FAIRFIELD, NJ – A group of children spread out among several long tables in a cozy nook of the Fairfield Free Public Library, busy with coloring, tying ribbons or pressing foam alphabet stickers to small booklets. Some had parents helping them, some bent their heads in concentration and others kept up a lively discussion about summer reading and their plans for the weekend. All around them were bookshelves stocked with books, their colorful spines adding to the cheeriness in the room.
This is the environment fostered by Youth Services Librarian Jaime O’Donnell, who is responsible for collection development and program coordination for toddlers, teens and children anywhere in between. O’Donnell has worked in libraries for the past seven years and became the Fairfield Youth Services Librarian in October 2014.
On June 19, she offered a free Crafty Kids program that taught children ages five through eight how to make “coupon books for Dad” as Father’s Day gifts.
“I think it’s so important to make sure that when they’re learning, their learning is fun, and that they’re getting into the library and seeing that the library is relevant to them at their various age groups,” O’Donnell said. “So we offer educational programming, we offer crafts and we foster the arts here.”
The craft allowed the children to decorate premade “coupons” for various activities like mowing the lawn and also make creative front and back covers for the booklet.
“There’s such a range of ages, I try to make sure the craft is good for any age,” said O’Donnell.
The kids who attend the programs take away not only crafts, stories or knowledge, but also friendships they make and strengthen within the library community, according to O’Donnell.
Amy Reis and her five-year-old daughter, Madison, are two members of this community. Madison and her two brothers began their library experience by attending Story Time programs, and graduated to Crafty Kids when they were old enough.
“I grew up in the same environment, going to the library, reading books, and I think with all the technology these days, the kids need to be unplugged,” said Reis. “They need to get back to the basics of coloring, crafting, and reading books. It’s just something I want to instill in them and I hope they pass it on to their kids when they have kids.”
Madison was hard at work coloring her booklet for her father, while Reis helped her put it together.
“I love my dad because he gives me hugs and kisses,” Madison said.
O’Donnell wandered attentively around the room, assisting anybody who needed it and helping kids and parents locate certain books. At the end of the session, several participants =walked away with a new library book along with their coupon crafts.
O’Donnell said, “What I find most rewarding is when a child comes in and they don’t necessarily like to read, but we find them a book and they just love it, and so it opens a new door for them. To me there’s nothing better.”