Are children the future of public libraries?

It’s a well known fact that librarians love kids.  We all know that libraries all have a special place in their heart for children.  It undoubtedly comes from the excitement of watching a child learn to read and experience the joy of reading.

Most libraries cater really well to children.  They offer summer reading contests, early education programs, and other services specifically tailored to kids.  But some public libraries are putting an extraordinary amount of effort into their childrens’ programs.

Livability.com, which provides information on the best places to live, recently released their “Top 10 Libraries for Children” list.

The libraries that made the list all offer absolutely amazing offerings for children.  The #1 library for children is ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center in Charlotte, NC.  The library is the result of a unique partnership between the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.  The end product is a library unlike any other.

There are two theaters (570 seats and 250 seats) that are used for performances by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.  The first floor is a dedicated children’s library with books, media, and resources for children up to ten years old.  The second floor has a special section for teens with computers, video equipment, and software for film and video recording.

The excitement can be heard the moment you enter the building.  The library is definitely not quiet.  You will see and hear tons of kids involved in all sorts of activities.  Think early education science fair and you’re not too far off.

ImaginOn is wildly popular and is constantly cited as the best library for children, but should other libraries follow suit?

The #2 library on the list is Vancouver Community Library located in Vancouver, WA.  It opened last year and features a 12000 square foot children’s floor that parents claim their kids hop, run, and drag them to.  The library has an Early Learning Center that is the largest in the country and offers features that look like they are from a large pre-school or activity center.  Kids 6 to 11 have access to an area with games, legos, and other activities.  The library staff hosts story times and crafting activities regularly for patrons of all ages.

Vancouver Community Library is very popular with as many as 12000 visitors per week.  This is incredibly impressive given the small population in the city of Vancouver.  The library draws people from other local cities like Portland, OR.

The mission of public libraries is constantly changing with the rise of technology and ebooks.  Should libraries focus more of their effort on children so that they can remain relevant?  The libraries on the “Top 10 Libraries for Children” all did and it looks like it’s working out pretty well for them…and our children.

Comments

  1. Suzanne Stauffer says

    I must beg to differ. The mission of public libraries has not and is not changing simply because the format in which it provides some of its materials is changing. The mission remains “meeting the educational, recreational and informational needs of the community.” Children have been a primary focus of libraries since the early 20th century. Some people just forgot that in the rush to jump on the information bandwagon in the latter half of that century. Libraries are as relevant today as they have ever been and provide services for every age. Just ask the reference librarian helping adults to search for jobs, find tax and medical information, the outreach librarian providing reading materials to those who cannot travel to the library, the young adult librarian hosting programs that get teens excited about reading and learning, the children’s librarians in thousands of much more modest facilities who are nevertheless introducing children to the joys of reading with far fewer resources . . . shame on you, Public Libraries, for denigrating the very institution that is your reason for being and mindlessly repeating the claims of an ignorant few. This article is an insult to the thousands of hardworking librarians doing their very best every day to meet the needs of their communities.