Saturday Morning At The Downtown Library

EPL provides great resources and wonderful spaces for families

Saturday morning, rain or shine, I show up at the downtown library, my rambunctious toddler in tow.

Entering the Shelley Milner Children’s library at the downtown branch, Ethan is already kicking his feet in anticipation. As we stop outside the program room, he’s straining against the stroller’s straps, eager to get out and run around.

Once he’s out, he’s off without hesitation towards the trains, the books, and the stuffed animals. He gawks at the other kids, grabs at the toys and coos at no one in particular.

The librarians ask how he is and remark on how quickly he’s developing. These ladies, and one red-haired gentleman, have watched my son grow since he was no more than two months old, a squirming bundle in my arms.

That’s why the downtown library is my pick for Best of Edmonton. Parenthood is a hectic and joyous experience. The library provides both an oasis from the daily treadmill of chores and duties, as well as a great opportunity to bond with your kids, all without spending a dime.

For working parents, there’s nothing like the Saturday classes. Now that Ethan is a little older, I take him to a class called Sign, Sigh, Laugh and Learn. The librarian teaches kids and parents signs and uses them in songs in the class. It sounds really simple, but the joy of learning I see on those tiny little faces always makes my week. And Ethan frequently requests the songs at home.

Tamsin Shute is the co-chair of the Edmonton Public Library’s early literacy and family services team. Over a year ago when I first walked into the children’s library, exhausted and a little depressed from staying indoors for so long after Ethan was born, she greeted me with a huge smile, offered information on books for babies, and lead a wonderful singing and story time class. My library outings become the first major thing on my calendar in those early days of parenthood.

“Babies thrive on attention,” she told me. “Babies just love this time when mom isn’t having to run off to cook something and the phone’s not ringing.”

That’s become part of my parenting philosophy. I make sure that at the very least we get to the library once a week, so that he does get my full attention.

I’ve had people scoff at the idea of the downtown library — with it’s collection of homeless and scruffy looking teens — as the best place to bring your kids, but we always have a wonderful time. The parents I see each week are delightful people with jobs and families, and the same weekly trials we all have. Besides, I consider it a good education for Ethan to have contact with a broad range of the citizens in our society.

But wait, I haven’t even gotten to the real draw of the library — the books. We pick up a couple board books a week, to vary Ethan’s favourites. (Seriously, if I had to read Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes more than five times a night, I’d lose my mind completely.)

For myself, I always take a look at the quick picks section, hoping for a surprising new author to peak my interest.

A couple videos are also usually in the mix. I have a particular weakness for any movie adaptation of Jane Austin novels, and it was the public library that introduced me to the dry British wit of Yes Minister.

Edmonton’s downtown library is the epitome of a great community space. It’s a gathering place for friends and acquaintances, a place to be surprised, a safe place for your kids to learn, and an oasis in a hectic world. Each week, I can hardly wait for Saturday morning.

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