31 March 2021
Image credit: Robert R. Jones Public Library.

This unprecedented year has been rough on us all. As the Assistant Director of a small public library developing and implementing dynamic children’s programming was at the forefront of brainstorms throughout my workweek. Pre-pandemic, my library staffed by five was akin to offering three-five programs a week for our community’s youth. I loved the challenge of finding new ways to engage my community’s youth in order to foster a lifelong life of learning and literacy. But as COVID-19 spread, so did the inundation of mobile classrooms, Zoom programs, and the unwelcomed increase of screen time.

In the middle of it all, my library made the radical decision to step back from mobile programming. Realizing that we did not want to reinvent the wheel, we began to shift our focus to our optimistic future. We imagined in-person programming again. We thought about the sparks of curiosity and creativity we’ve ignited in our young patrons, and we asked ourselves one question.

Can We Do More?

In the year our library saw no children, we started to wonder if our space could be more kid-friendly. We questioned if our white walls were welcoming enough, if they inspired imagination and inventiveness. We thought about our own memories of creativity and remembered vividly the classrooms that motivated us as children, and we began to reimagine our kids’ space through the same lens.

Inexpensive but Effective

Working within a small budget, we looked for simple solutions. A fresh coat of paint, vibrant decorations, new curtains, and hard work. We now have a dedicated area for future story times featuring a backdrop of colorful curtains and an overhang of oversized paper pom-poms. Each workspace has a unique theme overhead including the solar system, art, and STEM. This is still a work in progress. We plan to finish the redesign in mid-April. With a budget of less than $400, our children’s room will have undergone a complete transformation, which we hope will inspire the next generation of community leaders.

Our guest blogger today is Victoria Blackmer. Victoria is the Assistant Director at Robert J. Jones Public Library District in Coal Valley, IL. She is also a member of the My Library Is... Advisory Team.