Kids’ Zone begins new chapter at Park Forest library
BY JOANNE VON ALROTH Correspondent September 27, 2012 4:18PM
The Park Forest Library on Saturday will celebrate the grand opening of its new Kids Zone. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 27, 2012 10:55PM
Thinking about going to the library has Eddie Green more than a little excited.
Not just any library, however. For the last several months, the 13-year-old has kept an eager eye on the Park Forest Public Library’s youth section renovation, even calling the library to ask when it would be ready.
The answer: Come Saturday, the library’s new Kids’ Zone officially will open.
“I’m a lot excited,” said Green, a student at Forest Trail Junior High School. “I can’t wait to go and try the games and stuff.”
While most libraries have dedicated children’s sections, Kids’ Zone is anything but ordinary. It will cover nearly half of the library, and has bells and whistles that might make adults envious.
Designed to serve children from infants to teens, the 15,000-square-foot zone includes a padded play area for babies and toddlers, a Lego construction area, a miniature train station, games, puzzles, a crafts area, a puppet theater, a stage stocked with costumes, an expanded computer area and a laptop bar with three stations.
Decorated in bold tangerine, pistachio and turquoise colors, and with a changeable mural, the redesigned section will display books with their covers facing outward to entice young patrons to sit down and read.
Green isn’t the only one keyed up about Kids’ Zone.
“People are really eager. We’ve been getting five to 10 phone calls and inquiries about it weekly,” said Miranda Bell, a project coordinator. Staff members also are thrilled, interim library coordinator Mark Krahn said, and the library expects a boost in the circulation of its materials.
“Other libraries have components of Kids’ Zone, but this is broader scale — it’s like a children’s museum with books,” library director Barbara Byrne Osuch said. “It’s important for libraries to be vibrant and not static, and with Kids’ Zone, we’re doing that. It’s right there as you walk in, inviting kids to come in, stay and get creative.”
The re-do was sparked by an interactivity panel Osuch saw last fall at the annual Illinois Library Association conference. Inspired, she took the staff on a field trip to see the Waukegan Public Library’s new interactive youth section and then persuaded the Park Forest Library Board to green-light the project and hire Library Furniture International, of Northbrook, to helm the design. The renovation began last winter.
The timing was right, too. The $130,000 installation comes on the heels of a $1.7 million overhaul of the entire 50-year-old library in 2011. The library renovation was completed under budget, and Kids’ Zone was built using surplus funds, Osuch said.
Grown-ups shouldn’t feel short-shrifted, she said. The library next will focus on upgrading and rebranding the adult section.
Meanwhile, children in Park Forest and Olympia Fields will be getting a leg up in Kids’ Zone, said Charlotte Green, Eddie’s mother.
“It will really give local kids an advantage; there will be so much more for them to do,” she said.
The grand-opening celebration begins at noon Saturday and will feature music, crafts, prizes, a puppet show and appearances by children’s literary characters Frog and Toad.
For more information, call (708) 748-3731 or visit www.pfpl.org.