CLUTE — Fifty years of fantastic books culminate in one big event Thursday, when the Clute Public Library hosts a combination celebration of the facility’s history and opening of its new family area.

“This month is the anniversary month of when we opened in 1967,” Branch Manager Ginny Koenig said. “This month is also our grand opening for our Family Place Center, a component of us becoming a Family Place Library.”

Family Place Libraries is a national initiative to connect with the community and help parents shape early childhood development. The area focuses on both parents and kids, providing tools to promote literacy in kids as well as materials to help parents face childhood challenges. Families will find things like toys, potty training videos, early literacy kits and books about parenting challenges.

“Family Place Library is designed to bring the whole family into the library,” said Stephanie Williamson, children’s services coordinator for Brazoria County Library System. “It’s focusing on early childhood and it’s focusing on all families, but it’s really nice for low-income families. These toys and educational materials are expensive.”

It took grants from the Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission, Texas Book Festival and Community Foundation of Brazoria County Texas to get all the materials — as well as a Tocker Foundation grant for new furniture — but the Family Place Center is finally ready.

The center will contain materials for and about kids from birth to age 5, but children of all ages will be allowed to play and read in the space. Parents also will be able to check out materials for further perusal at home. Williamson said it’s a big help providing parents with educational extras their growing kids could use.

“Kids outgrow these toys so quickly, it’s hard to keep up,” Williamson said. “It’s going to be a great addition to the Clute library and the Brazoria County Library System. We’re hoping we’ll see lots of families coming and enjoying the library.”

Administrators hope to bring the program to other libraries soon, but in the meantime, there’s a lot of growth to celebrate in Clute. Thursday’s event will feature a timeline of library milestones, a ribbon-cutting to open the new family area and speeches on library progress past and present, Koenig said.

Koenig will lead the speeches, followed by Library Director Lori Purvis, President Johnnie Gallegly of the Clute Library Association, Kelli Smith as a representative of Commissioner Donald Payne and Mayor Calvin Shiflet. Refreshments will follow in the library’s meeting room.

“We’re super-excited to do this and for all the things that are yet to come,” Koenig said.

Mary Newport is a features writer for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0149.

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