As many of you know, there is nothing quite like a visit to another library to get your thinking cap activated! I participated in the field trip sponsored by the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association last week. Yippee for Shelly Collins Fuerbringer who bravely drove through city traffic and suburban rush hour to get us everywhere!
Some of my favorite things about the tour were very interesting ways of incorporating early learning opportunities into the library visit.
In Hopkins, the library worked with the Minnesota Children's Museum in an Institute for Museums and Library Services grant. They have created some fabulous play-and-learn opportunities in the library. The librarian told us that kids know exactly what to do with the toys (though sometimes parents freak out if they are trying to grow cheeseburgers in the garden, the kids are exploring with language and hands-on interaction), fathers spend much more time visiting the library with their kids, and people are pretty good about cleaning up after themselves.
In Ridgedale, the Hennepin County Library branch in Minnetonka, Dana Bjerke and her staff have really thought out everything. Every season, they switch out the early learning activities, displays and posters. They start when you are coming up the stairs (with laminated numerals on each step), continue at the circulation desk (with numbers on the floor and a kids-eye-view poster encouraging kids to find their phone numbers), include a pathway into the library, displays at the entrance, and many amazing activities within. Wow! This library was so exciting, I wish I could send all of you there. The activities are enticing, and the posters and decorations are engaging and beautiful! To see some excellent examples, take a look at the Ridgedale flickr account.
In St. Paul, we found out about a pilot project that they plan to implement at the Riverview Branch. Librarian Kim Faurot told us about a holistic approach to early learning environments. Since families come into the library for many reasons--including job searching, car repair, Facebook updates as well as supporting children's early learning--it is a great idea to recognize this in the way the library is set up. What can you put near the Internet stations that will provide early learning opportunities for children, but still be palatable for all of the adults using the area? This fits in well with The Wakanheza Project idea of creating welcoming environments for all!
I will probably post more ideas as time goes on, but if you want to see a terrific accounting of many of our visits (we weren't allowed to take pictures at the gorgeous Minneapolis Central library), take a peek at the flickr account that Shelly created (her camera worked better than mine did). Thanks to Shelly for the photos in this blog.
Science Cart in Ridgedale got heavy use while we were there--in the winter it will become an Art Cart.