CINCINNATI -- Play Library, an innovative concept that serves as a library for toys and games, will officially open its new brick-and-mortar space for business 11 a.m. Thursday, following a grand opening party open to the public at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Created by a former toy design manager, Julia Fischer, Play Library operates just like any other library – except it doesn't lend books. Rather, it lends games and toys.
While it originally opened as a pop-up shop in the Globe Gallery across from Findlay Market via a 2015 People’s Liberty Globe Grant, Play Library’s new space is at 1517 Elm St. in Over-the-Rhine.
Play Library got its start after Fischer grew tired of seeing toys made with inexpensive materials that ultimately broke in a short time and ended up in a landfill and recognized that the exorbitant cost of high-quality toys prevented most parents from buying them for their kids.
Fischer also noticed that individuals and families are so busy these days that they often forget about the importance of play at all ages and neglect to make time to connect through playing together. So, she set out to solve these problems simultaneously, and Play Library was born.
“The highest quality toys are out of financial reach for so many people,” Fischer said in a news release. “So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there were a place where all children could have access to the highest quality toys via a sharing model?’ Kids lose interest in toys and games in about two weeks. Instead of cluttering your house with kid stuff, come take what you want, try it, see if they like it and how long they are interested in it before you invest in purchasing the toy or game. And, come borrow games for game nights instead of buying them!”
Following the success of the Play Library pop-up, Fischer received additional funding from People’s Liberty, which is helping to finance the new brick-and-mortar space. While it will always be free to play at Play Library, membership will be required to take items home. Membership fees will be used to purchase the latest and greatest toys and games, though Play Library will gladly accept donations of gently used items.
Annual and month-to-month memberships are currently available for purchase, and pricing varies according to the number of items an individual or family wishes to take home at a time. Sponsorships, or free memberships, are also available on an as-needed basis.
“Play Library is all inclusive – no one will be turned away based on their financial situation, and an individual, family or business can purchase sponsored memberships for other families,” Fischer said, noting that inclusivity doesn’t just apply to finances – it goes for ages, too. “The age group Play Library will cater to is from three to 103. We don’t only have things for kids, and we plan to host regular game nights for people 21 and older, and carry games like Cards Against Humanity that are geared toward adults.”
Based on her own life experiences, Fischer sees the value in family time, particularly when spent playing games. She treasures fond memories of time spent with her parents and wants to help other families find fun ways to spend time together without breaking the bank.
Although both of her parents worked full-time for most of her childhood, Fischer recalls her parents being around all the time.
"It’s quality of time over quantity," Fischer said. "We played games together all the time. That’s one of the ways we connected as a family. I think it’s extremely important for all parents to play with their kids. Those are memories they will cherish for the rest of their lives.”
Play Library will be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. In addition to being open for regular business hours, Play Library will be available to host private gatherings, including birthday parties and corporate events. Throughout the year, Fischer also plans to hold near-weekly special events, including Stuffed Animal Adoption, Toy Hospital (a time for toy repair!), trivia nights, water balloon fights and more.
“The single best thing about Play Library is that we just want everyone to play more,” Fischer said.