Sunday, June 24, 2012

#ala12: Designing Library Spaces for Children

Sunday morning started with a program titled "Where the Wild Things Are: Children's Learning and Discovery Spaces." The program featured Kimberly Bolan Cullin of Kimberly Bolan and Associates, LLC; Kathleen Deerr of Family Place Libraries; Terri Raymond of Norfolk Public Library; and Kim van der Veen of Burgeon Group, LLC. All these ladies are basically rock stars of library design.

Think about the community where you live. How many spaces are there in the community for adults? Starbucks, shopping centers, restaurants, theaters... Now think about how many spaces there are specifically for children. Maybe the YMCA, the play place at McDonald's, a park or two. How awful is that, that kids don't have more spaces in which they can play? Why not make the library one such destination?

It's true that not all libraries can afford to completely revamp their children's spaces. Luckily, there are some simpler, cost-effective strategies for redesigning the kids area right now. Tips I'm taking to heart:

  • You already have space in your library for toys and interactives. Can't find it? WEED! Weed everything that doesn't circ, everything that's gross, everything that doesn't fit the collection... If you weed discriminately and deliberately, you'll end up with space for play and a more customer-friendly collection.
  • Make sure to include seating options for kids and adults. Without adult seating, parents don't engage with their kids. They also feel like they can drop their kids off and go elsewhere in the library when there is no obvious place for them to share the space.
  • The simpler the toy, the more complex the learning. Bring out the blocks or play food, which can be used in a myriad of ways by all ages of children. More complex toys often take up more space and only have one mode of use, thus promoting more limited learning outcomes.
  • Observe your children's space from a child's perspective. Kneel or sit on the ground and see what a two- or three-year-old would see when interacting at the library. Put age appropriate things at an age appropriate level. Add color and interest where they'll see it.
I learned a lot more in this session, and I'll be spending some time in the next few days processing all of my thoughts about how I can enhance the children's space I currently have at my branch. What works for engaging children's spaces at your library?

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