112
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Children's and Young Adult Programs/General
  Librarian's Instructional Role/Teaching Resources, K-12

Public libraries must offer relevant, exciting, and stimulating learning centers that appeal to kids. This book is a step-by-step guide for creating affordable and effective educational programs for children and youth by focusing on one simple concept: play.

With the standards of education rising every year and current technology making all types of information widely available to anyone with an Internet connection, libraries need to stay relevant by constantly evolving. One important way to strengthen a public library's identity as an irreplaceable resource is to make it an exciting and stimulating learning center that appeals to children and youth. This book demonstrates how to transform the informal setting of a public library into a place where "play" in the guise of game-based learning becomes a natural and exciting process for children and young students. It also shows readers how to incorporate existing programs such as the makerspace, storytime, and book clubs to play to their strengths; more effectively utilize the tools and resources they have; and transform their libraries.

The first two chapters explain why learning through play and exploration isn't only for early childhood development, identifies the key differences between free play and structured play, and addresses why libraries are the perfect setting for learning. Next, the author draws on her experience in children's librarianship and as a children's book author to describe methods to listen to (and understand) children, manage organized chaos, and gain the children's trust. Additional chapters explain how to write weekly or daily lesson plans, how to brainstorm supporting activities to reinforce concepts being taught, and how to infuse STEM and literacy objectives into daily lessons. The book closes with suggestions on marketing and promotion, ways to support the classroom, and strategies that will "keep 'em coming back" and build an enthusiastic customer base.


  • Provides a step-by-step guide on how to write programming, from daily lesson plans to an overarching storyline
  • Teaches readers how to uncover the educational content in everyday activities, seamlessly join the maker movement, and infuse STEM and literacy-based concepts into lesson plans
  • Explains how to market, promote, and execute programming that is educational, engaging, and fun and will gain your public library repeat visitors as a result
  • Identifies practical ways to use available resources and implement quality programming on a budget
Author Info

Brittany R. Jacobs is an author and illustrator of children's picture books, a children's services associate at Naperville Public Library, and an educational programming consultant. Her work with community centers in South Africa and with the Free Library of Philadelphia are just two examples of how Jacobs has shared her passion for creating innovative ways for children and youth to explore the world around them. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in library and information science with the School of Information Sciences at The University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana. Jacobs is a Published and Listed (PAL) member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators as well as a member of the American Library Association and Association for Library Service to Children. Her website is



"Full of practical advice and firsthand stories on everything from managing organized chaos to creating lesson plans, this would be a useful planning resource, especially for those new to the field of public programming for youth."Booklist Online

"The book is well organized, tracking the progress of program creation and implementation through real-life examples. Featuring tables, charts, and templates, the appendix is a gem. VERDICT A quick, inspiring guide for public librarians looking to amp up their youth services."School Library Journal


"The idea of incorporating play into your library's programming isn't just about honing the narrative skills of your younger patrons. It's about boosting the confidence of children and teens and introducing interconnected subjects organically. This book provides an overview of how Ms. Jacobs has successfully incorporated play into programming and provides a clear direction for librarians serving children and youth."—Heather Sparks, LEAP Out-of-School Program Manager, Free Library of Philadelphia

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