SUBMITTED PHOTO Youth Services Librarian Bailey Mount, Library Director Jane Millard, Jefferson Public Library Board of Trustees member Adam Pedersen, Friends of the Library member Ada Ross, Rotary Club of Jefferson member Victoria Riley, Friends of the Library member Renee Carhill, Greene County Community Foundation Board members Linda Hedges and Bill Raney, and library patron Michelle Hanson.

Jefferson Public Library to hold open house in youth department

Special to the Jefferson Herald

The public is invited to an open house in the Youth Department at the Jefferson Public Library on Thursday, August 3 from 2 – 7 PM. Families that attend this come-and-go event can register to win a Back-to-School basket. The library will have several new items on display for children and their families to discover.

One such item is the After-Mouse Play Touch Table, a unique interactive learning and activity station with 13 educational and recreational games for children ages 5 and up.

​“We’re delighted to introduce our young patrons to a brand-new way to use our library,” said Bailey Mount, Youth Services Librarian. “Contemporary libraries are always striving to be responsive to changing community needs.”

This hands-on interactive table was purchased with a grant from the Greene County Community Foundation.  Matching funds were provided by the Friends of the Library, with additional funds from both Direct State Aid and the library’s operating budget.  

“Through our book sales and other fundraisers, the Friends organization supports our local library by funding items like this new resource for collaborative and social play,” said Friends of the Library President Jennifer Powers.

The table was manufactured in France and arrived just in time for summer. Children have enjoyed playing memory games, solving math puzzles, and even competing in friendly air hockey matches with their friends and families.

With this focus on learning through play, the After-Mouse Play Touch Table entices children to learn in creative ways that complement traditional book and experience learning. During play, children learn to share and take turns.  They learn how to problem solve, be creative, and analyze situations.  Play also supports positive attitudes toward imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm, persistence, and collaboration, the last of which makes it a source of excitement for local families like the Hansons.

“I love the idea that we could all play games together on it,” said mother Michelle, “and that the boys could play games together with other kids at the library.” She also said that she enjoys the “open and interactive” nature of the play touch table, as it allows her family to participate in shared screen time instead of the often “isolated” individual screen time.

The merit of this new form of screen time, added former President of the Library Board of Trustees and retired DMACC Professor of Psychology and Education Dr. Jane Martino, comes from the affect it has on the child both on and away from the table.  

“The child is introduced to ideas to explore further through other activities like books, puppets, and games to take home.” she said. “Our goal is for the patrons to explore the youth department and leave with something new to explore.”

While the new play touch table is an exciting and contemporary addition to the Youth Department, the library continues to add traditional – and updated – items to its ever-expanding catalog of resources for children.  Some of these updated items include Story Time and STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) kits.

These kits contain items such as books, games, songs, and other resources for toddlers to lower elementary school kids. STREAM kits teach children about early science, math and other concepts. Story Time kits teach children developmental skills through literacy and play with recognizable characters from children’s literature.

Each kit centers around a theme. Current STREAM kit themes include bugs – where children can learn about various insects and catch some using a bug kit – baking, farming, bilingual English-Spanish language learning, and outdoor summer exploration. Story Time kits include “Jammin’ Out with Pete the Cat”, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” and “The Pigeon Loves Things that Go!.”

All kits include at least 2 books, 1 laminated song sheet, and one or two activities that stimulate either an area of STREAM or child development.

While this will certainly be an exciting time at the Youth Department, parents will be pleased to learn that a far less stimulating item is being introduced as well: a Dark Den sensory tent. The Dark Den is a soothing area created to promote emotional and behavioral regulation for children with sensory disabilities.

According to the American School for the Deaf, spaces like the Dark Den provide not only “a sense of calm and comfort” for neurodivergent, deaf, and non-verbal children, they also help improve “visual, auditory and tactile processing, as well as fine and gross motor skills.”

For such children, the library exists not only as a place of information and recreation, but often as a loud and sometimes over-stimulating place.  With the addition of the Dark Den and other sensory items – like glow spheres, light up twist-and-turn spinning tops, colored stacking pebbles and more – the library becomes more accessible for such patrons and enables them to enjoy the library in a more accommodating way.

Additional resources that promote such standards include a new collection of titles focusing on neurodiversity and people with disabilities.

With a grant from the Jefferson Rotary Club, the Youth Department has added several new non-fiction books that teach about children, teens, and adults with autism, ADHD, blindness, deafness, Down syndrome, dyslexia, paraplegia, and more. Several children’s picture and fiction books – as well as young adult novels – featuring protagonists with disabilities have been added as well.

“As libraries continue to adapt and learn from the world around them, so do their resources in order to better reflect and serve their patrons.” said Library Director Jane Millard. “The Open House will give everyone an opportunity to see all of these new resources and also meet all the youth librarians. We’ll see you on August 3 from 2 – 7 PM!”

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