The Morrison Regional Library is back open after being closed for a year and a half for renovation, and that’s great news for Mamas (and some Papas too). It reopened Dec. 16, just in time for that frigid weather spell when parents like me were desperately seeking indoor outlets for cooped-up kids.
Just a few steps into the front door and it’s immediately obvious how much the renovation was geared toward parents and pre-school children who come to the full slate of “Storytime” classes for babies, toddlers and families.
“Our largest demographic is families with preschool children,” said Susan Green, manager for the Morrison Regional Library. “…Most months we have more people at our Storytimes than any other branch, including ImaginOn.”
Green said HVAC and mechanical issues precipitated the $8 million renovation but improving the children’s area was one of its biggest benefits.
The beautiful new facility has a larger children’s play area and a bright and spacious new room used specifically for Storytime; no more getting kicked into another area of the library by early voting. The room is light and bright, clean and safe – I couldn’t help but envy the bank of cabinets with locks on the doors to keep colorful books and crafts out of reach of tiny toddler hands.
The children’s play area in the main room of the library still has the familiar book house and a fully stocked “supermarket,” but stationed throughout now are manipulatives, which are toys that teach hand-eye coordination, and four new computers with educational games geared specifically toward toddlers.
A family restroom has been added, as well as what Green said they called a nursing room at first. Now library staffers are calling it a “calming” room. Nothing scares a parent in a public library like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Now you have a room complete with glider chair, games and puzzles where you can escape and regroup.
The staffers at Morrison are super nice and accommodating, even to a clueless new twin mom who (ahem) thought she could bring a double stroller with newborn twins along with her 2-year-old to the toddler class so as to stay on a feeding schedule. (The librarian told me strollers weren’t allowed in the room, but I could bring mine in this once. Ultimately I decided to take the car seats out of the stroller and carry the babies into the room in their little “buckets,” which worked out fine. Thankfully they slept the whole time!)
It’s easy to see why so many families kept going to Storytime even while Morrison was closed and they had to take it on the road. Green said their numbers stayed strong even at Carmel Presbyterian Church and Sharon Presbyterian Church.
Now we get the benefit of that same dedicated staff, a strong reading program and a new building to boot, back in the convenient South Park location. (Did we mention the Morrison branch is within a short drive of several Starbucks, which is key for sleep-deprived moms?!)
“We’ve had really nice turnout so far for our Storytimes, and I think overall people are really happy with it,” said Walker Doermann, children’s manager for the library.
That goes for me too. My oldest son Wade has been to Storytime at Morrison a handful of times now and loves it. He spends the rest of the day pointing to hand stamps he got at there, reliving the memory of it all. He’s typically very shy, but this past week he finally got the nerve up to leave my lap and walk right up to Doermann as she was teaching the class (see photo). Thank goodness she didn’t seem to mind the distraction and kept right on with her program.
These teachers don’t mess around, and that’s a great thing.
“I want people to know our storytellers prepare these specific programs,” Green said. “They always have an objective. They don’t just do the same ones over and over. They seek out new materials. They seek out new ideas. They really work at it, and I think people appreciate that authenticity…
“I think they also like the socialization,” Green said. “There’s no doubt that the moms and the nannies come, some dads too and just talk. It’s a place for people to connect. And they have a common interest in that they have children of the same ages. It’s great, we encourage that too.”
Something else to watch out for now at Morrison is a new program called “Active Reading” that promotes engaging your kids during the reading experience. A four-week session starts Wednesday, Jan. 17. For more information on that and the Storytime schedules, go to www.cmlibrary.org.