Bloomingdale library's new Calming Space offers serenity to visitors

Many options were considered when Bloomingdale Public Library officials decided to convert an underutilized computer lab.

Offering serenity to a stressed community topped the list.

As part of a burgeoning trend throughout the country, the Bloomingdale library recently opened a Calming Space for patrons needing a private area to calm a child, breastfeed a baby or take a moment for themselves.

While not yet common in the suburbs, reflection rooms, Zen dens, sensory spots and calming spaces loom on the horizon as word spreads about the benefits of providing the unique amenity, library experts say.

Even though the Bloomingdale library's Calming Space is in the Youth Services Department and has many features geared toward children, the room is open to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis.

“These are not in a lot of public libraries yet, but I feel like this is the way it's going to go,” said Katie Richert, the head of the library's Youth Services Department. “A lot of people are talking about it. There are a lot of libraries in the beginning stages of them, but they don't necessarily have a concrete room yet.”

Reaching out

Lessa Pelayo-Lozada, president of the American Library Association, has seen quiet rooms rise to the top of wish lists for library officials wanting to reach more people in the community.

“We're always looking to make sure we're including all members of our community, and one of the really important things is to identify who maybe is not coming to the library, and figuring out how we can serve them,” said Pelayo-Lozada, the assistant manager for the Palos Verdes Library District in Southern California. “Within the last five to eight years or so, making sure we're meeting the needs of our neuro-divergent community is becoming more important.”

Pelayo-Lozada said different libraries are offering different types of quiet rooms. While college libraries focus on study relief, children's libraries are looking at sensory therapy for youths with autism.

Purple or blue lighting is popular in the rooms along with comfortable furniture. For children, rooms are often filled with activity centers, fidget toys and plush items.

The Bloomingdale library's room was furnished thanks to a gift from the estate of Dominic Froio. There's an activity table and an oversized chair so parents and children can sit together.

The room has the only dimmer lights in the library and windows that soon will have coverings. Renovations began in January, but the Calming Space didn't open until mid-July due to supply-chain issues.

“This room is very awkwardly shaped,” Richert said. “So I can't do programming in it. This worked out well for us. We think it will better suit our patrons' needs.”

In progress

Because the idea of a Calming Space is relatively new, flexibility is key. Richert said it's designed with decor and furnishings that can be switched out based on community needs.

But only a few examples in the area — such as the sensory rooms at the Skokie and Orland Park libraries, and the Respite Room at the DuPage Children's Museum — offer inspiration to draw upon. Feedback will be important as people use the Calming Space more in the coming months.

“We want people to feel comfortable and welcome in the library,” Richert said. “Now that school is back in session, we hope to see it utilized more.”

Quiet rooms spreading to other area libraries likely will depend on available space in crowded buildings, Pelayo-Lozada said. The only reason the Bloomingdale library created its space, Richert said, was because the local school districts began distributing laptops to every student and a computer lab was no longer necessary.

As new libraries are built and others are renovated, Zen dens and reflection rooms could become more popular.

“It's really difficult to dedicate a whole space like this and then manage it once it becomes popular,” Pelayo-Lozada said.

“But as libraries look toward remodeling and reinventing their spaces, I see this as being more important and more of a priority.”

  As part of the Bloomingdale Public Library's recently opened Calming Space, there's a table for activities and an oversized chair for parents to share with their children. Brian Hill/
  The Bloomingdale Public Library recently opened a Calming Space room for patrons in need of a private area to calm a child, breastfeed a baby or just take a serene moment for themselves. Brian Hill/
  While rooms like the Bloomingdale Public Library's recently opened Calming Space are not common in the suburbs, library experts say the quiet rooms are becoming more popular throughout the country. Brian Hill/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.