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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20 thoughts on “Let’s Chat: When Did This Happen? More Importantly…WHY Did This Happen?”
The library is a complete madhouse. It’s dirty and smelly in a completely different way now. It no longer smells like books. You should check out the Lake Forest library or Highland Park library. I love exploring different libraries and I think I finally found a few that remind me of the libraries of my youth.
Thank you so much for your feedback. Libraries of our youth look nothing like libraries today and it’s so sad. Like I said in my post, I completely understand the addition of technology…times have changed and children need those skills! However, when the technology becomes a greater draw than the actual books, that’s a problem. I love what you said about the smell of books…best smell in the world!
Going to the library during my childhood was somewhere I went countless times, for “fun” or for school. Checking out books with my very own library card was so awesome! And then I discovered you were able to check out vhs movies for free!! Maybe not quite the selection as blockbuster, but good enough. Then checking out CDs was amazing! Then DVDs came around and so on.
Now I don’t remember the last time I checked out a book, cd, or movie…with the advances of technology and having these things right at your fingertips in seconds in your own home or at your doorstep in just a few days is to the upmost convenience.
The one thing I enjoyed most about the library was going for schoolwork. Actually using real books as references for book reports and not searching the internet. While I do believe the internet is a great and powerful thing, using actual books is a great experience. I learned the Dewey decimal system for finding non-fictions. I learned how to find books in alphabetical order. I learned to be responsible and return my books on time. I learned to sit and read the books and reference the information I needed. My childhood library did a total remodel when I was younger and was actually built into a new huge building in a completely separate location. It was not the small intimate cozy library anymore. It was modern, giant and more technicalogically advanced. Computers everywhere! This was awesome because not everyone had computers with printers or with the internet at home to do school work. They had actual study rooms where I met with classmates and friends to do our schoolwork. And most of the time, we actually did our schoolwork and projects because we were forced to in that setting.
So for me, that is the thing that means the most to me at the library. I hope when my daughter needs to get her school work done alone or in groups, that they have a place to go. A safe place. Our parents dropped us off and picked us up with no fear of leaving us alone at the library. I hope library improvements still provide the same “studying” atmosphere, with rows of computers and aisles of books that you need to find yourself and if needed to be checked out done so with your own library card.
Maybe a little off your topic, but those are things I valued most in libraries. And to my knowledge, I don’t think many school age kids are actually going to the library anymore. Maybe I’m wrong…I hope they still are!
I’ve gone with my daughter to our local library only one time! And after reading your blog post, I am almost ashamed in myself!! Why haven’t we gone more? It’s a fun and free thing to do. And luckily, our library is still “old school” with old toys and chairs. I’m sure one day it will get remodeled to something more advanced and new. To my child, it will just be another place to explore. To me, I’ll remember how it used to be. Things change and I feel we have to embrace the change. While I do think a slide, and a playground atmosphere is definitely not ideal at a library, just going to the library in general is special itself. You can make of it what you want.
Wow writing this is making me more angry that I don’t spend more time at the library! It’s up to me to show my daughter what going to the library is all about. I’m seriously going next week lol! And the week after…!
I feel in our day and age people want more and more and new and different. But there are still those who value the simple and traditional. So it’s hard to satisfy that balance. Maybe for some mother’s, taking their kids to the library to “play” is what they need. On a cold/rainy day it is a free and safe place to go. And hopefully still sit somewhere and actually read. I don’t think it matters what’s at the library, more importantly that you actually go and give your child that experience and what you guys will make of it.
This is such an amazing comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave it! I love that you shared your memories of your own childhood library experiences. They are very similar to my own which I cherish. I very much agree with so many things that you said. Trying to please everyone is HARD! My favorite part of your comment was when you mentioned that after reading my post, you will now be taking your daughter to the library more often. My heart is so happy to hear that! Like you said, your experiences there will be what you will make of them…and spending time at ANY library can be such a beautiful experience for both of you. Xo!
Being that I now reside in L A, I googled BG libraries to see if you were speaking about Indian Trails library and was shocked to see you were. What a shame”in the name of progress “, that really was a beautiful library. I took my kids there too.
I also agree people have forgotten inside library voices. Another discussion another day, but I believe it has to do with the lack of respect so prevalent today!
Congrats on your new blog! Great job, Jen! I am thoroughly enjoying it!
Miss you, Linda! Thank you so much for your love and support, I so appreciate it. Xo!
Thanks for your perspective thru a child’s eye. My child has long since been a child and it is good to see that perspective. As an adult I was sorry to see the original library close and absolutely fell in love with the “temporary” library while the new one was being renovated. I anxiously awaited the reopening of the “new and improved” library and once it finally reopened I found it to be beautiful and the technology updated, but some of the “warmth” was left behind. To make matters worse my favorite place was the used book room. I could spend hours there viewing the books and seeing the books that people donated that they no longer needed. I found many treasures in that room. When I inquired where this room was located in the new library, I was told there was no longer a used book room and they have no plans to have one. I was in disbelief. I thought every library had a used book section of some kind. I guess some of the “old features” have to give way for the new and technologically advanced features that people are craving now. The 3-D printers and the fancy embroidery machines are very enticing, but somehow I don’t make time in my busy day for them. I am sure that is my loss, but I would much rather sit with a good book and get absorbed into the book and enjoy the journey!!!!
Thank you so much for this comment. I absolutely agree with every single thing you said. The new library is STUNNING…but warmth? Sadly missing. I also adored that used book room. It was a charming little room filled with hidden gems. I love how you stated the following and I couldn’t agree more:
“The 3-D printers and the fancy embroidery machines are very enticing, but somehow I don’t make time in my busy day for them. I am sure that is my loss, but I would much rather sit with a good book and get absorbed into the book and enjoy the journey!!!!”
Like you, I fell in love with the temporary location. It was the perfect size and had everything a library would need. Absolutely NOTHING there was fancy (in fact, quite the opposite). But that warmth you were talking about? The temporary location had it…and I’ll take warmth over fancy any day.
Our local library is being remodeled and this makes me worry about the children’s area. My kids have outgrown it anyway, but I hope the library isn’t all chaotic either. If kids want to play, malls have those big play areas. Not sure why libraries need them too. I understand your disappointment.
BTW, it’s so cute how your daughter pretended to call her grandma after her day at the library. 🙂
Yes to every single thing you said! I would be curious to hear how your library remodel turns out. Please keep me posted! Fingers crossed it’s lovely 🙂
I’m so torn about this issue!! While I LOVE the bigger, crazy, loud, fun libraries for rainy summer days, we also go primarily for story time! Our little local branch has a few trains you can check out for the train table, and buckets of animal toys, but Kira looks through books a lot more there! I think it just speaks to today’s culture about everything being SUPER EXCITING!! and AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW!! I used to love losing myself at the library, and I hope I can teach Kira that too… while still visiting the crazy libraries sometimes 🙂
I love the way you point out that both experiences can be beneficial for different reasons. Great point! And yes…losing myself at the library is something that I have always loved doing and still do (in fact, I’m at the library alone as we speak)! I pray that my children will continue to
love and respect libraries when they are adults as much as they do now 🙂
I’m still upset that your lovely library has changed so much. I miss going to the library as a child and spending hours looking at books and exploring the shelves – I can’t wait to take Addie! Sadly, we haven’t gone yet for a variety of reasons, but it’s on my list of “things to do” in the near future. She loves reading books at home so I hope she loves libraries as much as I do!
Oh she will! She will learn that from you. I’m excited for you to take her and to introduce her to the wonderful world of libraries and all of the amazing things that they offer. Hopefully your library will be able to offer her them in a quieter, more literacy based setting than ours does 😦
Wow I totally agree, they wasted the money buying ipads and such… Often the simpler the better. And society wonders why children can’t even sit still during dinner without itching to get back on media devices. Times have changed…
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Yes to everything you said. So sad 😦
Hey there! I got here from your other post and had to chime in! I think I’m of two minds on this. I love the idea of libraries being a real community building. I listened to a podcast (and I wish I could remember which it was) but it was talking about how when community leaders tried to come up with a way to design a community center someone said “you literally just tried to reinvent the library”. However, I do agree that there needs to still be peace and quiet because at the end of the day, it’s a library! At my library, they do tons of fun events that are confined in the meeting rooms. They also converted a room to be specifically for the teen/adult programs, so all the fun is in one area and not out in the main room. I really love that there’s dedicated places for fun but the large main areas are still a quiet library. It’s a shame your library didn’t separate out the two sides of it more because that’s true, who can sit and read when balls are flying around!