New indoor play area under consideration

Five-year-old Jaelee Van Meeteren and her grandmother Rachele Warner play with Magformers, a hands-on activity added to the children’s section of the Sioux Center Public Library in July.

SIOUX CENTER—The Sioux Center Public Library is taking steps to enhance its children’s section.

This month the library added Magformers and two hands-on activity boards.

The changes may be simple, but it’s one step done in response to parent comments the library received in a survey library staff sent out to its patrons last winter.

Four comments in the survey specifically asked for more activities in the library for kids, especially during the winter months.

“Having something other than the iPads, was part of that,” said Heidi Ouwinga, who is an administrative assistant and marketing coordinator for the library.

The library added the iPad stations about five years ago.

“We know some parents don’t like them, and yet we don’t want to get rid of the iPads because, for some children, that’s the only time they do get use an iPad,” Ouwinga said. “We’re trying to be inclusive of everyone.”

Adding the Magformers and hands-on activity boards is one way in which library staff are working to come up with new, different ideas for the children’s portion of the library.

The library once again plans to offer monthly pop-up-and-play days September-April as survey responders gave high praise to the library for offering that program.

The future may bring more changes to the children’s section. The library is considering a plan to transform the existing outdoor patio into an indoor hands-on play area.

That idea is “a work in progress,” said library director Becky Bilby, noting that the library had a space needs assessment completed about a year ago.

“Through that, it was identified that it’s feasible to enclose our front patio to make it into a hands-on STEM activities learning area,” she said. “We’re excited about the idea because the patio is not used.”

New indoor play area under consideration

The Sioux Center Public Library is considering a plan to transform the existing outdoor patio into an indoor hands-on play area.

“Doing so wouldn’t change the look for the building,” Ouwinga added. “We know it’s important to the city to keep the library aesthetically pleasing.”

Ouwinga said to do so, lots of windows are included in the concept for the addition.

“Right now, however, this addition is just that — our big dream,” Bilby said.

“I get goose bumps when we talk about it though,” Ouwinga said. “I’m so excited for this idea. Based on our survey feedback and comments we hear, having a place like that would fill a need in our community as most hands-on learning spaces for kids are about an hour away.”

Library staff has not approached the city for financial help yet.

“We’re focusing our efforts on trying to get some grant funding first,” Bilby said. “If the grants don’t come through, then we might have to talk with the city or more likely launch a capital campaign. We haven’t reached that step yet. If money weren’t an option, we’d start on it tomorrow. But our focus has to be what the best use of the space that we have and the money that we have.”

Currently, proceeds made from book sales are being put into the fund for the children’s learning center.

“We’re trying to think of ways to creatively add money to that fund so that, in time, we can make this learning center a reality,” Bilby said. “We have no timeline, just hope that it’s coming in the future.”