The Northwest Denver Toy Library, located in the basement of Smiley Branch Library, 4501 West 46th Avenue, has been letting pint-sized library-card holders borrow toys for free since 1980. But lately it's been harder than ever to do so, thanks to new federal restrictions on the amount of lead and other harmful chemicals allowed in toys.
Late last year, in order to keep up with the new standards, the all-volunteer toy library contacted the manufacturers of all 475 of its toys to see if their items made the cut. At the time, volunteers estimated that up to three-quarters of their toys wouldn't survive the scrutiny and would have to be culled.
It turns out they were optimistic. Only about 15 percent of the library's toys were deemed safe enough to be kept.
Fortunately, as a result of donation efforts, the library's selection is already on the mend. According to toy library coordinator Margie Herlth, the operation, open to kiddos on Tuesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, is up to around 200 toys. But it has a long way to go.
Those wanting to help out with the effort are encouraged to drop off new, unopened toys at Smiley (anytime the branch is open is fine). Herlth says the toy library is especially interested in board games, cars, trucks and boats, although any donation is appreciated -- as long it comes with a receipt showing it was purchased later than September 2009. That part is key, since it indicates the product meets current safety standards.
In the meantime, the toy library will continue to plug along. "We do not plan on closing," says Herlth. "After being open for thirty years, we don't want to close."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.