A fun and welcoming environment for children of all ages and the people that care for them, Project R.E.A.D. (Reach, Engage and Discover) brings thoughtful improvements, increased accessibility and modern learning opportunities to the children’s library. The Friends of the Mary Cotton Public Library has worked to reenvision the space with each child in mind, but also with consideration to the needs of families and a place for community.
One of the most exciting new spaces of Project R.E.A.D. is the dedicated Toddler Zone. This semi-contained space completely rethinks the library experience of the youngest patrons, while giving thoughtful consideration to their caregivers. Babies and toddlers will benefit from a safe, open-ended play space and easy access to books. The boundary of the space is created by a series of ColorScape® flexible furniture. This combination of connecting bookcases and benches, along with a feature Playpod House, creates a highly functional space perimeter. Within the Toddler Zone, books are just as emphasized as play. Floor-level flip bins encourage book exploration while reducing caregiver hassle of replacing books on a traditional bookshelf. Making age-appropriate books more accessible to babies and toddlers encourages fine motor skills and paves way for early literacy. The space also will house a colorful, foam core caterpillar that provides soft seating and physical play. In the corner, a wooden toddler loft, featuring steps and a slide, will encourage gross motor skills and open-ended, imaginative play. The Playpod House in the perimeter completes the selection of inviting, multipurpose features that offer both interactive play or cozy, quiet reading.
Book placement will be age-level based and progress through the library. Picture books and early readers will lead along the east wall to a more defined Intermediate area in the northeast corner of the kids’ library. A curved bookcase on casters with a corresponding soft seating bench creates a welcoming space for early readers. This feature furniture set is flexible and allows for the space to be used in a variety of ways.
The entire west room of the Kids Library, where the circulation desk is located, will be dedicated to the library’s large collection of books for Junior Readers. Two separate sections for fiction and non-fiction, along with clear signage and labeling, will help readers quickly find what they need. Another curved bookcase facing the Junior fiction section creates a welcoming space and sense of seclusion for older kids. The integrated soft seating bench encourages them to pick up a book and stay awhile.
STEM LEARNING AREA
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning opportunities are an increasingly critical sector of the library’s resources for helping prepare youth. A STEM learning area in between the toddler zone and intermediate library offers something for all ages. A standing height Makerspace STEM Table will provide space for Lego® building and other STEM activities. Designed to keep small parts and rolling pieces contained and off the floor, this table provides for exciting creative opportunities while maintaining safety for the youngest patrons. Additionally, the existing AWE Early Literacy Stations, featuring games and activities for children ages 2-8, will continue to be housed on children’s height tables. These computers are child-friendly and offer fun, interactive and engaging content that spans all seven curricular areas: math, science and nature, social studies and geography, art and music, writing and computer skills, reading and reference. The library plans to continue to offer these special computers until such time as they need to be replaced with newer technology.
YOUNG ADULT (DOWNSTAIRS)
The Young Adult collection, geared towards upper-middle and high school, will be moved downstairs. This allows more space upstairs for the library’s largest circulation while creating a more tailored, age-appropriate space for mature young readers. Currently, the plan is to redesign the computer lab space to allow the addition of the Young Adult book collection and an inviting, soft seating area geared towards older youth.