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No grown-ups allowed

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[July 16, 2012]

No grown-ups allowed

ASHLAND, Jul 16, 2012 (The Daily Independent - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Bright colors, a big comfy reading chair and reachable shelves make the newly remodeled children's section of the Boyd County Public Library child-friendly.

Not that the children notice. They're too busy pulling books and puzzles off the shelves, spreading them out on the tables and curling up in the chair to read.

They don't care that the orange reading chair is capacious enough for a parent and a kid or two and made of sturdy, washable material. They don't give much thought to the new three-section tables that are low to the ground and nest in threes or separate for individual activities.

The new colors that brighten formerly drab storage units also escape their notice. Chances are none of the children will comment when the replacement aquarium comes in, as long as the fish keep swimming.

The children are paying attention to more important things: "They've got the best books I ever saw," said 8-year-old Andrew Webb, who was turning the pages of a dinosaur pop-up book and shrugged off questions about the decor.

Not a problem, according to library Director Debbie Cosper. "'Let's go to the library' is what we want to hear," said Cosper. "Our vision was that it's about the kids and keeping everything accessible to them, not about what makes things easier for the staff." The changes have been in the works for several years. Grown-ups who enter the downstairs enclave may note the geometric theme that unifies the decor: the whimsical triangles in the upholstery pattern of the reading chair, the square cutouts in the smaller chair seatbacks, the circles formed when the activity tables are pushed together.

They may approve of the new puzzle and toy shelves that keep items organized in neat plastic bins instead of the buckets that previously cluttered the floor.

Even the computer desk is child-friendly: library rules prohibit adults from using the computers in the children's section without a child present. And that means a child at the computer, not across the room reading or playing, Cosper said.

Soon to come will be a new aquarium; it will be at least as large as the 250-gallon tank that has been a focal point for more than 25 years. "It's very popular," Cosper said.

Its replacement will be located in the same area, viewable from a porthole in the anteroom. Filtering equipment and other machinery will be upgraded.

Older children share in the improvements; an iPod and laptop area will accommodate their ubiquitous electronics. It is important to find ways to make older children feel at home in the library, Cosper said. They need a space that is a bit more sophisticated than the little children's area but where they still can talk and giggle and not get shushed.

"You have to feel wanted or you're not going to want to come back," Cosper said.

The changes come at a time when the library is experiencing record usage. Last month more than 45,000 items were checked out, the single highest monthly amount ever. And this year's summer reading program is the biggest ever, with 850 children signed up.

By the first week in August the library will roll out its self-check service, including in the children's department, which until now has been hampered by the necessity of taking materials to the main desk for checkout.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

___ (c)2012 The Daily Independent (Ashland, Ky.) Visit The Daily Independent (Ashland, Ky.) at www.dailyindependent.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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