A new focal point: Arlington Heights library plans interactive light feature for remodeled kids' section

  • The Arlington Heights Memorial Library plans to install The Everbright -- a wall of hundreds of illuminated analog dials that rotates through 158 different colors -- inside its renovated children's department.

    The Arlington Heights Memorial Library plans to install The Everbright -- a wall of hundreds of illuminated analog dials that rotates through 158 different colors -- inside its renovated children's department. Courtesy of Hero Design LLC

  • The Arlington Heights Memorial Library may soon be home to an interactive light wall display inside the children's department. Officials say it would serve as a focal point where parents and kids could learn and explore together.

    The Arlington Heights Memorial Library may soon be home to an interactive light wall display inside the children's department. Officials say it would serve as a focal point where parents and kids could learn and explore together. Courtesy of Hero Design LLC

 
 
Updated 3/5/2022 8:45 AM

The Arlington Heights Memorial Library is planning a $400,000 refresh of its children's department, highlighted by an interactive digital wall feature that would be the center of attention.

Architects are drawing up designs for a remodeling of the section commonly known as Kids' World in an effort to improve experiences, engagement and developmental flow for youth, tweens and families, officials said.

 

Plans call for parceling the space into at least three different "zones" based on age groups: toddlers and preschoolers, grades K-3, and all ages/families. The upgrades would include a more defined entryway, possibly with sliding doors; an all-gender family restroom; a wellness room for nursing; a snack area to consume food; and adding sinks to the existing Lindsey Room.

But library officials say the focal point would be the interactive zone, featuring free-standing and wall-mounted elements that families could explore together.

Many of the elements are like what one might see in a children's museum, said Andy Dogan, principal and director of library design and planning for Williams Architects, which is redesigning the space for the library.

Among the items being considered: a virtual play floor that projects images onto the ground, similar to the one installed last year at Naperville's Nichols Library; movable marker boards for tweens; and The Everbright, a wall of hundreds of illuminated analog dials that rotates through 158 different colors.

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Library spokeswoman Mary Hastings said the Arlington Heights Memorial Library Foundation is funding the interactive features, including The Everbright.

Made by Sacramento, California-based Hero Design LLC, the light feature retails for $50,000 plus installation, and is the highest cost item being considered, Dogan said.

The Friends of the Library have also committed to purchasing some interactive pieces, but those haven't yet been finalized, Hastings said.

Both the Friends and Foundation contributed items to the library's 8,000-square-foot Makerplace branch, a do-it-yourself collaborative workspace at 112 N. Belmont Ave. that opened last September.

During a conceptual review of the Kids' World refresh in December, library board members and staff generally expressed support for the addition of the light wall to the library -- as long as the Foundation pays for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"If somebody donates $50,000 for an Everbright, I got no questions," said Trustee John Supplitt. "But if it's coming out of our pocket, then I have to ask, 'Why?'"

"I think that we are looking for that flashier thing to bring people in, and we're considering this to kind of be the focal point," said Trixie Dantis, the library's youth services manager.

Trustee Deb Smart said the light wall can foster social skills for children creating designs together. When viewing one elsewhere, she witnessed a father teaching his son how to play chess on it.

"This is not going to be a trend. This is like Legos. They're going to be around forever," Smart said. "This is an educational tool that is immense, and it's very powerful, and I'm all for it."

The library has budgeted $400,000 for the renovation project. Without the interactive features, costs are estimated to be between $311,000 and $388,000, Dogan said in December.

The board formally inked a $29,850 contract with Williams Architects in December, and a $40,950 agreement with Shales McNutt Construction in February to serve as construction manager.

Under a preliminary timetable, construction bids would be awarded in April or May, work would begin after Labor Day and be completed by the end of the year.

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