The Friday Five: Julia Rose Fischer – Play Library

The Friday Five: Julia Rose Fischer – Play Library

Play Library in Cincinnati, Ohio swaps books for toys and games. Founded by Julia Rose Fischer as a way to carve out space for play and community building, Play Library brings children and their parents together with neighbours in a playful environment. Julia explains why visits to Play Library foster stronger family bonds, better communication, and new friendships.

Describe Play Library.

Play Library is similar to a traditional library. But instead of lending books, we lend toys and games. 

We’ve created a space where people can come to play and relax with their family, friends, and neighbours. You don’t need to be a member to come in; it’s free. Play Library members have the added benefit of being able to borrow items and return them when they’re due. We have items for all ages, not just children. We have modern games as well as games that go back to the 1940s that you’re not likely to find anywhere else.

We also have a beautiful toy history museum that showcases the personal toy collection of Chris Reiff, a long-time collector. There are lots of Kenner toys, of course. Kenner is such a significant part of Cincinnati’s history.

The Friday Five

What inspired you to open Play Library?

It’s my mission to encourage people to take time to play throughout their entire life, not just as children. Play is a different way to use our brains. I’m dyslexic; as a child, reading was very difficult for me. I learned to read mainly from playing games and reading the game boards and rule books.

The Friday Five

There’s an increasing push towards digital toys; why are analog toys still important?

We do have some digital toys at Play Library and I have nothing against video games, but I really believe that unplugging is important. Communicating with another person versus staring at a screen helps build strong relationships. 

The Friday Five

What’s the experience you want people to have when they visit Play Library?

We want people to come in, sit down, and play a game together. Try something new. Meet new people.

Play Library is in a neighbourhood called Over-the-Rhine. It’s a wonderful place and one that is evolving; there are many revitalization projects underway. I can’t do anything about the process of gentrification but what I can do is create a space where everyone is welcome and provide an opportunity for new and existing members of the community to form relationships with each other. I want people to forget about conflicting political views. To have kids and parents from different backgrounds find common ground through play is really nice to see and beneficial for everyone. 

The Friday Five

What’s the next step in the evolution of Play Library?

My dream is to be able to open a Play Library in every city, in the country…every neighbourhood!

We’ve come a long way in a short time. We started as a pop-up in summer 2015 to give the idea a try. Since that time, we’ve found a permanent space and opened our doors. We’re happy with things at the moment but branching out into other communities is on our minds.

The Friday Five

Play Library is a donation-driven enterprise. To learn more about them and support their work, please visit playlibrary.org.

Five questions, one fascinating person (or team!) – look into the minds of movers and shakers in the nostalgia, game, play, or toy industry.