Update: ‘Operation Make the Children’s Room Look Like a Children’s Room’

24 Mar
The Children's Room on March 14, 2014.  Take a good look, because it won't be this drab the next time I show it to you.

The Children’s Room on March 14, 2014. The only pops of color are the signs that instruct patrons not to eat in the library.  Take a good look.  The drab is being shown the door.

You guyz!  I wrote in my last post about the how the children’s room in my new branch looks like a bank and is completely devoid of child-appeal.  Even that doyenne of early 20th-century children’s librarianship in Brooklyn, NY, Clara Whitehill Hunt, would clutch her pearls and intone, ‘How dreadfully unsuitable!’ if she could see it (*historical note: Your blogstress has no idea if CWH wore pearls or was prone to exclamations of this nature.  She is taking fictional liberties, not because she’s protecting the innocent, but because it is fun.)

I met with my mini-committee last week to start talking about overhauling the children’s room and we came up with some really good stuff!  It is going to make a huge difference.

I started by passing around an article from Library Journal’s ‘Library By Design’ blog, How to Design Library Space with Kids in Mind.  I asked them to read it, and I  highlighted some phrases that particularly resonated with me:

Children appreciate good design, subtlety, and nuance.

Create simplicity, directness, and light.

Children are…sophisticated about design…give them something at which to look.

Positive memories will increase learning and the desire to return.

Then we did an exercise where I had us mentally move everything out of the room that can be moved (There are a number of fixed pieces that we cannot do anything about.  We’ll simply have to work around them.).  After that, we mentally moved furniture back in, banishing anything too bulky and adult-sized, and swapping in some pieces from other locations in the building.  What we came up with are a series of cozy nooks, while also increasing both open space and the number of available seats.

I am so impressed with my appointed mini-committee members, Hanna and Kathleen.  They came up with some terrific ideas, and without even reading the article that I sprang on them at the beginning of our meeting, they demonstrated in a number of ways that they were simpatico with its major themes…respect for children and their spaces.  Some choice quotes that originated from them are:

“We need to create some circular spaces to break up all these aisles and straight lines”

“These spaces need to look and feel like a living room”

“Energetic and accessible.  Those are two words we should try to achieve with this project”

Amen, Hanna and Kathleen!  A-to-the-men.  Anyway, here’s a decidedly un-artistic and not-true-t0-scale rendering of our plans.  That’s a soy sauce stain on the right side of the page.  I do my best drawings while wolfing down a veggie lo mein.

J Room Plan While most of our meeting was about re-arranging furniture, we also talked about decorations and the collections.  The collection will largely stay put, but we are moving the shelves downward to a level more accessible to the 4-feet and under set.  Our parenting and children’s DVD collections will move into the children’s room (which I hope will help their circ).  And we’ve already made a lot of progress on sprucing up the joint with color and decor.  But nothing on that at this time.  I’ll save it for the big reveal once we’re finished.

I think I should note here that this is totally a DIY effort.  My organization does not have the cash for a re-design, so we’re using only what we have on hand.  I dearly wish my branch had a Friends group who could buy funky couches and beanbag chairs like they have in the article shared above, but we don’t.  I am embracing a Kevin Costner, ‘If you build it, they will come’ mindset to this children’s room re-design.  Nothing we are doing is un-doable, or firmly set in stone.  I fully intend to let it evolve and change, and to get neighborhood families involved in those conversations.  But first I think we need to demonstrate that we know what their children need in a library experience, and that we are savvy enough to make it happen.

                                               ~Catherine

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