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Library Revamps Children’s Area

Toys are out, reading is in.

When Annie Grimley, 3, went to children’s section in the Potomac library last week, the first thing she did was attack a dragon.

The dragon, a 3-foot long and colorful stuffed creature that can be used as a seat, was donated by the Friends of the Library as part of a renovation of the alcove near the children’s area. Preliminary reports indicate that it does not breathe fire.

“I like the colors,” Annie said of the dragon.

The dragon is the one remaining plaything in an area that had been home to many toys. Some adults were dropping young children off in the children’s alcove unsupervised while they used the library’s computers or browsed in other parts of the library.

The new look is designed to facilitate reading with children.

“We wanted to create an appealing space for adults to read with children,” said librarian Sue Shaw. Shaw was one of the initiators of the changes that took place several weeks ago. “We’re focusing on the emerging reader,” she said.

Judy Grimley, Annie’s grandmother, approved of the changes. “You can see she enjoys it,” Judy Grimley said.

The library removed the toys from the area and replaced them with colorful decorations and the dragon.

“There is a lot to be said for the small manipulatives, but this area is not designed for that,” Shaw said.

Now there is a fish tank and rocking chair, along with books for young children and wall decorations provided by the Ivymount School.

According to Shaw, all of the new equipment was donated by the Friends; no county money was spent on the project.

She found that the program has been successful thus far. She related a time after a library program when the children’s area was packed with parents reading to their children. According to Shaw, the tables in the children’s area were full, along with many of the library’s other tables. “There was a man sitting on the floor reading to his child,” Shaw said.

Although many approve of the changes, there are people who liked having the toys there.

“Its disappointing they’re not there anymore. It’s nice if [the kids] are slightly occupied while I’m trying to make my selections,” said Cathy Nerantzis of Rockville, a patron of the Potomac Library.

“Librarians will help people make their selections,” Shaw countered. She noted that some caregivers would drop children off in the toy area and then go use the library’s computers.

“It’s important for parents to talk to their caregivers – tell them not to just drop their kids off here. It’s really a safety issue,” Shaw said. “People were leaving their children in a place where they wouldn’t leave their purses or wallet.”

Parents who were using the area were receptive to the changes. “I like it,” said Julia Gertler during a break from reading to her son. “I think it’s much more conducive for reading. I’m glad they did away with the toys.”