when visiting Fort Wayne, the Children’s Department at the Main Branch of the Allen County Public Library is worth checking out! Look for the giant model of Earth that spins, slowly in the main hall. The Children’s Department is close by, and it’s is filled with books, computer games, videos, and educational packs that cater to a wide variety of tastes. Are you a fan of the old PBS show, Reading Rainbow? Well, the Children’s Department has a plethora of recordings of that show. Interested in Disney, Faerie Tale Theatre, or Wishbone? It’s there too, with a wide variety of other videos and DVDs. One room that is usually filled with the smallest library patrons is the Early Learning Center.

Restricted to children ages 6 and younger,  and their caregivers,  this fully enclosed, windowed area has a variety of learning manipulatives to encourage young ones to stretch their minds. This fish is peering at the bubble columns beside the fish tanks at the Children's Department at the ACPL Main Branch. Or there is the Computer Center, where kids ages 11 and under can go online, play games and print off things. While the kids computer area is enabled for web surfing, access to more mature websites is restricted by filters and active librarians. For kids who need to get away from the bustle of the rest of the library, and who are 7-12 years old, there is the Reading Tower. It’s a collection of clear plastic bubbles mounted high, close to the ceiling. Cushions fill each bubble and allow kids to sit and read in a tree-house like space. No shoes are allowed up the stairs to the reading area, so make sure to take yours off before climbing up there. Three salt water fish tanks bubble and ripple near the computer area. The variety and number of fish is always changing, but fish identification charts are available at the librarian’s desk near the computer area. A fish scavenger guide is also available, for future ichthyologists who like the underwater world. And then, there are the books. Favorite classics from the mid 20th century rub elbows with the latest volumes hot off the press. Want some original Mary Poppins stories? Or how about the newest American Girl series? Boxcar Children, Childhood of Famous Americans, Freddie the Pig, Little Women, the Littles … the only thing holding you back from absorbing it all is the sheer size of the collection.

Tall shelves hold books that would suit more advanced readers. Short shelves hold picture books for kids who are just getting into reading and who  want to make their own choices. Kids can grab some reading material and climb up to the reading tower at the Children's Department of the Allen County Public Library, Main Branch. Along the far wall of the children’s department are round, fishbowl windows that allow you to see outside and across the street. Small wooden upholstered sofas, little tables, and set-in bookshelves line the wall, so that if you want to sit down and read right away with your little one, you can. Yes, the sofas are about at four-year-old height,  but it means that you can park the stroller, plop into the chair, and be on the same show-and-tell level  for both the child in your lap and the one in the stroller. One of my favorite services that the Children’s Department offers is their storage retrieval system. If you have more than twenty minutes to spend in the Children’s Department, you can order books from the storage vaults and they will arrive on the front desk in short order. All you have to do is walk over to the computer card catalog, type in your search terms, locate the correct book and click “request from storage.” The volume – or volumes – should be ready in about 15-20 minutes. When you’re ready to leave the library, you can check out your selections at the Children’s Department self-checkout desk. Just make sure, if you get DVDs, to run them through the magnetic unlock device. If you see the green dot on your DVD, you’re good to go!

The Main Branch of the Allen County Public library is on 200 East Berry Street. Call 421-1200 for more information visit the library's website.