Bookworms find a remodeled library

Claremont’s littlest bookworms have found home just in time for the holidays with the recent soft reopening of the Claremont Public Library’s children’s section.

The library welcomed local kids to cozy new digs last week following a long-awaited $125,000 remodel, made possible in part by a hefty donation from The Friends of the Claremont Library. Years of dreaming and planning between The Friends and library staff became reality in September when the children’s section closed for renovation, the first time the local library’s kids’ section has received a significant update since its doors opened in 1975, according to The Friends.

While the space itself remains comfortably familiar for its regular patrons—books and games galore—frequent librarygoers are happy to see a few notable changes like fresh carpeting, more play areas and new interactive gear such as new computers and toys, a new kitchen set a popular addition among the mix. With a little dab of paint and an interior tweak or two, the local library is helping kids feel at home among the books.

“We want children to feel comfortable and have the desire to come back,” Mr. Escobar-Matute said. “I think we have achieved that in making a much more inviting space.”

Claremont resident Jessica Alampay and her daughter Catalina, 3, have found the public library a welcome oasis outside the comforts of their home. Though Ms. Alampay and Catalina have visited other libraries, the Claremont library’s children’s section remains their favorite mainly because of its layout.

“I like that the children’s section is sort of secluded from the rest of the library,” Ms. Alampay said. “I’m always conscious of our noise level and whether or not we are bothering other people. Here, it’s never a concern. I feel very comfortable.”

The renovation has now provided Ms. Alampay with added incentive. Part of The Friends’ plans for the remodeled space included bolstering the section’s reading nooks and creating further opportunities for library patrons to interact. New tables and chairs create a comfortable space for those looking to sit down with a book. A play area with additional sitting space among the toys provides a place for families to connect. Ms. Alampay was pleased to join in another library patron’s impromptu Spanish storytime in the play area’s gathering space before attending the weekly Wednesday Toddler Storytime session.

“It’s awesome that we now have the space to do these kinds of things,” Ms. Alampay expressed. “It’s a huge gift that has been given to us.”

Beyond the brand-new furniture and added sitting space, Claremont’s kids corner features the  county’s first Interactive Wall. Designed by the Burgeon Group, the colorful play piece—adorned with butterflies, flowers and birds—is not just visually appealing, but also helps kids develop pre-literacy skills through play. Levers and cranks activate wheels and gadgets within the wall while kids familiarize themselves with the ABCs and other speech-centered activities affixed to the outside of the display.

One-year-old Winston Yen might be too young to appreciate the intricacies of the wall, but the colorful panel has quickly become his favorite activity at the local library, according to mom Tiffany Yen. “He loves the colors and the spinning wheels,” she shared.

Spending time with her son and seeing him enjoy himself aren’t the only benefits Ms. Yen receives from her weekly jaunts to the library.

 “My son loves the toys and the books and I have the chance to check out some books for myself too,” she said. “It’s good for both of us.”

The children’s section renovation also comes with a new lineup of programming in addition to the usual storytime sessions and other activities. Along with the upgraded facade, the library is introducing Family Place, part of a Libraries for the Future initiative adopted in 1996. Family Place offers parents resources for early childhood development, from providing a place for parents and children to interact, to offering expert-led workshops on nutrition, speech and language therapy and others.

“The first teacher for any child is his or her parent,” Mr. Escobar-Matute recognized. “We want the library to be a place where parents can come to strengthen that bond with their child and provide resources for that learning.”

Though the children’s section is bustling with bookworms again, the renovation team is still putting finishing touches on the remodel. The Friends Past President Laura Bollinger noted it was important to open the children’s area as soon as possible because it is so popular. A formal re-opening ceremony will be held on January 18th at 10 a.m. County representatives including Representative Gloria Molina, who helped contribute to the renovation fund,  and County Librarian Margaret Todd are expected to attend along with other Claremont officials.  

The Claremont Public Library is located at 208 N. Harvard Ave. Check out the newly-updated children’s section during opening hours, Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

—Beth Hartnett


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