Zimmer Museum expands to Slavin Center

Where thousands of books, CDs and DVDs used to rest at the former Slavin Family Children’s Library, rows of empty shelves now stand. And in place of a reading circle, one recent Sunday afternoon, there were dozens of children and parents watching a magic show.

Welcome to the new Slavin Children’s Center, located off the lobby of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard building.

The library space, once home to 10,000 resource items, was closed on May 19, after Federation announced in March that it would repurpose the space to make room for expanded use of the Zimmer Children’s Museum, whose original galleries are also off the  Federation’s lobby, across from the Slavin Children’s Center. The center opened in July.

Now, according to museum director Julee Brooks, the center is a “programmed space,” giving the popular museum room to run programs like the Sunday show by Magic Todd, who entertained starry-eyed young children with various Chanukah-themed tricks. 

The bulk of the former library’s collection was distributed to four institutions — American Jewish University, Chabad of Santa Monica, the Jewish Learning Exchange and the Tashbar Torat Hayim Hebrew Academy — where items are available to the public.

The museum draws about 80,000 people per year, Brooks said. Before the library was converted to a children’s center, larger groups would sometimes not have space for some programs if the museum was full, she explained.

“The museum has grown, and we often exceed what our capacity allows,” she said. 

“Now, for a larger school that may not have been able to come before, we are able to do a lesson,” Brooks said. “They can have their own individual space to have those lessons. It sounds simple, but when you are taking a school group, those kinds of logistics are very important.”

The center, she added, is particularly popular during the week for school field trips, bringing in 20 to 100 people per trip, depending on the program and the size of the class. 

For a general program like the recent Sunday magic show, admission to the children’s center is free with the price of admission to the museum (free for children 1 and under; $5 for children, ages 1 to 17; $8 for adults).

Koren Wizenfeld, who came to the magic show with her two children, Joshua, 2, and Sophia, 4, said that she preferred the space when it was used as a library.

“There was more to do,” Wizenfeld said as families filed out of the center following the show. “This is one set activity, and I guess at the library they could pull books and read or walk around.”