A mural was painted in Martin Library years ago, thanks to the generosity of York Township resident and longtime library supporter Lydia Stitt.
When the library expanded and had to take the mural down, Stitt, 88, was sad to see it go.
She wanted to give back again, and this time her donation made the new play area, Learn, Play, Grow @ Martin, possible.
The new play area for children ages 5 and under opened Sunday.
More than 40 children explored the new area and enjoyed free snacks and face painting.
Several youngsters wandered over to where Stitt was seated in the middle of the playroom to say "thank you."
Stitt has been volunteering at Martin Library since the 1960s, and prior to that she worked at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.
"I just love books and libraries. Period," said Stitt. "This does my heart good."
Parents today seem to be more involved than when Stitt worked at elementary school libraries in the 1960s and 1970s, she said.
Stitt's niece, Mary Brenner, followed in her footsteps and is a librarian.
Her nephew, John Stitt, said that his aunt is responsible for his own love of books and learning as well.
The new learning center is designed to inspire a lifelong love of learning and play in each of the children who visit the library, said Paula Gilbert, director of youth services.
"This was something we felt would last," Gilbert said. "And play is the business of children."
The space used to have a train table, which the staff plans to bring back later, but it was heavily used and other options needed to be added, said Laura O'Grady, youth services coordinator.
Now there are building blocks, imagination stations, a doll house, magnetic learning toys and more.
Sundays are typically accompanied by a steady crowd at the library, but the event drew in many more families than usual, O'Grady said.
New items such as a puppet theater, hopscotch rug and other toys will be added to the area, Learn, Play, Grow @ Martin, in the coming months, O'Grady said.
A Lego table will be added and will be part of a new Lego club that will meet on Monday nights at the library.
To sign up, parents can call 846-5300 or visit www.yorklibraries.org/martin.
- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or email@example.com