Blogger Abby Johnson

Poking Around NPL at #PLA2020

What’s the first thing a librarian attending #PLA2020 does when they arrive in Nashville? Locate the main branch of the local library system and poke around, of course!*

And I have to say, the Nashville Public Library has an amazing space. The children’s area is bright and colorful and has MANY installations that encourage active play. There were so many touches of whimsy throughout and you can tell that the staff there really care about kids and want to provide a space that inspires curiosity. I was especially impressed by the intentionality that permeated every aspect of their space. You can tell that it was designed for a child audience and that a LOT of thought was put into their renovation 4 years ago. And yes, that’s a book drop designed to look like the Nashville Public Library.

I loved these little doorways built into the stacks in the picture book area. Each one is different and they are all based on Nashville buildings, which I think is such a neat way to incorporate a sense of belonging in the community into the space, as well as being welcoming and accepting of the littlest readers.

They have a tiny climbing wall — and LOOK! — the handholds are letters and animals. While my heart has palpitations to some extent at thinking about managing an installation that’s THIS active, it’s actually pretty darn brilliant. No need to climb on stuff you’re not supposed to climb (like bookshelves) when there’s a dedicated, fun, colorful, safe place for you to climb to your heart’s content. And you can’t really tell from the photo, but the whole thing is about 5 feet tall, so not super dangerous for littles and I would imagine not super tempting for kids too old for the area.

They have a huge, gorgeous puppet theater and…

Again, I love how intentional it is. You can tell that they really thought about how the space would be used. Notice that there’s seating for adults all around the outside of the room to allow space for large numbers of kids on the floor. They have a clever little rope on the floor surrounding the stage to clearly designate a child-no-fly-zone. And design details like the ceiling beams and the raw wood pillars just make it seem magical in there.

I spotted this quick, easy survey on our way out of the teen makerspace. What a brilliant way to measure impact without harshing anyone’s buzz or assigning staff time to creating and handing out surveys. This is not only easy for teens to do and easy for staff to manage, but it collects real, measurable impact to share with stakeholders.

Thanks to the Nashville Public Library for being super welcoming and accommodating. We were very impressed by their friendly staff who were happy to stop and chat about their lovely space with us. Want to see more? My co-blogger Lisa has already posted about some of the whimsical touches and fun playthings in the library, so make sure you check out her post.

*This may not be the first thing every librarian does, but judging by how many librarians we saw walking around together, I am not the lone nerd who gets excited about visiting other library spaces.

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