I took the boys to the library twice last week, first to the Esplanade then to Queenstown. Abacus is now at a stage where he is babbling quite a lot, and he will do so more when he is excited and happy, and on the last 2 visits to the library he was particularly chatty. The first incident was at the Esplanade, which obviously as an arts library, has no section for children. I tried to gently shush him, although anyone who’s had a 1-year old will know that it’s a rather futile exercise. Mittens, who can understand the concept of speaking softly in the library (when he’s role playing at home, he can never seem to remember that when we’re actually IN a library!!) was also shushing Abacus, and I’m pretty sure I also heard the librarian join in.
That got me thinking, what are the objectives of a library? For children? To inculcate the love of books and a passion for devouring information? As I’m sure you are all well aware, it’s hard to restrain children from being…well, children. They are boisterous, curious creatures, but that’s what we love about them. Sure, children shouldn’t be running about the library (I sure know it, but try telling that to my son!!), but it should also be a place for them to explore and enjoy.
To that end, I think the libraries which have separate section for children is probably the most ideal for all users of the libraries. Children can enjoy their own space, and other patrons can do whatever it is they do in libraries (like steal power for their electronic devices) without getting too disturbed. Bukit Panjang, Toa Payoh (kind of!) and Marine Parade (their own floor) are good examples of this. Queenstown, the branch we frequent, and where they do have a kids corner, but still very open and right in front of the librarians, is probably not the best example. (I haven’t been, or can’t remember, the other libraries, so I can’t comment on the rest!) However, I do absolutely love that we have such wonderful libraries in Singapore, even if I have to be a bit stressed every time we’re there. And I know the boys love it too, because Mittens has even started asking me if we can borrow books on certain topics.
Today, we went to the Art Garden exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum. An “Interactive contemporary art for children”, it was overall a great experience for the 2 boys, but I do have a gripe about this one exhibition Paramodelic Graffiti, which is basically loads of Tomy train tracks, trains, cranes and other vehicles, all over the floor, walls and ceiling. And totally NOT interactive. You’re not allowed to touch a thing. I didn’t take any photos of this room but found some on another blog here.
Mittens stepped onto an area which he wasn’t allowed to, one of the museum staff told him to get off (ok maybe not in those words), and when he didn’t, he got an earful from me, which I regret now, because in his excitement, he was probably just doing what children do best – exploring. Ok so they did have a room which had interactive sessions throughout the day, but it was for specific times, and also had the installations all over the walls and ceilings, and I witnessed a museum guide go almost ballistic, or ok it was more like “Ok guys! What did I say about NOT TOUCHING THE WALLS?!”. As we were leaving, I saw one guide trying to sweep some bits back into its appropriate area – obviously kicked off by someone.
That also got me thinking about what the objective of museum exhibition for children should be, and I personally think that it should be to get them to enjoy and appreciate art, which children do primarily through play. Other formalities such as “DO NOT TOUCH”, or in the case of the libraries, PLEASE KEEP NOISE LEVELS DOWN, can be learnt as they grow older and are at an age where they can actually restrain themselves.
The library episode and today’s encounter has been such a great reminder for myself, that I need to let my children be children. Sometimes we expect so much from them even though they are already doing such an amazing job learning to be little people, and I’m even more guilty of this when I have a second little one to look after and expect the elder one to be more independent when he’s really still mummy’s little boy.