Updated Children’s and Meeting Space at Cary Library
Public libraries in the United States have evolved over time, responding to the needs of the communities they serve. Library services to young people have changed significantly since the library’s major renovation and expansion project was completed in 2004. While our Children’s Room and Large Meeting Room were state of the art for their time, they do not work as well for today’s more participatory, people-first service models.
Among the factors driving our Children’s Room (ChiRP!) & our Large Meeting Room renovation project are:
21st Century Services Need 21st Century Spaces:
Our current spaces were designed in the late 1990s when children’s programs were primarily “passive” and included story times and other performances where children came to sit quietly and listen, not be active participants.
Today’s services are based on the best practices of early childhood educators and researchers. Today’s kids are active learners from the time they are babies. In education circles, early literacy skills (talk, sing, read, write, play) and kinesthetic learning practices strive to engage whole bodies in the learning process.
Library services for older children have also changed. Instead of offering only reading and research activities, we now offer all kinds of experiential learning opportunities for older children. New youth spaces in libraries are flexible, allowing for programs in art, science, technology, and making. These types of programs build 21st century literacies such as creativity, critical thinking and problem solving, scientific reasoning, and cultural awareness.
Better Accessibility Benefits Everyone:
One of our Guiding Principles is to make the library “a space that works for everyone.” To us this means working embracing the principles of Universal Design that improve access for individuals with disabilities and also make spaces more comfortable for EVERYONE.
To this end, our renovation project will lower shelving heights for some collections and expand the width between shelves to improve accessibility. Restrooms will be updated and the Service Desk will be reconfigured for better service to children and individuals with disabilities.
Safer Spaces for Our Youngest Library Users:
The world has changed in the past 20 years, and the way that we look at safety in public spaces has also changed. When our Children’s Room was designed no one was thinking about the sightlines from the desk to the preschool play space. The space was designed to maximize the size of the collection, not to maximize staff oversight and emphasize patron safety.
20 Years of Being Well-Loved:
The Children’s Room has the highest use/square foot of any space in the library. It hasn’t been updated since it opened in 2004. It’s well loved and well worn and in need of updating so that it can serve the next generation of Lexington kids. New carpet, better lighting, and better furniture will make the space more comfortable and inviting.
And an Updated Large Meeting Room:
When our building was designed, the Large Meeting Room was established as the building’s primary adult programming space, and generally expected to be used for auditorium style for lectures and performances.
Over the past two decades, much has changed, including our ability to leverage the “Living Room” space on the Main Level for larger lectures. In addition, most of our Children’s Programs have outgrown our small Story Time Room and are now being held in the Large Meeting Room. And these days library programs for all ages tend to be more hands-on than in the past, necessitating better kitchen facilities, better ventilation, and storage to allow for endless programmatic possibilities.
What we need is a chameleon, a space that includes an improved kitchen area for cooking and science demonstrations, with storage to hold all of the equipment needed for craft and making programs, and updated technology to allow us to host programs in person as well as virtually. This is a space that will serve children, teens, and adults.