Botanica - Wichita Gardens

Botanica – the Wichita Gardens – is one of three current area attractions Derby Public Library members can now visit for free through the use of its new Discovery Passes.

As of last week, the Derby Public Library launched a new service encouraging patrons to explore attractions around Sedgwick County.

Through the use of “Discovery Passes,” which are now available to check out from the library, families will be able to visit the Sedgwick County Zoo, Tanganyika Wildlife Park or Botanica (the Wichita Gardens) – all at no cost.

Popular in larger cities for a number of years, DPL Senior Youth Services Assistant Trisha Swindle spearheaded the start of a similar program when she was with the Mulvane Public Library. It seemed like a natural progression to launch such an initiative once she started in Derby a little over a year ago.

“One of the best educational opportunities that a child and a family can have is really exploring the different opportunities and activities in the area. Frequently, money is something that gets in the way of that happening, so libraries have been offering different collections beyond books for a number of years,” Swindle said. “This is just a natural extension of that so that way we can offer families those opportunities to really explore our community.”

With the help of the Friends of the Library (and a grant), as well as some DPL funds, the library was able to secure three family passes to each of the current attractions offered (the two zoos and the gardens).

Swindle noted the reason those three initial attractions were selected was because they are all primarily outside – a relevant attribute at the moment. With the safety measures the likes of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Exploration Place are adopting, the intent is for the pass selection to grow fairly quickly.

“We will be expanding this program within the next month or so to include other venues,” Swindle said.“We’re hoping to have those out by fall break so that way, when everybody’s still getting a little stir crazy, we’ll have some new things to roll out for them.”

Additionally, the Mid-America All-Indian Center, Museum of World Treasures, Field Station: Dinosaurs and more are all on the library’s wish list for passes – with Swindle noting the library is seeking to provide a wide range of activities for families.

“If some venue is reading this article and they would love to partner with us on this, the sky’s the limit,” Swindle said. “Ultimately, I would love to be able to offer tickets to any of the ballet, theatre, symphony-type things in the area as well. If Chicago can do it, so can we.”

Passes are available to any DPL adult cardholder and will allow a family of at least four into any of the current partner locations. To use the passes, individuals can search “Discovery Pass” in the library catalog through derbylibrary.com and place a hold.

The library will then alert cardholders when the pass is available; it cannot be reserved for a specific date. It can be picked up through the drive-thru and must be used to visit the location within seven days, to be returned to the library after (fines do apply). If using the zoo or Tanganyika pass, call the Youth Services desk to make reservations.

Currently, there are more than 60 holds for the Discovery Passes (with the majority for the Tanganyika Wildlife Park) – a good sign for the DPL.

Monetary hurdles aside, Swindle said there may be a generational gap and general unfamiliarity that deter families from visiting some of these attractions. The Discovery Passes create a low-risk, high-reward situation and she is hopeful that will provide a lot of good times to come for DPL members – with some already taking advantage.

“Everybody is so excited. We’ve had a couple of tears from families that were able to get to go to one of these attractions because they just really couldn’t afford it,” Swindle said. “Books are by far my favorite thing, but that’s not all we do here. We’re really a community space and this is just one more piece of that puzzle.”

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