Winning HCPL

by Patty Conway, Community Relations Coordinator, Henrico County Public Library

Henrico County Public Library was honored with the Innovation in Government Award for the first-of-their-kind Computer Work and Play Stations at Fairfield Library as part of the VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government’s 16th Annual Excellence in Virginia Government Awards. These awards recognize “Virginians who have made noteworthy contributions to the practice of government and the welfare of our communities and citizens,” according to the Wilder School.

During the community design meetings for the new Fairfield Area Library, which opened in 2019, residents emphasized a desire for the building to support children and families learning. At the same time, Library Director Barbara Weedman had conceptualized Computer Work and Play stations based on her experiences working as a public librarian and being a single mom. Working with the architect’s designer, Shannon Wray of Quinn Evans, Weedman shared her idea for creating a computer desk for adults featuring an adjacent enclosure for little ones to rest and play while the caregiver could do computer work beside them. The designer worked with TMC Furniture to create a custom furniture solution to bring Weedman’s idea to life and help meet the expressed community need for family learning support. 

Computer Work and Play Stations debuted on opening day at Fairfield Library. In January 2022, Ali Faruk of Families Forward Virginia tweeted a photo of the workstations, which went viral on social media and garnered national and international news media attention. The design resonated with parents, especially those who struggled to balance childcare demands with work during the pandemic. The workstations are not a substitute for childcare but make it so that caregivers do not need to arrange childcare in order to use computers at the library. HCPL’s Computer Work and Play Stations have been covered in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, New York Times, Newsweek, Buzzfeed, Curbed, Good Morning America, Insider, The Irish Times, Italian Vogue, and most recently, The Drew Barrymore Show.

On April 11, 2023, HCPL Director Barbara Weedman and Community Relations Coordinator Patty Conway accepted the award from VCU on behalf of HCPL. Governor L. Douglas Wilder hosted the event alongside VCU President Michael Rao and Dean of the Wilder School, Dr. Susan Gooden. Governor Glenn Youngkin addressed the crowd and praised the awardees for “serving with love.” The library was well supported by the attendance of Henrico County leaders. HCPL would like to express its gratitude to our county leadership, as we understand that their strong support, and the support of our community, created an environment ripe for this innovation. This award honors all county residents and employees who contribute to our strong public services in Henrico.