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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
In the face of a changing media and entertainment landscape, most libraries are increasingly focusing on things like computer access, internet availability, and tools of digital learning to stay afloat. And while the main branch of the Wellesley Free Library has rows of computers and STEM robots designed to teach kids coding, their newest branch is decidedly different.
The Wellesley Free Library’s new Fells Branch is a small, cozy learning space designed to foster children’s imaginations and reading skills. Located on 308 Weston Road in a former one-room schoolhouse that’s been standing since 1851, the building is the oldest public one in the town of Wellesley. While the building has been a library branch since 1923, it was significantly renovated this year, starting in July. It reopened on November 17.
While the branch is small, its walls are quite busy. They are adorned with images of Wellesley’s various landmarks, including the “Welcome to Wellesley” sign and the Wellesley Town Hall’s famed clock and spires, as well as native critters like ducks and owls. Even the book return is painted with an image of one of Wellesley’s native trees, showing the extensive details that artist Jason Sawtelle of BlackBeak studios put into his work. The bookshelves, designed to look like little houses, are even shingled with actual little shingles from Charles River Custom Carpentry.
The branch is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday, and has events ranging from Book Babies, a series of “stories, songs and fingerplay” for babies up to two months, to Step up Story Time, designed to help children between two and four years old to develop early literacy skills.
Although not yet ready, future plans for the branch include “an interactive learning garden for children” to be located behind the building, which will help kids learn about nature by interacting with it in a hands-on way.
The newest branch of the Wellesley Free Library renovated an old building and filled it with the tried and true methods of teaching children that have worked since the building’s first usage in 1851. At a time when libraries are struggling to adapt to children of the YouTube generation, it’s nice to see one unafraid of turning back the clock.