Before the purchase of three “discovery” tables for the Fitchburg Public Library children’s area, it wasn’t quite as accommodating a place for youngsters to play.
The Friends of the Fitchburg Library paid $13,000 for the tables, transforming an area that formerly had bean bags, puzzles and puppets into a space that enhances early childhood literacy, Tim Powers, Youth Services manager told the Star.
A couple of youngsters, with smiles on their faces, instantly took to the tables when their parents brought them in to see them for the first time on Monday, May 6.
Two girls, Charlotte and Lucy Schultz, ages 2 and 4, of Verona, played quietly a table with LED lights. A Fitchburg youngster, Nori Reeder, age 4, took to a table across from them and entertained herself with what looked like toy trucks.
Library Director Wendy Rauson said the tables serve as a space for children to use their imagination and share ideas, which encourages creativity and builds communication skills. Powers added that’s what enhances early literacy, as play is a “crucial” part of any child’s development.
According to manufacturer 3branch’s website, the fixtures offer “secure and open” storage, are long-lasting and resilient and come with various tops. One table in the children’s area had an LED lightbox top. The two others had reversible activity tops, which are two-sided and include Legos, Tinker Toys, train tracks and a flat surface.
The discovery tables purchase came as part of the library’s strategic plan, Rauson said.
“The goal was making the most of (the library’s) spaces,” she said.
Nancy Arnold, Friends of the Fitchburg Library Board president, said the board also received feedback from the community about jazzing up the children’s area in particular.
“It was cool that from the strategic plan, the community wanted this too,” she added. “It just aligned beautifully.”
And so came the need for a lot of “hunting and research,” Rauson said.
Library staff looked for something sturdy to put in the children’s area, Rauson said, that could withstand years of use. Once they found 3branch and their discovery table designs, Powers gave a presentation to the Friends, who liked the idea.
The Friends have three used book sales per year to help raise funds for the library, which Arnold said bring in around $3,000 on average per sale, and the daily book sales bring in another $1,500 annually. She said the Friends also host a couple of fundraisers every few years.
“That, in addition to our book sales, daily sales, donations — it built up,” Arnold said.
Rauson, Arnold and Powers said they’ve received positive feedback from Fitchburg community members about the new addition to the children’s area, which was widely anticipated in the community.
“We want to be a resource for all ages,” she said. “(Having the tables) makes us a destination.”