The New Hampshire Toy Library Network is a Granite-State-based, college-student run toy library system with a mission to increase equity, decrease waste, and foster fun. It started when students at UNH noticed that adapted toys for children with disabilities can be 2-4 times the cost, and that even conventional toys can be cost prohibitive for families with lower income—the average family spending over 400 dollars on toys/games a year. We also found that 80% of plastic toys end up in oceans, landfills, and incinerators, and that New Hampshire was experiencing a brain-drain phenomenon with many students leaving the state after graduation. By giving college students the chance to network right here in the Granite State by running toy libraries in conjunction with local community libraries, we hope to address all of these issues.
Students from all majors can join the NH Toy Library Network at any of our sites. So far we are at the University of New Hampshire-Durham where the initiative was founded, and NHTI-Concord’s Community College. We students do our own grant applications, funding, marketing, budgeting, toy purchasing/donation collecting, and event organizing. We work in tandem with local community libraries in what we aim to be mutually beneficial partnerships, as we provide extra resources like toys and games at no cost to the individual patrons and even can host library events like Family Play Days, while we get the chance to learn from community professionals (librarians, para-librarians, city administrators). We hope to expand to even more NH state colleges and universities, both four-year and two-year institutions, so we can ensure children across the state, in every county, have access to enriching toys and games, especially adapted ones, at no cost to the individual. To our knowledge, this is college-student-run network model is not one we have seen anywhere else in the country, and we are excited to be working on it.