Standing at just a few feet tall with a backpack strapped on, 7-year-old Jimmy Hayes slipped through the crowd at the entrance to the updated children’s section of the Napa County Library to witness the section’s grand re-opening on Tuesday.
“Obviously, I wanted to see how they cut the ribbon,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy said that he really enjoys coming to the library to check out books, mostly from the graphic novel section, and to play a robot-obstacle course game on the computers. He said he likes the library even more now that it’s been “improved.”
“I really like it,” Jimmy said. The children’s library looks brighter than before and, he said, features lights that look like alien saucers. His favorite thing, though, is the “secret door for kids.”
There are two public entries into the section – one for adults and one for children. The side-by-side doorways are bordered wood carved into the shape of trees. The shorter entrance – the one for “kids” – is tucked on the side of a larger entrance under a three-dimensional (pretend) tree branch.
Entering the room is supposed to be like entering a forest. The tree theme continues into the section all the way to some carved window panels in an extended open space area. Green patches on the new, textured gray carpeting are meant to emulate moss on the forest floor and lights throughout the section are modeled after lily pads found in nature.
The inspiration for the theme was a mural by Cathryne Trachok that was unveiled in the library in 2003. In the image, trees are made from the spines of classic books while characters from those books float, row and scurry through the forest.
“We really wanted was some way to differentiate that this room was children’s,” said Ann Davis, head of children’s services. “We wanted it to be imaginative and inspirational – we feel like we did that.”
One of the most noticeable changes is the lighting, Davis said.
“It is so much more appealing and helpful,” she said. The new lights, which are brighter and more fun, replaced harsh fluorescent lighting. The new lights are controlled by regional dimmers so that librarians can customize the ambiance depending on what programming is happening in the section.
The children’s room has at least five regular programs each week as well as a study center three days a week during the school year, Davis said.
There are still computers designated for homework and color-coded computers used for other programs, but now they’re each in their own section. Catalog computers are more easily identified now, too, since they’ve been elevated and are in with the collection.
Mariana Perez, 9, said that she uses the various computers to play games, do research or to look for a book that she can’t find on the shelves.
Perez, who sometimes visits the library with her grandfather, said that she likes the new design.
“I like those lanterns,” she said, pointing to the ceiling.
“It’s a lot brighter than before,” said Emaline Reinsimar, 12. The library looks and feels bigger, she said. “I like it a lot more.”
Children’s librarian Althea Kent just started at the library last year, but has been patronizing it since she was a child. She’s most excited about the addition of more skylights because it well help during programs like sensory story time.
“I really like how open it feels and how much brighter it seems,” Kent said. “It’s changed a lot from when I remember being a kid but it still has the same, nice homey feeling.”
Parents appreciated the lighter, brighter section and new design, too. The adults benefit from additional seating close to new manipulatives designed for younger children, a centralized help desk and self-checkout stations.
“As parents it’s really nice to see the library … investing in kids’ things in Napa,” said Michael Palmer who was visiting the library with his wife and three children.
It took five years of planning and about nine months of construction, but it was worth the wait, Davis said.
“It’s so beautiful that it all came together,” she said. “I’m extremely happy and so appreciative.”