Friday, March 15, 2013

What's New in the Children's Area

I feel like I'm always doing something or other to change things up in the children's area of my library, and I consider myself lucky that my branch manager also values keeping things fresh and engaging for kids. We recently had two new features installed.

Early Literacy Stations in Picture Book City

First are the AWE Early Literacy computers. I interned at a library with three of these computer stations, and a few other branches of my current library district had the stations when I was hired. I immediately put Early Literacy Stations on my branch wish list. The machines were budgeted for this fiscal year and installed in Picture Book City last week, and they are already a hit with our young customers and their families. Within five minutes of the computers being set up, a three-year-old was exploring an Elmo game with her father sitting next to her. They were having great conversations about letters, talking about how to click with a mouse, and exploring all the stations have to offer. It's only been a few days since these computers were installed, and already I've seen other great child-caregiver interactions happening at our Early Literacy Stations on multiple occasions.

Child-height endcap OPAC in the children's area

Next are endcap OPACs that are situated in the chilren's area--one inside Picture Book City, and the other on the end of our range of J Bios and award-winners. These OPACs are mounted at a great height for children to use them, and use them they do. I was slightly surprised at the uptick in children doing their own catalog searches before asking for help at the reference desk; it appears having the OPACs in the midst of the library spaces kids already use really does make a difference. Since these endcap OPACs were installed last week, I have seen more school-age children using them; more caregivers narrating their search processes for their onlooking children; and more caregivers feeling less stressed about doing several searches at a time because they can now access the catalog while still within sight of their children playing in Picture Book City. Talk about making things easier for customers!

That's what's new in the children's area of my library these days. What new or interesting things might your customers find in your spaces?


  1. My director and I talked about the AWE stations a few years ago, but I was reluctant to add more screen time to the kids' section and even more importantly I did NOT want another set of buggy computers to troubleshoot. I am cautiously considering them now, but I'm still reluctant to deal with another set of broken technology problems. Are they easy to use from a staff point of view? How many requests for help do you get? How often do they break down?

    1. Great questions, Jennifer. We've only had our AWE stations for a little over a week, and so far we've encountered no large issues. When I worked with them at previous locations, I didn't have problems with buggy software--I think the fact that the stations run the early literacy games and nothing else helps keep them running pretty smoothly. Also, all the AWE stations are covered by the company from whom they are purchased, so major problems/break downs get sent to them.

      I opted to forego headphones at our two stations, as I know headphones can be a problem from both breaking and hygiene standpoints. Instead, I have set the volume of the machines to a level that encourages quieter play when they are in use. Caregivers have so far really appreciated that.

      As far as ease of use for staff... I am the one who determines our settings, etc., and other staff are mostly just aware of the session time limits (we chose 20 minutes), how to get out of a game, and info on why we added them to our children's area. So far, the only requests for help have been along those very basic lines. It's interesting, too; whereas some caregivers seem to struggle with understanding how the games and interface work, the kids figuring it out by experimentation in no time. The stations really don't need consistent librarian mediation.

      I've been nothing but pleased with the stations so far. They are appealing and engaging to kids and their caregivers, they don't seem to distract from the library visit experience as a whole, and they have been getting nothing but compliments from customers. I'd say one or two stations are worth trying if you've got the space. So far they've required much less upkeep and staff time even than our train table.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. Thanks! I think I'll put these on the list of early literacy additions I want us to think about in the children's area over the next couple months - after I get my awesome chalkboard wall in the children's program room of course.


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