Brand New Clinton Macomb Public Library is Encouraging Intergenerational and Collaborative Outdoor Musical Play

The North Branch of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library has always been very successful, averaging 10,000 visits per month. However, with its service area population growing rapidly since it opened in 2001, and at only 14,000 square feet, it had outgrown its space and could no longer fulfill all of its commitments.

The new North Branch, which opened its doors in September 2021, is a 28,091 square-foot building in Macomb Township. The new building boasts a drive-up window, ample lobby space, a café area, a large meeting room, a young adult area, a literacy skills area for young readers, tutor rooms, and more. It also includes sizeable outdoor spaces such as courtyards, a patio area with seating, and shady porticoes.

One of the goals for the new building was to introduce intergenerational and collaborative play and make the outside space as attractive to patrons as the indoors. The library’s committee wanted to open up the space to users and make the outer space an extension of indoors. They decided to create a communal area outside with outdoor musical instruments from Percussion Play.

As well as intergenerational and collaborative play, the committee had a series of other goals they wanted the new musical space to achieve. For example, promoting reading differently with sheet music, helping young children develop gross and fine motor skills, and reinforcing the library as a source of lifelong learning in the community. Of course, the instruments also had to be aesthetically pleasing and euphonious.

Clinton-Macomb has now created an opportunity for library users to create a “spark of joy at arriving and upon leaving.” Library Director Larry Neal says it’s a way to entice people to use the exterior of the library in addition to the interior and encourage people in who wouldn’t usually access the library’s facilities.

Larry says, “Our outdoor musical instruments provided by Percussion Play were an instant hit with library patrons of all ages once they were installed in the grounds of our new building. From spontaneous ‘concerts’ to a simple tap of delight on a drum, these have brought a wonderful sense of joy to the community.”

The instruments selected by the library were chosen to encourage intergenerational play, demonstrated by the pairing of the popular Large Babel Drum and Penta Post. Older children and adults can enjoy drumming alongside younger children who are the perfect height to play the cluster of five rainbow-colored chimes. Both major and minor Harmony Flower posies were selected for their color and appeal, along with Rainbow Sambas, Rainbow Cavatina with Music Book, and Sonora.

The library committee also understood the importance of inclusivity. Larry Neal says, “In keeping with the library’s commitment to equitable access we worked with our landscape architect to provide ample hard surfaces to ensure those in wheelchairs and strollers could play and enjoy the instruments.”

Concerns from the committee about whether spontaneous ‘concerts’ outside the library would disturb learning inside were eased by ‘sound data’ issued by Percussion Play, helping them assess which instruments would be most suitable. However, it seems many library users enjoy hearing the gentle sound of the chimes and the faint beat of the drum as they learn.

Larry says, ‘Our instruments are the perfect complement to our indoor, outdoor experience at the library. It’s a joy to be inside the library and hear the gentle laughter and music being created outside our doors”.