WILLIAMSBURG — On Monday, June 7, Williamsburg Regional Library (WRL) announced the debut of the new children’s section in the James City County building, 7770 Croaker Rd., with a grand opening celebration scheduled for June 26.
A project that began with renovations in 2019, what the space has been transformed into is one that is both engaging and encourages the twin literary skills of reading and playing.
Now called the Kiwanis Kids Idea Studio, the section incorporates the library’s collection of books, DVDs, and other materials with a children’s museum-like atmosphere, which has different interactive elements for children to engage with.
“The Idea Studio reimagines what a children’s library can be,” said Betsy Fowler, the library’s director.
The new space will be the first of its kind in Virginia with its interactive digital play table and Awesome Air Tubes, which are interconnected pneumatic tubes that transport a ball throughout the contraption.
Other features which are included are a floor projection play area, a LEGO wall, microscope station, giant illuminated pixel peg wall, a moveable magnetic gear wall, and a ball wall with an assortment of various magnetic ramps, spinners, shoots, and other contraptions in which children are encouraged to rearrange in order to explore the various concepts of kinetic energy.
Children will also enjoy the studio’s “Village,” which features a house with furniture that was supplied by Carolina Furniture Company, an imaginary veterinary clinic furnished by Noah’s Ark Veterinary Hospital, a market supplied with plastic groceries that were supplied by Publix Super Market. This will be the first time that Publix has supported a market play area in a library. Additionally, the current story time room will double as an art studio, complete with tables, craft supplies, and easels.
While designing this new space, the library was very careful to make sure that it is an inclusive space, with elements that appeal to children with neurodiversities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, and varying learning styles.
Bookshelves have been arranged so they remain a focus of the new studio, with displays and shelves intermixed with the varying play elements. The idea is that the books and materials compliment the activities in which they are near.
“We’re excited to be pioneering this approach to integrating play and reading,” said Fowler.
The project has been paid for through the support of both public and private funding initiatives. Sponsors include James City County Capital Improvements Projects, WRL Board of Trustees, and fundraising through the Friends of WRL. Additionally, money was provided by three local and one regional Kiwanis club organizations, along with support from other businesses and private donations.
WRL is inviting the community to celebrate the Kids Kiwanis Idea Studio’s Grand Opening on Saturday, June 26 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., which will be in conjunction with the the launch of the 2021 Summer Reading program, which returns this year after having to be held online in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other activities throughout the day will include: barrel train rides, inflatable obstacle course and bounce house with slide, live unicorn, spin art, face painting, a wheel of prizes, family-friendly music, and free sno-cones and popcorn (while supplies last).