ELF libraries vary from community to community. They serve many diverse families and offer a wide spectrum of services depending on the community profile and needs. The programming and enhancements implemented by each of the ELF libraries differs, however certain common characteristics are reflected in the ELF programs they designed. The shared characteristics are as follows:
- Enhanced programs and services reflect child development concepts, and are targeted to families with children from birth to 5 years of age.
- Programs and services acknowledge the needs of the WHOLE child, including development of cognitive (language and literacy), social, emotional, and physical skills.
- Programs are designed to provide opportunities for parent-supported, child-directed exploration and play.
- Programs employ a facilitative, rather than instructive, approach to learning among families, parents, and childcare providers.
- Parents' expertise as their children's first teacher is recognized and nurtured.
- Comfortable family-friendly spaces are provided which convey a welcoming atmosphere, with dedicated resources for parents and young children that are accessible and engaging, and programming that is convenient and compelling.
- Policies are reviewed and revised to better accommodate the needs of families with very young children.
- Children's Services work collaboratively with Literacy Services, and other library departments, to implement and deliver ELF programming.
- Community partnerships are sought and formed in order to involve, utilize and highlight the expertise of area organizations and agencies.
- Innovative outreach strategies are used to engage families with young children, particularly those who do not typically use the library.
- Services are delivered not only at the library but also at community locations where families frequent.
- Families enjoy participating in ELF programs and utilize the library more frequently.