A Lifelong Love of Reading Starts Here
As a kid, Laureen O’Handley was told that she didn’t belong in the library—that the bookshelves were a place for adults, not children. Those words always stuck in her head, even when she became a librarian herself.
“I never wanted that for kids,” she said. “I always wanted to make the library a comfortable environment for children and let them know that they had a voice.”
Laureen’s story sums up the entire purpose behind the Lackawanna County Children’s Library, where she serves as the Head of Children’s Services. This library—not a shelf, not a room, but a whole building—is fully devoted to kids. It’s the sort of place that bookworms like Matilda Wormwood would just dream of.
This Library Unlocks a World of Imagination
Kids can learn, grow and explore in a place that’s all their own.
The Children’s Library is on Vine Street in Scranton, right next door to the Albright. The county bought the building in 1986 and moved the Albright’s children’s department into the new space.
The building itself was originally a church. From the outside, it still looks stately and serious, but inside, it’s all about fun. Sculptures of spaceships, clouds and even Mary Poppins adorn the soaring ceilings. Scranton landmarks like a bright mural of Nay Aug Park, a puppet house modeled after the Masonic Temple and a giant Times tower create a child-sized version of the city.
Kids are welcome to be their curious, creative selves here. So if that means dancing between the bookshelves or belting out Disney songs, they’re all for it.
“We’re not old and stodgy,” said Laureen. “People think of librarians with buns in their hair and shushing everybody. We’re totally not that.”
Beyond the Bookshelves
The Children’s Library serves families all around NEPA.
The library is geared toward kids from birth through about sixth grade, with everything from bedtime stories to chapter books lining the shelves. They also loan out movies.
One of the latest additions to the collection are Wonderbooks. These books have buttons and a speaker on the inside cover, which can read the book out loud and ask open-ended questions. The library also offers Playaways, which are like audiobooks on a handy little cartridge. Just plug in a pair of headphones and listen.
The Children’s Library is part of the Lackawanna County Library System, but their outreach goes beyond the county lines. As part of the Northeast Library District, they also work alongside libraries in Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties. So if you can’t find what you’re looking for, just ask, and they can help track it down for you.
Pivoting During the Pandemic
Virtual programs bring the library to you.
Before COVID, the Children’s Library hosted events nearly every day, from story time and puppet shows to special weekend programs like magicians and live animal presentations. But when they had to close during the initial shutdown, it quickly became clear that people missed the library.
“We were home for one week when we started getting Facebook messages from the patrons saying, ‘When are you going to start doing virtual?’ It was all new to us. We had never done virtual programming before,” remembered Laureen. “I came down to the library and got 200 books and did programming from home.”
Even though the library is open for in-person visits again, they’re still sticking to virtual events. They post tons of story time sessions for young children on Facebook Live, while older kids can join programs like the Novel Thoughts Book Club. They also have a monthly DIY program that teaches kids how to make fun crafts and “Danger Club,” where they can learn how to do cool and crazy science experiments.
Check Out the Children’s Library (And a Book or Two While You’re at It)
The library is currently open to come in and browse, or you can call for curbside service.
Everything is free with your Lackawanna County library card. The card gives you access to the collections and digital resources at all the libraries in the county. Any age can apply, either in-person or online.
Even if you don’t live in Lackawanna County, you can still apply for a library card at no charge. You just need to be a Pennsylvania resident and show a card from your hometown library.
Ultimately, the Children’s Library—and libraries all around NEPA—want every child to have access to books, especially now that some school libraries are closed due to COVID.
“This is a common ground,” said Laureen. “The one thing that everyone here has in common is their children, and what better way to come together? All differences are left outside this door. I’m just really proud of the fact that this is a community place where people enjoy coming to and they feel safe coming to.”
Bring the kids for a visit or tune in to a virtual program to discover all that the Children’s Library has to offer. And if you’re a library lover yourself, you can help inspire the next generation of readers by supporting the Lackawanna County Children’s Library.