If I Were in Charge of the World, or at Least the Children’s Department

by Emily Guier, Head Editor, INALJ Wyoming

If I Were in Charge of the World, or at Least the Children’s Department

emily.guierSince having my son, I’ve attended my fair share of library programming for babies and toddlers, and explored a number of different children’s areas in public libraries. It amazes me how public libraries are able to use children’s areas for a number of different functions, especially given the space constraints. Children’s librarianship strikes me as unique from other positions in the library because of all the hats one has to wear: singer, video game guru, teacher, and performer. As a parent, I would keep the following in mind when designing the children’s department:

Lots of display space for books. Picture books depend heavily on the pictures (duh) and illustration can make or break a story. When I’m picking out books, I like to be able to see the cover and quickly leaf through some of the pages to determine if I’ll check it out. Traditional shelving is tricky with picture books. Narrow spines mean books can really be jammed together, making it hard to really peruse in the way I like.

Separate shelving for board books. Along the same lines as #1, I think board books shouldn’t be traditionally shelved. A container that allows kids and parents to easily flip through books is ideal. When board books are shelved with other picture books, it makes them tricky to find unless one has a specific title in mind. Parents with babies will often get just board books, and having them shelved separately makes this much easier.

Colorful seating for kids. Many of the libraries that I’ve been too have some tables and smaller chairs where kids can sit, but I think some more comfortable and colorful seating really perks up a space. This is probably more of a perk for parents than kids. If I can wrangle my son away from the drinking fountain to read a book, I’d rather snuggle on a nice chair than the floor.

Fun, and clean, toys. In all of the children’s departments I’ve been to, I’ve been impressed with the variety of other toys and activities that are present. Whether Legos or bead mazes, puppets or train sets, there are typically other activities to entertain and occupy the youngest of library patrons. My one gripe is that with so many little hands handling these toys, they get pretty grimy and don’t always seem like they’re high priority for a good cleaning. I think it would also be cool if these toys were periodically circulated. New puppets could come out with the seasons; the play castle could be swapped for a wooden train set. Keeping the novelty alive is what makes the library magical for kids.

So let’s hear it readers. Anything else you think makes a successful children’s department? Or how about some other areas in the library?