The Play Library’s Pandemic Playbook

Keeping your littles safe and entertaining them? The Play Library offers parents a win-win.

Photograph by Carlie Burton

The Play Library is one of those brilliant ideas every parent wishes they’d come up with: It’s a library—but for toys—so you can constantly refresh your amusement options when your kids are ready to move on to the next thing. The win for grownups? You don’t have to store, organize, or even own all of it. Located in Over-the-Rhine, this hidden gem is a place where kids can enjoy open play and borrow toys and games. With The Play Library’s “Play and Borrow” membership, kids can take home new-to-them toys until they tire of them, then return them for new treasures. It’s a genius clutter-cutting, money-saving concept.

Joni Cline Sherman

Photograph by Carlie Burton

But then the pandemic happened, rendering standard indoor play areas risky, and leaving parents wondering how to borrow items that had been used by other families.

Of course, The Play Library found a solution. Joni Cline Sherman, its executive director, says they’ve successfully pivoted to adapt to today’s reality by offering curbside game and toy pickup, plus delivery within an 8-mile radius of OTR. The Play Library already took cleaning very seriously (no toy is re-shelved until it is thoroughly scrubbed with a green/nontoxic sanitizing solution and/or sanitized in a high-heat dishwasher or washing machine)—now, all check-outs are shelved for 48 hours following their return, before going through the aforementioned cleaning process.

These standards extend to the play space itself. In September, The Play Library reopened its doors for pandemic-friendly play time. They created an online sign-up system where families could book a play date. Time slots are an hour long, and cost $18/group, with only one group playing at a time. Between each play date, Sherman says the entire space is cleaned and sanitized.

Photograph by Carlie Burton

Group size varies—families can bring their own kids or a small group of kids in their “bubble,” says Sherman. “We want families to feel comfortable and safe,” she says, adding that it’s up to parents to define what that means for them. For example, facial coverings are up to parents’ discretion: older kids and adults are encouraged to mask up, but for toddlers and younger kids, Sherman leaves that up to what parents are most comfortable with.

“We’re taking an abundance of caution, so people feel comfortable and safe coming to The Play Library,” Sherman says. And while The Play Library has adapted to pandemic life, Sherman is “hopeful we’ll all be able to play together in person [someday] soon!”

The Play Library, 1306 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 407-7045

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