Mokena library goes high tech
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org August 8, 2012 11:06PM
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:55PM
Story hour just won’t be the same any more.
The Mokena Public Library is leading the way into a new adventure that will blend technology, learning and fun. Its children’s department, in the lower level, is temporarily closed while it undergoes a major evolution — a digital makeover.
“It’s important for libraries to stay relevant, to keep up with current technology,” director Cathy Palmer said.
Brian Pichman, the library’s information technology director, said Mokena is pioneering the route into the future of children’s libraries, and kids will be camping outside their doors just to be among the first to use the new gizmos that are designed to encourage exploration and interaction.
“We wanted to make sure that what we’re doing is not close to what any one else is doing,” Pichman said. So, library officials talked to patrons and other librarians and attended conferences before redesigning their space.
Books and DVDs will still be there and temporarily housed in the adjoining community room during the remodeling, which is expected to continue through mid-September.
Pichman and Dave Hesse, director of building operations, have begun to paint over the neutral walls with bright yellow, orange, blue, purple and red and take down shelves to make space for touch screen computer monitors.
The initial cost of the project was $165,000 and all work is being done by staff, Palmer said.
Hesse said he’s been “hammering on vendors” — some of whom are surprised to be selling to libraries — to get better prices on the new computerized equipment, knowing that with any money he saves the library can offer more.
The effort has been dubbed Project Evolve, because “we want the library to evolve into the future,” Pichman said.
And the very near future at Mokena Library will include a new gaming corner for the popular Wii and Xbox games, Smart Tables and Smart Boards, and many more techno-toys that will be appreciated by kids of all ages and available for checkout, including:
Sifteo cubes: A set of 6½-inch cubes that connect wirelessly to a computer and feature a variety of games and puzzles.
Sphero balls: Three-inch balls with a gyro inside that can be controlled remotely by any smart device or tablet. Pichman plans to install an obstacle course where kids can compete with their Sphero balls.
Lego WeDos robotic construction sets that can be combined with software, allowing kids to move them via computer.
Mokena Library will take story hour to whole new level as well. If patrons can’t make the set story hour, they can drop in at the beginning of any hour and view the story hour session via video projector in the Open Play Coliseum, formerly the Activity Room.
Here, the walls will be painted with dry erase paint so kids can draw a picture about a book they just read, and, they can record a review of the book while standing in front of their picture. Reviews will be made available via a QR code, so patrons can scan the code with one of the library’s tablets and read the review before checking out the book, Palmer said.
Shelves will be recycled and relocated, so books can be judged by their covers, and be checked out using a smart device or tablet, located at the ends of the book shelves.
The popular fish room will continue to house the 120 gallon fish tank, but will be known as the Chill Zone, a place where kids can take get comfy in a music chair.
The fish room has been a favorite place of Abigail and Joey Johnston, who peeked inside recently, where artist Jennifer Higgins was enlarging her mural of underwater sea life.
“We’re excited about all the new technology that’s taking place,” their mother Kelly Johnston said. “It will be inviting.”
And that’s precisely the idea, Hesse said. He also believes these new educational tools will appeal to teachers and homeschoolers.
Palmer estimated the library now sees 250 to 300 children per day, a number Hesse hopes to double once word gets out about all this new fun stuff at the Mokena library. “The more the merrier,” he said. “The library will become a social center.”
Palmer concurred. “It will be a great environment to hang out with your friends,” she said.