Sometimes bigger isn't necessarily better. A case in point: the Noyes Children's Library in Kensington, all one room of it. The scale befits the fact that it's for children. And the setting is perfect, a gingerbread house that looks as if Hansel and Gretel might step out of it at any moment in a neighborhood of other magnificent Victorian homes.

Although it may not be the largest collection of children's literature, it is very large in the minds of the children it serves. And speaking as a retired schoolteacher, I can tell you there isn't a better way to introduce your child to the concept of a library. Kids love it from the moment they see the sign over the door and giggle at the Wonderlandesque library and the magic of a fireplace transformed into a three-tiered shelf for picture books.

A brief history: The library was founded by Brainard Warner and Crosby Noyes in 1893 as a private subscription library. In 1951 it became a branch of the Montgomery County Public Library. It was renovated and reopened as the Noyes Children's Library in 1970, with its focus on preschool-to-third-grade students and their parents, teachers and caregivers.

In addition to an abundance of picture books (more than 80 percent of the library's collection), there are specially prepared kits for loan, including Grandparents Kits, which include packaged toys; a New Baby Kit packed in a diaper bag, for expectant families to help everyone prepare for the new arrival; and even a Hospital Kit with toys for a child's hospital visit or stay.

Because it is a Montgomery County public library, no other special library card is needed and any Montgomery County library book may be returned or renewed here.

The very smallness of the library is an asset that allows kids freedom to roam on their own. The children are always in sight and never more than a quick lunge away.

Monthly programs for children from newborns to 6 years old will begin in October: storytelling, of course, but also singing, finger plays and more elaborate performances. Call 301-929-5533 for specifics and to preregister.

The Noyes Children's Library, at 10237 Carroll Pl. in Kensington, is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Phone calls are taken on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.

From Washington, take the Beltway to Exit 33, Connecticut Avenue North. At the "Welcome to Kensington" sign, bear right onto Armory Avenue (Connecticut Avenue will bear off to the left). Go one block on Armory to the stop sign at Baltimore Street. Turn right on Baltimore (you'll see a sign directing you to the library). Turn left onto Fawcett and then take an immediate right onto Carroll Place. The library is right there, a beige house with a sycamore tree in the front yard. When you see the great horned owl perched on the roof, you'll know you've arrived.

--Ruth Haynes, Potomac

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