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Children's library stimulates learning through interaction

Even though they do not have their PUIDs yet, eight-year-old readers still have a place in Firestone Library.

Cotsen's Children's Library, located next to the Special Collections Room in the library's southeast corner, contains over 22,000 books and features an interactive exhibit specifically designed for young readers.

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The children's library opened Oct. 31, 1997. University Charter Trustee Lloyd Cotsen '50, former chair and CEO of Neutrogena Corp. and now head of Cotsen's Management Corp., donated $8 million in December 1994 for the project. According to the library's curator, Andrea Immel, three other groups vied for the gift, but Cotsen was insistent on creating a children's library.

Immel has been working to add to the already diverse and prolific children's collection. She said that she is collecting early coloring books for Cotsen, who also likes "texts or toys used to teach reading like old alphabet books, spellers or counting books."

But the list does not stop there. While books originated from Western Europe or the United States, the library also contains books in various languages including Russian, Greek and even Hebrew.

"I am very satisfied with the reception. . . . And people keep coming back for second and third visits." Immel said. So far, the library has hosted seven or eight groups from both public and private schools around the area, according to Immel.

International visitors have also enjoyed the new library, Immel said. She added that she had helped a German scholar with his research in 17th and 18th century works and had even given a tour of the special exhibit to the Consul of Sweden and his wife.

'Giant Book'

Since the books are not available for circulation, the main attraction to the general public and University students is the hands-on, 14-foot tall exhibit of a "giant book." Immel, who has worked with Cotsen for the last 10 years, emphasized that the donor's primary goal from the beginning was to "stimulate and encourage children to read."

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The message on the exhibit's primary centerpiece reminds children that "books can take you anywhere." By entering the "book's" wardrobe door from C.S Lewis's "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe," visitors can explore the mythological realm of the Chronicles of Narnia. In addition, they can walk under one of Charlotte's webs into a diorama of seasons or write a poem with words on a magnetic word board.

Immel said she is most excited that many of the children leave ready to go home and read their new books. Immel added that Cotsen has budgeted a certain amount of money so that each child on a designated group tour receives a free book of their choosing at the end of their visit.

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