Before my daughter started going to school for the full day, her and I would spend hours upon hours at our local library. It had a tiny children’s play area with a very old play kitchen, a puppet stage with some very well loved puppets, a few ancient puzzles, and little jars of crayons that you could check out at the desk to color a picture. There was a giant rug with huge pictures and their corresponding letters. My daughter and I would pay a game where I would give her clues about the letters or pictures on the rug and she had to hop to the one I was describing. If a child helped to clean up after themselves, they could tell the librarian at the desk and would receive a sticker for their efforts. There were stacks and stacks of children’s books. My daughter and I would find a hidden spot in them and sit and read stories aloud, usually about upcoming holidays or events. We would do all of this for hours and then go into the front room when we started to get hungry. In the front room, there were a few random blue chairs where her and I would eat our packed lunches and then return to the children’s section for hours more. At the front door to the building, there was a beautiful hand carved bench which was crafted to look like a bookshelf containing classic stories. Next to it was an ancient payphone. My daughter would sit on that bench each time we entered the building and would “call” her grandma each time we excited the building and pretend to tell her all about our day’s adventures at the library. All in all, spending time at our favorite library was a perfect way to spend our days. So many of my absolute favorite memories with my daughter occurred in that building.
Our beloved library received a multi million dollar renovation.
For over a year while they completed the renovation, the temporary location was our place to go. It was much smaller than our library, but just as wonderful. It had a few older toys, puzzles, a huge table with blocks, and art project kits that you could check out at the desk. We loved the temporary location but were counting down until we could return to our favorite main branch and see all of the beautiful improvements. When the day came where we could finally check it out, we were so excited!
They ruined it.
Not ruined exactly, just…changed it. Completely.
A gigantic light wall! Balls that you can shoot up through the ceiling and watch go across the whole room through huge mazes on the wall! A humongous screen with interactive technolicgical games! An entire table of ipads! Big sticky shapes that are meant to be placed on the Velcro wall but you can throw them and they stick!
Gone are the stacks and stacks of books, they are now displayed by theme facing outward.
Gone is the librarians’ desk right in the middle of the room, it’s now on the other side of the library…so also gone is any monitoring of behavior (although this really is the parents’ job but that could be another whole separate post).
Gone are both the beautiful hand crafted bench and payphone at the front entrance.
What was once our quiet, quaint literacy based weekday activity has turned into kids literally RUNNING and SCREAMING through the children’s area. And not just a few kids…LOTS of kids. Due to the exciting and newsworthy major renovation, children from all surrounding areas now come to our once quiet library. Throwing balls, throwing the sticky shapes, climbing on the puppet stage (what used to actually be a tiny doll stage is now a massive custom built area perfect for children to climb). Everything is brand new, gorgeous, modern, and stunning.
My daughter’s reaction? She hated it. Absolutely hated it. Refused to go back for months. And I agreed.
There is another local library not far from our town that has a massive slide in the center of the room. A SLIDE.
When did all of this happen? When did libraries become indoor play places?
I have always taught (and always will teach) my children that libraries are meant to be quiet places. I want them to respect the building and the people inside of it who are working, reading, researching, or just trying to enjoy some peace from the loud outside world. I want them to marvel at the selection of books. I want them to know that there are endless possibilities awaiting them in those books. I want them to love those books. Playtime at the library should absolutely be a part of the experience…but leaving with carefully selected books should be the most exciting part.
When we go to our library now, it’s with the intention that we are going there to play. Yes, we still check out books…but….what child wants to sit and quietly read while loud kids and balls are zooming all around them?
There is a brand new massive playground outside. It’s huge and amazing and awesome! But…a part of me misses the old one with the one rickety table and the old tire swing. I’ll never forget my daughter playing in the dirt under the old tree searching for sticks. No reason to do that now…the new playground is so huge that no child would ever think of searching at the base of some old tree.
Make no mistake, our new library is GORGEOUS. Everything about the facility is new and beautiful. I am beyond fortunate to be able to raise my children in a community where we have this amazing resource. Even the bathrooms are stunning. But I miss the old bathroom with only the 2 stalls and the broken sink where my daughter learned to read the words “out of order”.
I completely understand that ANY library that actually encourages children to want to come and spend time there is wonderful. I get it. I just wish that children would want to come and spend time there for different reasons than they now do. As an avid reader, instilling a love for books in my children is a top priority. If I want to take them to a play place, I will take them to a play place. If I want to take them to a library, I will take them to a library. The 2 experiences should be different but now they seem to have tangled together…and the result is such a shame. I also understand that the world is changing and children need to be exposed to the advancements in technology. I just want to make sure that good old fashioned books and the libraries that house them don’t get lost in that.
As a stay at home mom, my job is to find creative and meaningful experiences for my children to fill our days with a bonus if I can do that for free.
I yearn for the old experiences that our beloved library used to provide. Our new library absolutely provides experiences, just of a completely different type. Our new library is so loud and chaotic in the children’s area, not a place you would want to spend an entire day. We packed our lunches on that very first day we were allowed to finally come back after the year hiatus. We ate in the gorgeous cafe area…and haven’t packed our lunches since. Man, I miss those random blue chairs.
I’ve learned as a parent that the best memories and experiences you can give your child sometimes are the simplest ones. I will never forget sitting with her quietly working on those old puzzles or worrying about when the last time those gross puppets were washed as she performed countless puppet shows for me.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how much money was spent on the renovation…some of the most perfect and special things in life just can’t be bought.
So…what are your thoughts? Do you agree with me that libraries have gotten completely out of hand with their children’s areas or completely disagree? I already know that my opinion probably won’t be the most popular one and that’s absolutely fine with me. Feel free to speak your mind! One request…Please refrain from mentioning specific library names or any specific locations in the comments!
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