The Children’s Library and Learning Center opens Saturday, March 16, with a celebration open to the public.
The 30,000 square foot building is part of the Central Arkansas Library System and is inviting families to come check out the facility.
Don Ernst, Coordinator of the new library, explains that this initiative is unique.
“We start from the beginning. The first thing we did, we hosted an all day session- with 199 kids, ages 11-19, and we put them in intergenerational teams” says Ernst.
He says they decided on three things they wanted to include in the space; a place to eat, room to move and dance, and an environment they could feel safe in.
The brightly colored kitchen is a direct result of the information gathered from the focus groups. Ernst says kids will learn about nutrition here, something many in Arkansas don’t know enough about, using vegetables and fruits they grow on the surrounding six acers of land.
The theater, naturally lit and ready to seat 165 people comfortably, is down the hall from the kitchen. The library will host traveling shows, but will also offer theater workshops for children of all ages.
The learning isn’t restrained inside the library walls, as with most traditional educational spaces.
Outside, walkways and pathways have been incorporated into the design. The various eco-regions of Arkansas are represented in different quadrants, with simulated wetlands in one area and deciduous trees in another.
A greenhouse overlooks the landscape, situated next to the garage-turned-tool shed. The projects in the green house will have the potential to be student-run, with kids taking the lead on what they want to grow and learn about.
Back in the library, one discovers the most obvious learning space of all, a room filled with books! Rows and rows of shelves are piled high with colorful books for all ages, from babies and toddlers all the way up to young adults.
Reading areas with small chairs and desks, as well as laptop and iPad stations surround the books. Ernst describes what he envisions for the children, while sitting on a child-sized beanbag chair, leaning up against a brightly painted wall.
Ernst says he “hopes they know that this a place that they can come and relax, and feel unhurried, and welcome, and safe, and help find their own future.”
The library hopes to serve not only children, but entire families as well. The programs and services provided will continue to develop as the Children’s Library and Learning Initiative grow and expand.