The 14,000-square-foot, two-story building—which is actually located next to the central branch—is the second largest children’s library in the country. Featuring hands-on science, technology and math installations, learning labs and (of course) loads of books. the CLDC is aimed at children 12 and under. My preschool-age daughter and I went to check it out and were totally blown away.

One of the CLDC's most impressive attractions is its interactive floor map of Queens just inside the entrance way. It identifies the borough's neighborhoods, landmarks and library branches. Stepping on certain spots activates related sound effects, like jet engines for JFK airport or the crack of a bat for Citi Field. I saw a group of elementary schoolers hopping gleefully all over the map, looking for familiar places and listening to the noises. I enjoyed seeing a simplified aerial view of my neighborhood, which reminded me of how many amazing things are so close to my home.

The first floor has a section dedicated to preschoolers, with easy ramp access for strollers. An aquarium sits against one wall while the others are lined with board books. For seating, there are scattered flower-shaped cushions along with couches, chairs and, my daughter’s favorite, padded cubbies set into the walls. The floors are even radiant heated to make crawlers more comfortable. Four seemingly kid-proof computers are at floor level (no wobbly stools or climbing on chairs) and equipped with tons of learning software and games, but no online access. It was hard to drag my daughter away from this area!

The remainder of the first floor houses fiction books. Integrated into the stacks are tabletop science exhibits separated into two plazas. Each plaza contains several touch-friendly, museum-quality installations that let children of all ages explore, learn and challenge themselves. While most of these were geared toward kids ages 3 and up. my younger daughter enjoyed going from station to station, and I found some of the games and puzzles to be quite entertaining myself. She loved examining glass-encased bugs through a microscopic lens, and I had fun trying to steer my finger through a maze using mirror vision.

The second floor belongs to "big kids." All nonfiction books are here along with plenty of tables for studying and writing. For visitors looking to escape into a story, a reading lounge is a comfy place to settle in. And the Cyber Center houses 14 computers for Internet use.

The CLDC offers several free programs for children. Most require advanced registration, so be sure to visit the website for more info.