The Trove Children's Library in White Plains, New York, USA, opened in October 2005. It exemplifies an unusual trend in public library design for children – a theatrical space, more like a bookstore or children's museum. This library model generated a multitude of questions. Namely, what was the point of this particular design? How has it worked? How can traditional library services stand out in a digital world? And, finally, what has technology got to do with it?
A new library, or space within a library, is a huge opportunity to recast your purpose and reinvent your image. When we decided to renovate, so as to expand our children's library, some parents were surprised. It's already so nice, they said – so cheerful, so many books and such wonderful staff. We smiled and told them that it would be even better, and then thought hard about what that would mean. Some of us worry about the future of libraries, reading, cultural literacy and educational attainment. It is easy to see that a bright future in these areas has a logical connection to children who love reading, and who become adults and parents, who continue the cycle. But how do we make this happen? How do we compete in today's world?
Well, first, we reasoned, we have to get, and keep, their attention. Computers and electronic devices rule, and the younger you are, the truer this is, but maybe it is not all about technology. When you are little, it is all about curiosity and discovery, which can happen every which way. When you are little, you depend upon your parents to take you places, and you put pressure on your parents to take you back to your favourite ones. Getting the attention of families in a big way brought us back to our image, as expressed in our name, our appearance and the experience that we offer. It is all connected. We have the best tools –trained professionals and terrific resources – but we are competing with a complex, busy and well marketed world.
And, so, The Trove (definition: a collection of valuable items discovered or found) was born. As our children's manager said, during the decision over whether to take the leap of adopting this new name: ‘We can always be the children's library.’