Galena Park’s Library Family Place Addition Opens


By Allan Jamail

Galena Park, TX. ~ Galena Park Library has good news for the area’s children and parents. They became a recipient of a new George and Barbara Bush Foundation Family Place addition.

Sisi Medina, GP Librarian and Branch Manager, said, “Having our children’s department transformed at the Galena Park Branch Library into a George and Barbara Bush Foundation Family Place has added enormous value to the space. When we received our furniture and new toys in January 2023, the positive response was immediate. Children and their caretakers love that we have an area specifically dedicated to early childhood development. It has increased repeat visitors and has helped us establish strong relationships with the families that visit our library.”

“Library visitors can use the Family Place during the library’s business hours. While here, they have the opportunity to take free educational handouts about parenting. They can also check out books from our Parenting Collection. Everything is available in English and Spanish. We gently approach parents and share our other resources such as our free Growing Readers Activity kits, our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, our weekly Story Times, and our events calendar that is full of exciting and educational programs and events for all ages,” Medina said.

“We had an opportunity to hold a Family Place Workshop that we called ‘Stay and Play.’ We invited 12 children ages 1-3 and their caretakers to attend a play workshop 1 time a week for 5 weeks. The children played and explored with their parents. Each week a different resource professional visited the workshop and parents had an opportunity to ask questions about their children’s development in the areas of nutrition, child development, speech and language, literacy, and movement and play. The ‘Stay and Play’ Workshops will be held every Spring and Fall,” she continued.

At the GP Library, I had the pleasure of meeting Kathleen Deerr, the first National Coordinator for Family Place Libraries. Deerr made a presentation of how important the Family Place addition to the library will be to parents and their children.

Noreen Stackpole assisted Deerr with the presentation. Stackpole was a children’s librarian at Middle Country Public Library, in Selden, NY, for many years. She is now retired. Both Deerr and Stackpole came from Long Island, NY, to make the presentation.

Deerr has been serving children and families through public libraries for over 40 years. Starting out as a children’s librarian, she became an assistant director for Children’s and Parents Services. After 25 years in that capacity, she moved on to become the first National Coordinator for Family Place Libraries. She served in that position for 17 years. During that time she and her team trained hundreds of librarians and library administrators from 30 states in the core components and implementation of the Family Place Libraries initiative.

Deerr is passionate about the role public libraries play in ensuring parents and their very young children have the resources, knowledge, programs and skills so children will enter school ready and able to learn. Since retirement, she continues to share her passion and her knowledge with communities around the country as a consultant for Family Place Libraries.

Deerr said, “It is indisputable that what happens during the earliest years of life, when the brain architecture develops most rapidly, is critical to a child’s healthy development and long-term success. Because 90% of brain development occurs by age 5, parents and caregivers play a vital role in serving as a child’s first and most important teacher. Unfortunately, Houston lacks a comprehensive system for educating, equipping and supporting families with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to ensure their child has an early and great start before entering kindergarten. That is why we have a goal of establishing George & Barbara Bush Family Places in branches across the Harris County and Houston Public Library Systems by the end of 2025.”

“Through this highly-effective program modeled after the national Family Place Libraries, parents have access to interactive materials, early literacy kits, games, toys, music and multimedia resources, learning stations, and a curated collection of books. Also, parents have access to workshops during which specially trained library staff model effective practices with families and learn how to use the resources to accelerate their child’s early learning and development,” the former National Coordinator said.

Lastly, Deerr said, “The more families learn about the importance of the first 3-5 years, and how the library can help them and their young children, the better for them, their children and the entire community. When toddlers play, they’re building the structure of the brain. It fosters maturation of the brain and stimulates the executive function of the brain.”

GP Librarian Sisi Medina has worked at Harris County Public Library for 10 years. She has managed the Galena Park Branch Library for 5 years. She earned her Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) at San Jose State University and her Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Liberal Studies at California State University, Northridge. She was an educator for the Los Angeles Unified School District in California for 12 years. Medina is originally from the San Fernando Valley in California but has made Houston her home for the past 12 years.

For more information contact: Sisi Medina, at the Galena Park Branch Library, 1500 Keene Street, Galena Park, TX 77547 (832-927-5470 |