Doug Zyskowski finally felt the last five years were all worthwhile when a 9-year-old boy threw a tantrum and had to be dragged out of his building screaming the whole way.

“I don’t want to leave!” the kid bellowed as a frustrated mom pulled him out the door to the parking lot.

Is this a new video arcade, you think? Maybe a movie?

Try the Southfield Public Library. One week after the grand opening of the spectacular $36.8-million building, the place is packed. And City Librarian Zyskowski says the proof of its success will forever be embedded in his memory of the boy who didn’t want to leave.

“Can you imagine that?” he said, chuckling as he recounted the incident for the tenth time. “A kid that actually wants to stay at the library.”

Tashann Holloway was there last Wednesday afternoon, sitting cross-legged inside the Dragon’s Den in the children’s department listening to her 7-year-old daughter, Nadia, read her a book.

As Nadia read, the animated dragon inside stopped making snoring noises and bobbed his head up and down as if he was paying attention to the story.

The new 114,000-square-foot library is the most high-tech of its kind anywhere in Michigan. There are 150 computers available for public use. For those who want to bring their own laptop, there are 1,000 Internet connections that can be plugged in for instant Internet access, with the receptacles and jacks built right into the chairs, desks and tables. The whole building is a Wi-Fi hot spot, too, for wireless hookups.

And there are two 14-seat computer labs with each machine loaded with top-of-the-line business and productivity software, plus numerous printers, copiers and fax machines in all departments.

Satellite downlinks and broadcast capabilities are built in throughout the facility for use by civic groups for meetings, programs, classes and public performances.

Robert Seales is a longtime Southfield resident who retired a couple of years ago from General Motors. He brought his 5-year-old granddaughter, Taylor, to the library for a little quality time.

He helped read the words on the screen to her, pointing to the places where she should use the mouse to place the cursor and click.

“It’s hard to believe this is a library,” he said. “This technology is something the kids take right to and it helps them learn.”

Southfield City Administrator Donald Gross says that was exactly the plan.
“The purpose is to get people into the library, especially kids,” he said. “We knew it had to be high-tech, and this is about as high tech as you can make a library.”

Among other tech features that educate and inform young people are interactive video displays, story phones for kids to hear books read to them on demand and lots of unique artwork, sculptures and hands-on displays.

It’s no wonder that kid Zyskowski spotted being dragged out by his mother didn’t want to leave.

Contact MIKE WENDLAND at 313-222-8861 or mwendland@freepress.com.

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