I recently paid a visit to the Children’s Library Discovery Center at Queens Library in Jamaica, NY. This center is a state-of-the-art, interactive library that is also part museum, part classroom, and part playground. Visitors are greeted with a large, colorful map of Queens on the entranceway floor. All the library branches are depicted as well as the sights (and sounds!) of the one of the most diverse places on the planet. In Flushing, for example, you can hear the crowds at the baseball game as you (respectfully) step on the Mets symbol. The sounds of birds singing can be heard in nearby Flushing Meadows Park.
Emphasizing early literacy skills is an integral part of the library’s mission. The Center features a multisensory early childhood area with hands-on toys, games, and learning tools to encourage early literacy skills. In addition to books, the Center has a mini Cyber Center featuring touch-screen computers with special programs emphasizing pre-reading skills. A favorite station is the Fish Phone – a payphone-style telephone kids can use to talk to the fish living in the Center’s aquarium.
Older kids (grades 1-6) have much to explore in the Center as well, and they often do as part of class visits and field trips. Microsoft surface tables, books, exhibits, special programs, and of course, librarians, encourage kids to find their inner explorer. Digital microscopes are on hand to take a closer look at the world around them, or themselves. “The kids love examining their hair,” one staff person said.
Even the signage in the stacks has participatory elements. This shelf marker pulls out to reveal an eye-catching image and an inviting question about electricity. Another sign by the insect books was multidimensional and showcased colorful butterflies.
Perhaps best of all is the 21st century twist on a traditional art: digital storytelling. Families can use the Center as a place to record audio narration and incorporate it with video, text, and music.
Would you like to learn more about the Children’s Library Discovery Center at Queens Library? Pay them a visit in person or online. Admission is free, and the Center is open whenever the library is open.