MLA16: Service Meets Design: How Design and Programming Converged at BPL to Build New Relationships with Children
Speakers: Laura Koenig, Central Children’s Library Team Leader, Boston Public Library; Sydney Thiel, Major Projects Coordinator, Boston Public Library; firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Laura and Sydney were both instrumental in the design of the space at BCL. They showed a picture of where they started. It has been 2.5 years since their central library renovation. They said the bar was pretty low. It was drab and poorly lit and not a place where people would sit. There were a few decorations and it lacked views to the outside. The environment did very little to engage with children. The programming was not up to par, so they needed a complete transformation.
What did they want?
Questions they asked:
Where are the gaps in programming? How can we fill them?
How can we work with community partners to brring special cultural events to the library?
Is the programming in line with the Library’s Compass Principles? (part of Strategic Plan)
How can they meet early literacy needs?
Wow Factor and Design:
What should our spaces do?
They showed the final space from a bird’s eye view. “Tottle Town” was developed for kids ages 0-5. This is experimental and helps them grow. Low tech area.
StoryScape (ages 3-7): Kids will engage with the world and develop their own stories.
Children’s Computers (ages 4-9)
Tween Area (The bridge), ages 8-12. Lots of Fiction and Nonfiction.
Program Room: Serves all ages
Teen Central (13-18) across the area.
They wanted opportunities for staff-led mentoring but also the chance for parents to be left on their own.
What is unique about BCL: It’s urbanness. They wanted to incorporate parts of Boston like the subway and little motifs.
How do we embrace our history? STORYTELLING!
They incorporated a lot of book with Boston authors and put together a list of books to connections in Boston.
They visited other areas/libaries to incorporate interactive elements, playful surprises and sensory features.
At this point, they had objectives, but not a lot of design solutions. They created “The Journey Through Paths” which has colored lines on the floor. “Follow the blue line” reminds them of the train system. They have used this piece a lot. The paths go through stacks and create playful tunnels for kids to explore.
They have a Pathway to Reading Sensory Wall, which is like a “baby mosh pit.” This is great for infant brain development. They found the sensory wall pieces from different vendors. Most are products from Experia and 42 Design Fab. Some pieces are visual as kids learn through their eyes. The Auditory areas are quiet. Tactiles are great for children’s spaces.
Storytelling: The early literacy space incorporated “Make Way for Ducklings” and the garden.
StoryScape: They incorporated storytelling and an architectually-themed space that has brownstones and Boston-like buildings that encourages imaginative play. They also incorporated cubbies that look like Little Free Libraries. This is a special space and great for group visits. Authors sometimes come in to use the “story chair,” but the space is really great for imaginiative play with pupper theaters.
The Bridge (tweens): Literal and figurative. Has more tables for homework and chairs for curling up. The ceilings are lower and have more of a “cave” feel so it feels special and private. They are able to use technology to make things.
Their program room is very flexible and not exclusive when not in use.
They offer 85-100 programs a month and still can’t meet the needs. They have people who come every day and their area is really a “destination.” They do a lot of active movement and a “baby dance party.” They also incorporate a lot of things in for parents including sign and how to improve parenting and care giving.
They have been bringing in other groups like the aquarium and the Boston Ballet. If you have a modern dance troupe at a local college, you can do this. We don’t have to be in Boston to have kids experience the arts.
Lion Cubs: These have been locally fabricated in the young space. (Toddle Town). The cubs light up when children run past them (it senses movement).
Book Birds: Books suspended from the ceiling that are populated and look like birds. They cluster around the entry and anchor some of the prominent areas (Tall Town). They wanted something on the ceiling because parents with very young children said kids lay on their backs a lot.
Teen Central: They consider this an extension of the children’s room. They wanted to carry some broader themes about Boston that is being served here. It doesn’t look like a conventional library and this was important to the space. It’s very flexible and the stacks can be moved away for special events. They shared more images of the space.
They took questions. Someone asked what they would do differently. Laura said they would’ve incorporated even more kids. Once the project got rolling, it was hard to incorporate people.
Someone asked about cleaning the sensory areas. Laura said the area is bleached about once a week and wipes are kept their all the time. Caregivers also bring in their own. General cleaning is done 2-3 times a day. Snacks are allowed, but not on the carpeted areas. It’s always an effort and not always perfect, but they want to keep the space welcoming.
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