ROCK SPRINGS — The Rock Springs Library on C Street is embarking on an exciting transformation that will provide new fun and educational experiences for the children of Sweetwater County.
The library has joined forces with the City of Rock Springs, private businesses, and volunteers to launch a Children’s Discovery Center in the lower level of the building. The Discovery Center will include exhibits with hands-on exploration and an environment rich in materials that inspire imagination. Younger children will be able to play in stores and offices in a miniature town. Older children will be fully immersed in science, technology, and building activities.
Libraries across the nation are rethinking library space looking to provide new and different learning opportunities for children. They are now and will continue to be more than just a place for books. They are a place to learn, to play, and to grow.
“The library system has been trying to come up with something for a while,” said Library Director Jason Grubb. “The recently remodeled Louise Wesswick Learn and Play Room at the Rock Springs Library was a small attempt. This room is regularly open for free play. When longtime resident Jana Pastor approached us about setting up a children’s museum at the library we knew there was an opportunity – and it’s a great opportunity. Not to lose a library or replace a library, but to follow a national trend and offer additional services. The Children’s Discovery Center is the perfect concept. It weds traditional library services with new and interesting ways of learning. We are very excited.”
Other libraries across the country have added similar spaces. The Queens Library in NYC created a discovery space in their library in 2011. The Harrison Public Library in New York also provides a discovery space. The Dallas Public Library has a Discovery wall for children to learn about their world. The Alhambra Library in California created a Discovery Center in their library with a focus on STEM learning. Even the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne has interactive toys and exhibits similar to what one might find in a children’s museum set up in their children’s department. It is a growing trend among libraries to rethink library spaces and look for ways to provide new and different ways for children to learn and interact with the library.
“Play, especially constructive play, is particularly important for the future of programming,” said Andrew Medlar, a librarian and former President of the Association for Library Service to Children. “The esteemed Mr. Rogers said that play is the work of childhood and just as libraries help adults with workforce development, this is the way we help children with their work.”
In order to add the Discovery Center, the building’s space will be rearranged. “But don’t worry, we will continue to provide books, DVDs, and other services at the library — the space will just look different,” Grubb said.
In addition to the generous donations made by local businesses, the library also received grants from the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation and the Wyoming Community Foundation that will be used to purchase a modular exhibit framework and wind exhibit. The Flexhibit modular platform enables exhibits to be changed as funds become available to purchase new exhibits. The Rocky Mountain Power Foundation is one of the largest utility-endowed foundations in the United States. The foundation was created in 1988 by PacifiCorp, an electric utility serving 1.8 million customers in six Western states as Rocky Mountain Power (Utah, Wyoming and Idaho) and Pacific Power (Oregon, Washington and California). The foundation’s mission, through charitable investments, is to support the growth and vitality of the communities served by Rocky Mountain Power and Pacific Power. For more information, visit www.rockymountainpower.net/foundation or www.pacificpower.net/foundation.
The addition of the Children’s Discovery Center will take a bit of time to complete, but the library staff is currently working to rearrange the space, so patrons will see immediate movement. The hope is to open the Discovery Center in the summer of 2020.
For updates on the progress of this project, follow the Sweetwater County Library System on Facebook at facebook.com/sweetlibraries.