The main Nashville Library’s Children’s Department is new again.

Yes, after 15 years of serious wear and tear from almost 100,000 active little book-loving patrons every year, the second floor children’s area at the downtown library has been transformed.

And a grand reopening celebration is set for Wednesday afternoon.

The yellow walls are no more, the well-worn carpet has been replaced with much more forgiving and highly durable vinyl flooring, and an impressive new Nashville-themed, three-level  “reading fort”, complete with a bridge and several levels of reading and play areas, has been added as the department’s centerpiece.

You and your kids are gonna love this place!

“The fort is for reading and exploring. We’ve put lots of nooks and crannies in there with lights so that they can crawl in and read,” said children’s librarian Lindsey Patrick, who said that the renovation research for the $1.2 million project, which took five months to complete, looked at “what goes into dynamic libraries” in other cities, and included lots of information gleaned from surveys of local parents and children who use the library.

But a top goal, she said, was to make the space hyper-local and create an active, fun place for children to come play and learn.

“It was very important that it look like a Nashville library, that it would be a library that could only be in Nashville. And this could only be in Nashville,” Patrick said, pointing to the “Gateway” bridge component of the reading fort that is modeled after the Korean Veterans Bridge downtown, as well as the Nashville-themed archways scattered throughout the department that mimic the Country Music Hall of Fame, state Capitol, Union Station and other Nashville landmarks.

There was also a push to make the children’s area more interactive than ever, by adding a new play space with a 5-foot tall puppet stage (designed to look like the Ryman Auditorium) where children will be encouraged to improvise their own shows. There are also several toddler height discovery tables with activities such as Duplos, trains and lights. And even a “crawl wall” climbing wall for little ones.

“Play is the work of a child; it is absolutely essential,” Patrick said. “Children cannot sit and read all day.”

The library’s collection of 93,000 books (that doesn’t include the digital collection) is “top-notch,” she said.

“We did not get rid of any books. In fact there is more shelving for future growth,” she said, explaining that in the new configuration the books are color coded by shelving, with nonfiction on blue shelves, picture books on green and chapter books on red.

“We have tried to take what we did well before and the things that were popular and enhance them,” Patrick said, noting that in the old setup the puppet stage was much smaller and the creative play area was much more limited. The new features will give children more encouragement to engage in creative activities.

The perennially popular Buttercup the Mouse still has her original home, as well as her second home. But what’s new is that the library has added a way for children to send mail to Buttercup. Ask the librarians to show you Buttercup’s quarters and tell you how to write to her.

While the children’s book and computer areas got most of the attention on this project, which was funded by the Nashville Public Library and the Nashville Public Library Foundation, there were also updates to the puppet theater, where the award-winning Wishing Chair Productions shows and storytime sessions with Mary Mary, the Professor and Library Pete take place, and the activity room, where families come for play time and art and craft projects.

Other improvements include a larger children’s librarians desk, a book drop in the children’s area, a separate computer space area (separate from the children’s picture book area) and a new “Tween” area for 8-13-year-olds, with comfortable seating, 3-D printers, sewing machines, robotics and more.

“This age is where a lot of children lose interest in the library. Part of our goal is to create lifelong library users” by offering more programming and resources to the age group, Patrick said..

“Our children’s facilities and programs have always been a crown jewel of our Nashville Public Library system, but the brand new renovation of our Main Library’s Children’s Department exceeds all expectations. These new spaces were designed to provide layered learning experiences that reflect a child’s need to play and move as they learn,” said Kent Oliver, Nashville Public Library director.

Enjoy this fun, new space! It is truly a wonderful place to stay cheap.

Reach Ms. Cheap at 615-259-8282. Follow her at www.tennessean.com/mscheap, at https://www.facebook.com/mscheap?_rdr and on Twitter @Ms_Cheap, and catch her every Thursday at 11 a.m. on WTVF-Channel 5’s “Talk of the Town.”

Grand Reopening of Children’s Department.

Wednesday at the Main Library, 615 Church St.:

3:30 p.m. — Families assemble for parade on second floor.

3:45 p.m. — Remarks and ribbon cutting with Mayor Megan Barry.

4 p.m. — Parade to the new children’s department. 

4:30 p.m. — Special Wishing Chair puppet show.

Nashville Public Library schedule

The children’s department offers 12-16 programs each week throughout the year. The Nashville Public Library’s Wishing Chair Productions puppet theater will present “A Child’s Calendar” at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 19. John Updike’s collection of poems for children are transformed into a delightful musical puppet show that takes the audience through the seasons month by month. http://nashvillepubliclibrary.org/wishingchair.

The library also offers free story times at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with the Professor, Library Pete and Mary Mary singing, juggling and reading books with their puppet friends.

And they have “Babies and Books” story times at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Thursdays in December, except for Christmas Eve. These are all free on the second floor of the main library at 615 Church St. There is free parking for up to an hour and a half in the library’s parking garage. library.nashville.gov or  615-862-5800.