Before it even had a chance to open, the Williamsburg Regional Library’s new interactive children’s area found itself empty.
The Kiwanis Kids Studio was scheduled to open at the James City County facility in March. But just a week before its grand opening event, the coronavirus pandemic caused the library to close its facilities to the public.
While the library reopened on Monday, the new area still remains limited in order to protect the health of visitors.
“After several weeks into the closing, we realized this would be a more extended time frame than we first understood,” said Betsy Fowler, library director. “We realized it would impact when we could open [the studio] because it’s predicated on having an interactive, immersive learning experience.”
The new Kiwanis Kids Idea Studio features various learning activities, such as an interactive floor projection play area, a giant illuminated pix peg wall, and a “Village” area that features a house with furniture and accessories.
The library started renovations on the previously existing children’s area in fall 2019 and with the goal of creating an interactive learning area for children and their families.
But new health concerns surrounding the coronavirus have paused the interactive elements.
Fowler said even though guests can see and enter the new area, all of the interactive components have either been put away or turned off.
For many, the postponement of use might come as a disappointment, especially the donors who contributed to the $310,000 project. But Fowler said the library is working hard to communicate with donors involved in the project and is even bringing some into the area in small groups to view the final product.
Many of the donors are pleased with the Studio and some have even donated extra funds to the library.
“The people who donate to the library make a huge difference,” she said. “We are able to do things creatively, take some risks and be inventive…so having this extra income allows us to take this leap forward.”
Fowler said there are two main issues holding them back from opening the area. First being that there isn’t the ability to socially distance when playing with the new aspects. Second is there isn’t currently the technology to disinfect the area as frequently as needed for hundreds of children to use the space.
“We’re just continuing to monitor what’s happening locally, statewide and nationally,” Fowler said. “The intent is to open all of those [interactive aspects] as soon as we feel like we can offer them safely to people.”
The library has currently employed the use of an electrostatic sprayer, which dispenses germicide across the facility. However, the library only has one machine that travels back and forth between the two locations. Fowler said another machine has been ordered but won’t be shipped until October at the earliest.
“I think we’re in the same position as the schools,” Fowler said. “A lot of other children gather and play in this area and we have to reach a point where we feel like we can offer these things safely to families.”
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