Books aren’t the only paths to enrichment in libraries, as children in St. Louis County will discover this summer.
Three renovated branches are scheduled to reopen within the next three months, with Bridgeton Trails debuting Tuesday and others bringing new library “Discovery Zones” to St. Louis.
Pneumatic tubes, giant Lite-Brite-style walls, playhouses and other elements will be installed in two of the county system’s big branches: Florissant Valley in North County and Daniel Boone in West County. The former will reopen in late July or early August; the latter reopens in early September.
Library director Kristen Sorth said the Discovery Zones she’s seen are “pretty spectacular,” with engaging, interactive features. “Quite a few libraries around the country have gone in this direction,” she said.
The St. Louis County Library follows guidelines established by the Every Child Ready to Read program. Recommendations include interactive play, trial-and-error challenges, and magnetic walls for letters as ways to promote pre-literacy and literacy.
In photos, the Discovery Zones resemble spaces at a children’s museum such as the Magic House.
Smaller branches including Bridgeton Trails will still have enhanced children’s areas with “discovery tables,” which acts as a Lego table, train table and light table.
The Bridgeton branch, at 3455 McKelvey Road, will have a new laptop bar, two study rooms, a business center, child-size shelving and book bins, and colorful new furniture and finishes. The renovated branch was designed by Bond Architects and cost $2.5 million. Like the rest of the master plan, it was financed by the 2012 tax initiative approved by voters.
Sorth discussed Phase Two of the St. Louis County Library’s $120 million master plan, which replaces several buildings and renovates almost every other one in the 20-library system. Only the Eureka Hills branch isn’t set for a full rehab because it is in a rented space.
By the end of the year, 14 of the 20 libraries will be completed. This fall, four more libraries will close to be replaced (Meramec Valley, Mid-County, Thornhill) or renovated (Grand Glaize). When Daniel Boone reopens in Ellisville, Grand Glaize, which is in Manchester, will close for work.
The library system is in the process of getting approval for its work in Clayton. The library there, Mid-County, will be replaced. It will be in the same space but will grow in size about 2,500 square feet, Sorth said. The new building, like the current one, will have underground parking.
Meramec Valley library is currently a storefront space in the Fenton Community Center. Plans call for the new branch to be 21,000 square feet at 1501 San Simeon Way.
Sorth hopes that residents in the Fenton area “will be thrilled by this wonderful new library.”
Thornhill will be replaced on the same land where it is now, 12863 Willowyck Drive, near Parkway North High School.
After the branches are finished in the later half of 2018, the library will enter the final phase of its plan, replacing its headquarters on South Lindbergh Boulevard.