Kingsport Library plans children’s area renovations

Tatum Metcalf, Staff Writer

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The Kingsport Public Library will be experiencing some big upgrades and changes in the near future. The first stage of these changes includes a renovation of the children’s section.

Casey Applebaum, the Youth Services Librarian at the Kingsport Public Library, is in charge of all library materials and programs for patrons under the age of 18. She looks forward to the upcoming renovations.

“Renovations will allow us to create a more welcoming environment in our children’s department and create room for more hands on learning opportunities and access to technology for children of all ages,” she said.

The cost of the renovations adds up to a total of $350,000. A Tennessee State Library grant is paying for $100,000 of the total cost, while the City of Kingsport will issue bonds to cover the remaining $250,000. Renovations are set to take 3 to 4 months to complete and will probably begin around February.

The staff and directors had input on what these renovations should include.

Kingsport students also had some opinions about how to improve the Kingsport Public Library.

Kobe Andrade, an eighth grade student at John Sevier Middle School, enjoys visiting the Kingsport library.

“It is helpful to get information,” he said.

Sadie Blalock, a first grade student at George Washington Elementary, agrees.

“I like the Kingsport Public Library because it has a lot of non-fiction books and I like non-fiction,” she said.

Not only do some students use the Kingsport Public Library for books, reading material and technology, many also use it as a quiet space to complete homework.

Conner Nelms, sixth grade student at Sevier, said that he uses the library to, “find books and to do homework.”

Alli Valentine, a second grade student at George Washington Elementary, disagrees.

“I feel that they don’t have enough places to research,” she said. “I also wish they would add more to the collection because I feel that they need a bigger section in the library.”

Valentine does feel that the Kingsport Public Library is well taken care of.

While some Sevier students use the Kingsport Public Library on a regular basis, others rarely visit. Both Kamea Crews and Injoi Bristol rarely, if ever, use the Kingsport Public Library. Instead, they use Sevier’s school library.

“The public library was crowded in the past,” Bristol said. “I hope there is more space after the renovations.”

A lot of students believe that the computers and technology in the Kingsport library need to be more up-to-date.

Ginessa Tolley, another Sevier student, said that she wished the library had better computers.

“They are very outdated,” Tolley said.

Katie Blalock, mother of three school aged children, agrees.

“I wish they had more advanced technology, more interactive things and play spaces,” she said.

Applebaum said that as part of the renovations, the library will be able to address many of these wishes.

“We will be adding extra technology to the area, including a touch screen table and extra computers,” she said. “Another large change will be to make our children’s area more accessible to children of all abilities by adding a wheelchair ramp and handicap accessible bathroom.”

Not only will they add more advanced technology, they will also be creating a new theme for the renovated children’s space, hoping to make children feel like they are at Bays Mountain Park.

“The final design of the new children’s space will include a woodland theme complete with a ‘stream’ running through the room,” Applebaum said. “We will have a room just for our ‘Paws to Read’ program with our canine volunteers where they can listen to children read to them without any distractions.”

Many people are not only excited about the new materials inside of the renovated space, but also about the renovations themselves.

The last major renovations that the Kingsport Public library experienced occurred in the early 90’s.

“Unfortunately, our library has begun to look a little run down and out of date,” Applebaum said. “Renovations will allow us to create a more welcoming environment in our children’s department and create room for more hands on learning opportunities and access to technology for children of all ages.”

In addition to the renovations, the Kingsport library will still offer the same programs for children and teachers, including story time for pre-schoolers, a STEM club, a teen book league, and a summer reading program.

“We actually have a space just for teens to come and hang out, play board games and use the computers,” Applebaum said. “No little kids and no adults, just teens. When you reach middle school we start considering you teenagers, and grant you certain rights accordingly, such as pizza parties and video games. Events we have had in the past year include movie showings, self-defense classes, scavenger hunts, murder mysteries, teen craft days and a gingerbread house competition.”

Leslie Mullins, wife of Sevier band director Hunter Mullins, is the mother of a four year-old and a two year-old girl. She is also looking forward to all the Kingsport Public library has to offer.

“I know that the renovations are very needed to make the library more accessible and up-to-date,” she said. “I have visited many other public libraries and the suggested renovations will put it on par with some of the best.”

Applebaum agrees.

“I believe that when the renovations are complete, we will see more children in the library on a more regular basis because we will be turning our children’s department into a more welcoming, and colorful space for children to explore their world through hands on opportunities and books,” she said.

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