Model Programme for Public Libraries

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The Children's Zone

Library visits have become a great hit among parents of young children. On Saturday afternoons, the new children's library at the Culture Yard in Elsinore is full of prams, playing toddlers and their parents who relax, read aloud or seek inspiration for picture books, games, music or other media to borrow. In Hjørring, a VIP corner for Very Important Parents is located in connection with the young children's area, with a sofa and information material for parents. At Tårnby Library, a nursing space has been set up next to a corner with dolls. Apart from supporting the relation between children and parents, the young children's library can be seen as an informal experience space with storytelling, play and learning as the focal point.

The VIP – Very Important Parents – area at Hjørring Library. Photo: Hjørring Library

Case: Hjørring Library 

All things being equal, the children's zone will be characterised by life and sound – active children. It can therefore be a good idea not to place the children's zone close to other of the library's functions that require peace and quiet for concentration. Picture books, toys, open floor spaces and furniture where parents and other accompanying adults can relax characterise the space. In order to avoid that the children's zone quickly ends up appearing messy, it can be a good idea to operate with a clear indication of fixed places for the different props, which might also encourage users to put things back in place after use.

Design challenge:

How can you support young children's and their adults' stay in the children's zone? How do you create a space where both groups like to be and where there are offers for both?

Material collection at children's height: A well-selected choice of read-aloud books and picture books that are presented in a clear way can be the starting point for many cosy moments for children and their adults. The materials do not necessarily always need to be presented in low, open boxes. Consider making access difficult so that this in itself becomes a challenge and an experience for the little ones. Think in terms of bookcases that children can climb on and which may have an ‘eagle's nest’ at the top.

The young children's library Grotten (the Cave) at the Rentemestervej Library has a certain cave character and supports children's interest in playing and climbing. Photo: The Rentemestervej Library

Case: Rentemestervej Library

The reading den: A shielded area or a ‘reading den’ can form the backdrop for e.g. sensory reading for the youngest children, or on a smaller scale constitute an exciting reading hide-out for younger children. Day care institutions and day carers can visit the reading den to hear stories being read aloud. If the reading den is equipped with mattresses and cushions, the small children can crawl and jump around in the cushions. The mattresses can also be used by visiting mothers' groups who can romp about with their babies. The reading den can also contain a small stage where visiting artists can perform, or a granddad can read aloud for the young children.

The cave/play furniture element at Ørestad Library. Photo: Ørestad Library

Case: Ørestad Library

Cosy corners for imaginative games: Doll's houses, castles and fire stations, dolls and cars can be offered, preferably in small nooks or corner where one or more children can unfold their imaginative games without being disturbed. Building bricks in foam or similar noise-reducing materials give the young children the chance of building or romping about with the bricks without hurting themselves and without the bricks contributing to disturbing other visitors.

Comfortable furniture: An interior design with comfortable furniture on the edge of the children's zone can contribute to prolonging the visit and improving the quality. Linking sofas and soloist furniture can contribute to indicating whether the adults would like to speak to other adults or have a ‘Zen moment’ to themselves and read a newspaper or enjoy reading a book or checking out the library's materials and offers on a borrowed iPad.

Soft furniture for children and adults. Tårnby Library. Photo: Signal Architects

Cafe function: If the library has a cafe function or is planning to establish one, there can be many advantages in placing it close to the children's zone so that visiting adults can fetch a cup of coffee or a fill-up, while still being able to keep an eye on their child or children.

The robust long table: If the library wishes to support the informal meeting between families with young children and the library's other visitors, one or more robust long tables can provide a fine setting. Here, children and adults can eat, relax and play games found on the library's shelves. The long table can be a cosy gathering place for the visiting family that has different errands at the library, but it also constitutes an obvious ‘democratic link’ that brings together the library's many different visitors.

Plenty of users in the children's section at DOK Library Concept Center. Photo: Signal Architects

Case: DOK Library Concept Centre

Make your own contribution via the Facebook group

If you have examples or ideas of how libraries can create attractive settings for the young children and accompanying adults, or if you have comments to this article, please feel free to contribute via the Facebook group.

05. Jul 2017 at. 09:52

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