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Library gets ‘playful’ makeover to engage young minds

Pint-sized patrons of the Park Rapids Library will notice a renovated children’s area, including new furniture, books and educational games. (Submitted photo)

By SHANNON GEISEN

Child-size furniture, a cozy reading nook and educational toys are among the kid-friendly features newly added to the Park Rapids Area Library.

“It’ll be so much fun to see parents and caregivers of young children coming in to utilize the space and provide area children with more opportunities in early learning and literacy,” said librarian Jodi Schultz.

The project was made possible by a Playful Learning in Libraries Mini Grant.

The funding came, in part, from the Minnesota Department of Education through a library services and technology act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“The main challenge in our library is that we’ve outgrown our current building,” Schultz explained in the grant application.

“Even as we weed our collections and attempt to be creative in making more space on our shelves and in our building, we know we’re losing ground. . . I realize I can’t add space, but I can better utilize the space we have.”

Much of the existing furniture in the children’s area was too big for preschool children.

“In redesigning the space in the children’s area we hope to create a place that’s comfortable and inviting to children, their parents and caregivers,” wrote Schultz. “We want to establish the library as a welcoming and engaging place for people of all ages and income levels.”

The “downsizing” renovations were a community effort. Gary Shaw extended a built-in cupboard that was transformed into a reading nook. Andy Froelich sanded and primed the inside of the repurposed cabinet.

Volunteer artists from Nevis High School painted the reading nook a colorful design – inspired by a favorite children’s book, Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.”

Colorful, foam lounge chairs fill the nook, with a portable CD player and headphones allowing children and adults to listen to children’s audiobooks together.

CHI St. Joseph’s Area Health donated funds for new puzzles.

Kinship of the Park Rapids Area teamed up with Friends of the Library members for an assembly party last Saturday.

They assembled the new furniture and shelving units, installed wall toys, organized educational toys and set up a LeapFrog learner station with two tablets.

The LeapFrog LeapPad Wi-Fi devices replace two aging computers that weren’t connected to the Internet.

Manipulative wall toys adorn the circulation desk.

A new mobile “cushion caddy” with 24 circular pads will be used during the library’s story time or just to sit on the floor in comfort with a book.

Schultz noted that some children’s books, sound equipment, LeapFrog game cartridges and baskets for books were purchased with memorial funds from the Jan Simon family.

“I’m so pleased with how this assembly portion is coming together and that it includes both the interaction and the potential to foster the familiarity and intimacy of a place we consider ours,” said Schultz.

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