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Providing New and Innovative Children’s Services Helps to Keep Libraries Relevant

by on June 26, 2013

Earlier this spring, elected officials, library supporters, and families and children from throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area gathered at the Rosedale Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) to recognize an important milestone. Storyville, an interactive early literacy learning center located within this library, celebrated its fifth birthday.

For those who are not already familiar with this wonderful resource, Storyville @ Rosedale is a free, museum-like service that encourages children and caregivers in the County and beyond to explore the interactive exhibits featured in a unique townscape. The townscape features a variety of seven innovative activity areas that include:

  • a baby garden consisting of manipulative toys, mobiles, and board books,
  • a fully stocked children’s library,
  • a theatre, complete with changeable marquee,
  • costumes, and props, and other unique play and learning areas,
  • appropriate reading materials placed at each learning area for children at different reading levels.

This internationally-recognized concept was fully funded by the Foundation for BCPL. Storyville @ Rosedale was this volunteer organization’s most ambitious undertaking since the Foundation’s inception in 1999. This project opened its doors in February 2008 for BCPL to provide an especially rich and magical opportunity for preschoolers and adults to participate in emergent literacy activities.

Back in 2005, in order to make Storyville a reality, the Foundation set out to raise the over $700,000 in funds required for construction of the project. Donations were received from a number of businesses, community organizations, and individual citizens. Additionally, $250,000 were allocated in the State of Maryland’s capital budget for fiscal year 2008, thanks to the efforts of the state legislative delegation for the Eighth District of Maryland, where the Rosedale branch happens to be situated.

Recognizing the success of Storyville @ Rosedale, Baltimore County Government provided the majority of the funding to construct Storyville @ Woodlawn, which opened in March 2010. The Foundation for BCPL contributed another $250,000 in funds toward the construction of this new Storyville on the west side of Baltimore County. The Foundation’s commitment to these projects is ongoing in that the organization continues to raise funds to support necessary upgrades for both Storyvilles.

Storyville @ Rosedale has been a resounding success. According to library director Jim Fish, “more than 350,000 visitors have benefited from Storyville at Rosedale in its five years of operation.” Having seen firsthand the positive impact that Storyville has had for the community of Rosedale, I am convinced that is has indeed changed lives for people living in communities nearby. Libraries absolutely play a central role in the life of each and every community that they serve as vividly proven by Storyville @ Rosedale.

More importantly, the addition of “outside of the box” library services like those offered at both Storyville locations helps to ensure the continued relevance of public libraries.  Even as technology takes reading and information sharing in new directions, seeking out unique, value-add ways to promote early childhood literacy can only help to sustain libraries across our nation.



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