Here’s a round-up of Arrowhead Library System Mini Grants that have been completed in 2019 at Two Harbors Public Library, Cook Public Library, and Grand Rapids Area Library:

Project: New Seating in the Children’s Area

Feedback from Katie Sundstrom, Two Harbors Public Library

Our children’s area has only had one wooden picnic bench for children’s seating for several years now.  The picnic bench had started falling apart, and the screws were too stripped to hold together well anymore.  It was also large and unwieldy, and we couldn’t use the benches separately for program seating either because it was all one piece.  Our goal was to replace it with a sturdy, steel-reinforced, colorful children’s sized table with individual chairs.  The new seating would then take up less space, be multi-functional, allow for easy rearranging, and brighten the children’s area.  The table and chairs were already being used by families the first day we had them out.  They take up less space than the old picnic table and benches, making it easier for kids to browse the children’s DVDs and play around the play store.  The chairs are small and lightweight; kids have already been dragging them around the children’s area to accommodate their own needs and preferences, thus expanding their interactive play throughout the whole children’s area.  This is the first time we’ve had chairs specifically sized for our youngest patrons, and they love having something just their size.  Also, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback about the bright green color; folks have been associating it with fun, which is good to hear.

We consider this project a success.  Children have been actively using the new table and chairs, and even involving the chairs in their play throughout the rest of the children’s area, including use with the play store, the train table, and creating a family reading circle.  These are new possibilities that they didn’t have before, and it is great to see them getting more active and involved in setting-up and using their own space.  Patrons have been commenting as well, with one even mentioning that the new bright green color reminds him of Kermit the Frog; it’s great to hear our patrons thinking of the new colorful set-up as cute and fun.

Project: Accessibility Tools

Feedback from Crystal Phillips, Cook Public Library 

Based on the recommendations from the Inclusive Library Services presentation by Renee Grassi, the Cook Public Library purchased accessibility tools to help and accommodate visitors to the library.  Accessibility products include Price Ion Audio Portable PA System, Zen Sands Relaxus Art Display, Infantile Sensory Press and Stay Blocks, Gel Pad Element for tactile handwriting, Descending Bubbles Liquid Timer, Beadeez Spiky Stress Ball, Infinity Cube, Sensory Tangles, and Earmuffs/Hearing Protectors.

These accessibility tools have already helped library visitors of all ages have a positive experience in the library.  The tactile toys are a hit with kids and adults.  The Gel Pads and Tangle Toys have been used by children waiting for performances and during story times.  The Squishy Stress Balls and Sensory Blocks are in our children’s area and have been helpful for those who could not sit through an entire performance.  The Zen Sand Art and Motion Bubbler are located at the front desk where visitors are able to watch them while they wait.  The portable PA system will be used during our Summer Reading Talent Show and Picnic and during the Teen Overnight.  The accessibility tools have been used daily since they have arrived.  The kids noticed the new toys in the children’s area right away.  Staff appreciate having calming resources available throughout the library.  We’ve had positive comments from visitors of all age groups.

Project:  Reading Bar

Feedback from Will Richter, Grand Rapids Area Library

Grand Rapids Library and Facilities staff re-purposed old reference shelving to create a reading bar for library patrons with a spectacular view of the river.  Patrons have a dedicated, comfortable spot to enjoy our diverse newspaper collection (the Reading Bar is adjacent to the newspaper stacks).  Library patrons have a large surface to spread out and read the paper.  With the addition of a carpeted step (or foot rest), it is a comfortable spot too.  In addition to utility, the Reading Bar has a great view of the Mississippi River.  Reference desk staff (who are in close proximity to the Reading Bar) tallied 62 “customers at the bar” over a two week period – including Saturdays.  Starting from nothing – we’re up to about 5 users a day.  Given that most use seems to be in the morning, we are going to purchase 2 more high stools.