Not many college libraries have a children’s room, but the Culver-Stockton college library installed one as part of a recent renovation. It’s not for undergraduates regressing under stress; the room is designed to “support local readers and literacy,” library director Sharon Upchurch told LJ.
The college already owned a collection of 3,500 books for children and young adults to supports its teacher training program. So when the college, like many academic libraries, found many of its reference materials moving online, the shrinking stacks created a new opportunity to use the space to model teaching as well as train teachers.
According to Upchurch, other colleges with elementary education programs that have children’s reading rooms include Truman State University, Western Illinois University, and Hannibal-LaGrange University.
The children’s room was created as part of a larger renovation which provided new paint and flooring for the whole library, according to Upchurch. By creatively reusing items the library already had and collecting donations, the library was able to complete the whole project for $5000.
“We already had a rocking chair, a floor lamp, two adult sized tables and chairs, a ‘therapy’ teddy bear donated by the Psychology department, and several puppets, all of which we moved in,” Upchurch explained. “We have some donated framed posters of children’s book covers.” The library moved in shelving and books, and purchased a children’s area rug, large floor pillows, and a child-sized kidney table with chairs.
The library also installed a flat screen HD/3D TV and Apple TV system in place of the SmartBoard it was previously planning. “It allows our teacher ed students to work with a new technology not available on campus anywhere else,” Upchurch explained, “But it also can do double duty with programs for community users. We have already had a couple of families trying it out.”
Access is free for members of the public, though “they may get an occasional overdue fine,” Upchurch says. This is particularly important to children living outside the city limits, who would have to pay a $50 fee for a public library card, according to local paper The Herald-Whig, so Culver-Stockton is particularly reaching out to that audience. “We are partnering with the local Public Library and piggy-backing on their summer reading program with an expanded program focused on those children living outside the city limits,” Upchurch explained. “We want to focus on fifth through eighth graders this first year. Hopefully, we can expand in coming years.”
So far, Upchurch says, five to six families come in consistently, but more are probably on their way. “We have had a lot of publicity recently on local TV and print media…. It was a bit earlier than we were really ready for.”
In addition to using the children’s room (and the rest of the library) on-site, community patrons can check out books and DVDs to take home. Visitors are given guest library cards with a barcode, which enables the library to track the success of the program. “Our community borrowers have a patron group code in our LMS so we will know how much borrowing our community users are doing,” said Upchurch.
Ultimately, the library’s modest outlay on developing the children’s area may even recoup its investment. “During our recent facelift in the library, the College added a very attractive coffee shop. The President would like Community members to come use the coffee shop. We think, ultimately, community use of the library and the coffee shop will dovetail nicely,” said Upchurch.
But though the library is happy to help stop summer reading skills loss in the community, it hasn’t lost sight of its primary mission. Says Upchurch, “We are first and foremost the college library supporting the college curriculum.”