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Queens Chronicle

New children’s center is feast for eyes, mind

Interactive and colorful $40M space in Jamaica library and will open in July

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Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:37 pm, Thu Jul 7, 2011.

Walk into the new Children’s Library and Discovery Center in Jamaica and one can not help but be mesmerized by the playful colors and artful design of the space, but beyond that there are a variety of books, computers and interactive exhibits to challenge the mind.

The $40 million facility is part of the Central Library in Jamaica and will open the first week of July, but officials gave the Chronicle an exclusive inside peak at the space on Friday.

One of the first things visitors will encounter is an interactive map painted on the floor. It features numerous borough icons, and when one steps on a given symbol, it plays a sound associated with that place. The icon of a piano at the Steinway factory plays a classical tune, while the Citi Field logo plays the crack of a baseball bat and the roar of a crowd.

Rainbow stripes painted on the floor at the entrance are aesthetically pleasing but they also serve a purpose. Each leads to a different section of the library, such as the study area, multi-purpose room, elevator, stairs, restrooms and librarian’s desk.

There are several interactive tabletop exhibits in the space to encourage children to explore scientific questions through sight and touch. These will be changed periodically and new ones installed while the others will be rotated throughout the rest of the branches in the Queens Library system.

One exhibit shows the inner workings of an animal cell, while another called a “touch theater” invites children to reach inside and try to determine the types of items contained there just by feeling them. A clear window on the opposite side of the theater lets them see if they are correct.

Exhibit plazas located in the library’s open areas each contain reading materials grouped together by theme. The library also has an early childhood center complete with a faux waterfall that will lead to a large fish tank.

The two-story, 22,000-square-foot center took two years to construct and is the only public library in the United States to incorporate interactive museum exhibits, according to material distributed by Queens Library. It is also the only free educational destination in the city with a special emphasis on science, technology, math and engineering.

“It’s being designed to be a citywide destination, so we want to pattern children, first of all, not only to learn, but to always look at the library as a fun place for now and forever,” Joanne King, a spokeswoman for the library said.

Funding for the project was provided by Borough President Helen Marshall, Mayor Bloomberg, City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), the rest of the Queens City Council delegation and federally-funded grants.

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