New Glen Ellyn library youth department lets kids be loud

The new youth department at the Glen Ellyn Public Library has a few messages written on its colorful walls for kids who think they have to whisper or tiptoe between shelves.

Play. Learn. Be yourself.

Youngsters and their parents can turn the page on stuffy library etiquette when they walk under an arched entrance and into a bright department that reopened this week after a $1.1 million renovation.

Tweens can even draw on the walls (OK, the chalkboard ones).

"I think one of the most fun compliments we've received recently has been that this feels kind of like a children's museum," Youth Department Director Renee Grassi said.

And families treated it like one, especially in the department's bigger play area. Lego and magnet walls, a puppet theater, and a light table are meant to engage kids and their senses. The littler ones can test drive a wheel or peer into a mirror - both attached to book cases at their height.

"All children learn through sensory play," Grassi said. "If they get their senses involved, a lot more happens with brain development."

The library began the remodel in September, hoping to create a more inviting and interactive department and draw more middle schoolers who felt they didn't really have a space all their own within the existing footprint. Now they can study, work on crafts and play video games from comfy chairs in a room affectionately called "The Middle."

"This is really a space just for them," Grassi says.

The project stayed on schedule and on budget, but required librarians and some collections to temporarily move into meeting rooms.

Over about four months, the makeover brought new fixtures with LED lights, carpeting, furniture, outlets - "new everything," Grassi said.

On the tech side, five computers were added, and a second 3-D printer will arrive in January.

"It's really a transformation," she said.

Parents recognized that, too, pulling Grassi aside Tuesday to say "wow" or "this is great."

"Everybody is just really pleased with the modern look of the department and the updated finishes and just the layout," she said.

Cases are now arranged diagonally and shelves face out so book worms can browse titles by cover.

"Books really sell themselves with the cover, so we wanted to highlight our great collections," Grassi said. " ... They're just flying off the shelves."

The library will host a celebration of the new department with a performer, storytime and other activities 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 30.

"We can't wait to continue to welcome people back into a space that we feel really suits their needs and is fun and educational and engaging for the whole family," Grassi said.

  The youth department has reopened at the Glen Ellyn Public Library following a $1.1 million renovation. Daniel White/
  While playing with Legos, Brayden Wang, 1, of Glen Ellyn, watches other activities in the renovated youth department at the Glen Ellyn Public Library. Daniel White/
  "This is really a space just for them," Youth Department Director Renee Grassi says of a new room for middle schoolers. Daniel White/
  Glen Ellyn mom Mimi Cunningham and her son, Joey, 7, leave the reopened youth department with stacks of books. Daniel White/
  Mimi Cunningham and her 7-year-old son, Joey, check out titles from the youth department of the Glen Ellyn Public Library. Daniel White/
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