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How to make the library a fun place for kids?


How does a library turn out when it has been constructed from a child’s perspective and in the scale of a child? How to make the library a fun place for kids? The answer to this was traced in the children’s workshop organised in Annantalo on 4 February as part of the Design Capital Weekend. Under the guidance of two architects, Tuomas Toivonen and Maria Isotupa, children designed a place for themselves at the Central Library in the heart of Helsinki.

Central Library miniature model concretises children’s wishes

In the miniature model constructed in the children’s workshop, a long boat full of fairy tale characters had beached on the roof of the library, the presidential candidates sat around the Finland Table so that children could meet them and an aircraft flew clients from one floor to the next. But substance was also found behind this wild flight of fancy. In the manner of experienced architects, children located in the first floor facilities for meeting up, making things and getting together, on the second floor media content, literature materials and lounges for people to read in peace, and on the top floor “garden villages” and “shared territory” widening the concept of urban space. There was also a sauna with a view over Töölönlahti Bay.

The workshop in itself was a good example of how the future Central Library will operate for children and families. It promoted a sense of togetherness and the involvement of teenagers and kids. Contact with the library developed self-awareness, interaction and tolerance of difference. It was a channel for ideas and the personalisation of the city according to “child-like taste”. The workshop was an immediate source of happiness and benefit for kids, teenagers and families as well as the producers of the children’s culture event.


Mother Svea’s children’s room

How will the library keep up with children in the future from one class to the next, from the very first rubber boots to Reino slippers and high-heeled boots? If you could conclude anything about the number of baby prams lined up outside and shoes in the hallway, Rum för Barn in Kulturhuset in Stockholm has been successful in this. “Mother Svea’s children’s room” includes all the features of a circus: curiosity, bold experiments, acrobatics, surprised laughter and a feeling that something magical has just passed by and touched us. And that’s not all – older children too have been given the chance to play master builders in Stockholm. From Lego and other building blocks of their dreams, they have built Tiotretton – the world’s first library expressly for 10- to 13-year-olds. It has been hugely popular.


Bob the Builder story hours for finding out about diggers

Children are an important target group for libraries. This is why all over the world a lot of effort has been put into new kinds of inventive services targeted at children. For example, Bob the Builder story hours are organised in Australia, where children get to find out about diggers and earth movers in addition to the storybooks. And in the Santa Cruz Library in California, children can listen to bedtime stories over the phone by calling the library’s service number. And in Nebraska Central City Public Library, children can make up for late return fees by reading for a set time in the library. Half an hour of quiet reading corresponds to one dollar.

Assisting immigrant families

As for Denmark, so-called proactive library services are organised for families. The service is especially intended for immigrant families who may not be familiar with library services. Librarians visit families with babies and take a book as a gift. These visits continue until the child reaches school age. The librarian discusses with the parents the significance of language, stories and library services, and builds bridges between the child and the local culture.


Dolly Parton lays the foundation stone for the Imagination Library

Queen of country music, Dolly Parton started a campaign in her home town in Tennessee with the goal of ensuring that every child would have access to books, whatever the financial situation in the child’s family. Every child under the age of five was mailed a new storybook once a month. This is how the Imagination Library was created, and the concept has been adopted by neighbouring cities as well. The Penguin publishing house offered to be a partner and sponsor for the project.

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