Monday, August 27, 2012

110. Great River Library System, Elk River

Signs abound:

On the entrance door, "Sorry we missed you--visit our website at..."

Near the request shelves, "Please allow staff 2 hours to process delivery after notification of hold." I meant to ask about this one, but forget. I'm guessing that AMH checks the book in and sends the notice, but then the books must still be shelved with the requests.

In the children's area: ""Library Manners: Use your inside voice. Walk don't run. Be respectful of people around you. Take care of library materials. Ask a librarian if you need help." I like the last one especially.

The children's area is extraordinary, and I learned that the architect was inspired by the books of Eric Carle. There are a couple of tall "tree trunks" with large, round, flat green disks of "foliage" high above. Metal "insects" with tiny lights hang from the ceiling. One large table is oval and colored like a ladybug, with chairs to match. And one table with four bright cushioned seats (I simply can't describe it adequately) evokes the Very Hungry Caterpillar. The floor covering forms a wide, blue, curving path through the kids' area, with green "river banks." Anyone considering a new or renovated kids' area, you really should come look at this one.

In the adult area, there are adult rules for behavior that I didn't copy. The current issue of each periodical had a conspicuous notice that it is for in-library use only (that's standard) and a reminder that "Theft or a violation of state law." The only other place I remember seeing this sort of notice was Northeast, in Minneapolis.

There are two "living room" areas for browsing, one with a fireplace. Most of the building has large, clear windows; in the teen area, there are several windows of different shapes and different patterns and colors of glass. It set the space off nicely.

There were computers in the adult and teen areas, a long counter for laptop use, and three study rooms that can be reserved by computer. There's also a very large wall clock, and I should have asked whether there is a story there. Perhaps someone will comment and tell us.

There's a good-sized meeting room off the lobby, as well as soda and snack machines.

8/27/12, car

109. Great River Library System, St. Michael

This library shares a building with City Hall and a Senior Center, a good use of space. It is two years old. I was able to have my St. Paul library card entered into the Great River Library System; I knew that I could, but I was still pleasantly surprised.

There is a sort of rubberized flooring in the kids' area; soft to land on, easy to clean, I think. I like the sign that says "Finished with your books? Please place them here for re-shelving." Polite but direct; there were books in the designated spot, and I didn't see any lying around, so perhaps it actually works!

There are tons of CD/book sets hanging in baggies, and they have many series books, including some series I'm not familiar with--and I thought I was familiar with a lot. I didn't see any computers in the kids' area, except one for the catalog. I have no objection to this. Let 'em read books!

There are many large windows throughout. In the adult area, the carpet is a nice green and has a pattern that makes me think of nature. There were at least seven public computers, and room for more. The shelves with wheels in the teen area look  as if they would make that space very flexible. In two places the adults have comfortable chairs arranged around low tables, very nice for browsing, and there are tables for study and laptop use. They even still have books on audio cassettes, which I must remember for next summer's road trip.

8/27/12, car

The library is on the left in the upper picture, on the right in the lower.

108. Pepin, Wisconsin (MORE Group)

I visited this library with a friend who summers in Pepin, and it really is a little gem. I should have written this sooner, since the visit was a month ago, but I hope and expect that I will be reminded of any major omissions.

The library is one of the smaller ones I've visited, but it is very welcoming has everything a library needs, and a few special surprises. The surprises include a "totem pole" based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (see picture) and a considerable display of Laura Ingalls Wilder materials, including books in Danish.

Almost all libraries these days have a shelf or cart of books for sale to help support the library, and this one is no exception. In fact, I think there was a cart of books in the entryway, and another in the library proper. Programming includes movie night.

OK, what did I miss?

Oh, I was actually able to get a library card here--but I didn't take out any books.

7/31/12, car

On beyond MELSA

I had so much fun visiting MELSA branches, I've decided not to stop. Anyway, these visits seem to be somewhat addictive, and they do prevent me from cleaning the house.

From this point, posts might be from any library at all, but I'm starting with visits to one branch in the MORE group, 50 libraries across the river in Wisconsin, and two in the Great River Regional Library System, which covers Todd, Morrison, Benton, Sherburne, Wright, and Stearns counties in Minnesota.

I received a tip from someone at the Stillwater library that the Verona, Wisconsin library is not to be missed. I have a little favorite in upstate New York, and a friend says I must come back to the library in Siskiyou in California. My sister Jean wants me to see the Hollis, NH, library. I need to get pictures of the library I worked at when I was in high school, and I'd like to visit the libraries where my Aunt Ruth McEvoy worked in the 30s (Brooklyn, NY) and later (Batavia, NY). So please keep coming back to see where I've been. Make comments. Leave suggestions!

But Labor Day is almost here, and with Labor Day come classes at the U of MN and reading to classes at the local elementary school; and of course, I still have my parttime library job. New entries will probably come in little bursts.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

107. Ramsey County, North St. Paul

This branch shares space with a community center. The library provides some public computers in the lobby, the community center provides restrooms, both share parking space, and patrons can combine purposes in a single visit: win-win.

Although it is small, this branch has everything needed: big windows, comfy chairs, a fireplace, public computers for adults and kids. There is a gorgeous large "Summer Reading" quilt on the wall in the kids' area. Manipulatives and puppets within easy reach serve the youngest patrons, and large cutouts of Arthur and other storybook characters brighten the shelf tops.

Reserve shelves looked busy, indicating that patrons are making good use of the requesting system. The collection is partially managed because patrons at other Ramsey County branches cannot request material from North St. Paul. I'm sure that staff would like more space; even the largest branches seem to feel that way. But a lot is being done with what is available.

This is visit 106. I started with South St. Paul on June 22, and have now visited all of the MELSA libraries--and a little bit over.


Friday, August 24, 2012

106. Hennepin County, Brooklyn Park Library

This building is large and light, but apparently older than it seems, as there is to be a replacement in a few years. It's very busy, so I'm sure the replacement is justified.

In the kids' area, I saw three "little kids" computers, all being used by young girls, and six "kids" computers, with three pre-teens busy at them. There is a security person who walks through casually and obviously knows all these boys by name; that's nice. The children's librarian says that she, too, knows many of the children by name and something about them. Many children come to the library unaccompanied from nearby apartments.

The children's area has a long mural that was commissioned by the Friends of the Library after a competition among local artists. It features polar bears, pears, building blocks, and whimsy--the librarian says that it's at least partially based on toys the artist had as a child. At any rate, it's very attractive and amusing. Many Read Write Draw papers from this summer's Bookawocky program are posted, with the child's name in a large, colored font. A stack of sticky notes next to a "postal box" invites kids to write the title of their favorite book on a note and put it in the slot; completed notes have been posted nearby.

Moving away from the kids' area, there is a quiet study room with eight carrels, about 20 public computers and 12 teen computers, most in use mid-afternoon.

The librarians told me that this is an "all-purpose service center" where they answer every kind of question: about school, civic issues, just about anything. This speaks well for the staff and the atmosphere created, because there are civic buildings close by. It must be that people have learned that the library is the comfortable place to come for answers.

8/24/12, bus

In case there's any doubt...

105. Hennepin County, Washburn Library

The kids' area is to the left inside the door. There are large windows on three sides,  plenty of big tables and chairs by the windows, and at least four laminated kid-size tables with "can you find?" and "I spy alphabet" challenges. The northwest corner has an arc of bench seats beneath the windows and a mural in the "dome"--see the pointed structure in the photo below. An interesting series of photos of toddlers learning to use blocks seems to be a documentation by a teacher at a Reggio Amelia-inspired school, and brochures were available. A quotation with these pictures says, "Relationships are at the core of learning." So true!

For the size of the library, there seemed to be relatively few computers; in this neighborhood, it may be that most patrons have computer access at home. All the computers I saw seemed to be busy.

The adult area is to the right inside the door. It has a nice rounded window area for browsing, and even a large jigsaw puzzle, partially assembled, on a table. I haven't seen that in a library before, and as a jigsaw fan, I think it is a neat idea.

There was a place to create magnetic poetry, a display called "Washburn reads" that the staff person I spoke to seemed to agree was composed of recommendations from patrons to patrons (a nice idea), and a National Book Festival display.

8/24/12, bus

104. Hennepin County, Sumner Library

Another Carnegie gem, with appropriate additions. This one, built in 1915, is the third library built in Minneapolis--and it is still going strong. Very strong. It was most recently expanded in 2004.

I like the features that mark a Carnegie library: the tall windows, the classic architecture, the handsome fireplace, the cushioned window seats. One of the new sections has soaring, curved, laminated-wood beams with iron tie-rods.  A feature in the center of the oldest part, five sides of an octagonal structure with seating inside, was the original service desk; it was nice to see it still there.

If I had an award for "best use of small, odd spaces," I'd nominate the tiny space called the Book Nook. It's next to the picture book room, which is lined with books and has a room-sized rug with nursery rhyme themed pictures around the edge.

A staff person, Natalie, asked me if I needed help finding anything--a rare occurrence on my visits. She explained the "Sudduth collections" that I had seen in every part of the library: kids, adults, fiction, non-fiction. These collections are thanks to a Mr. Gary N. Sudduth, a former Mineapolis Library Board member. You can look him up on the Hennepin County Library website. Natalie described the library as "a true neighborhood library, an extension of people's living rooms." She said that many people spend many hours a day there. Indeed, though I had missed the preschool story hour, the library was busy at 10:45, with many chairs and most computers in use.

8/24/12, bus

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

103. Hennepin County, St. Anthony branch

This is a store-front branch, and like the others I've seen, it's making excellent use of limited space. Teens have a small space immediately to the right inside the door, with one computer and places for laptop use. To the left are the copy machine and printer, the adult collection, computers, and periodicals. Both of these spaces have large windows.

The kids' area is small but seems to have a bit of everything. I really like the low padded chairs with duck feet! Two computers are reserved for "12 and under." A meeting room has a row of glass doors that can be opened to increase the space available for programs.

The staff person I spoke to was able to directly me exactly to where my next bus would arrive. I have had occasion to wish that more library staff were more knowlegable about public transportation in their area.


102. Hennepin County, Northeast Branch

There has been a library in this area for many years; I went to a writers' workshop in one in the 80s. This building, however, is only a year old. It makes the most of space for windows on three sides. One wall of windows has a shelf/counter the whole length with outlets for laptops.

The world language section includes Hindi, Somali, and Spanish, that I noticed. The periodicals rack has several copies of a sign pointing out that "It's against the law to cut articles...etc." and reminding patrons that a copy machine is available.

Panels between computers are very attractive, with gray-scale reproductions of early photos from the neighborhood. In many cases, as here, libraries are the repositories of local history and memory.

The kids' area has a variety of table and seating options, and a structure a bit like a playhouse; I didn't get a very good look, because two girls, age 10 or so, were ensconced inside, engrossed in books, and I didn't want to bother them. A window in this area looks out on a small area of plants in front of the library.

I like the use of brick on the walls and wood on the ceiling. The ceiling is complemented by occasional rustic tables of natural wood. And I found a really good treat at a bakery located between the library and my bus stop.

By the way, this was "library 100" in my quest to visit all the MELSA libraries this summer.


101. Hennepin County, Pierre Bouttineau

A very unusual building; I would pair it with St. Bonifacius for the "unusual architecture" and "not what I expected" awards. I talked to staff quite a bit here, but somehow didn't ask much about the building's history--or anything at all about Pierre B. I know you have the blog address--come on in and give some details, please! One woman on the staff was very helpful when I tried to use a computer to find the information to solve my camera problem. The other comes to Shoreview library sometimes, and we think we sort of recognized each other.

I really like the long row of easy chairs by the windows; I think RCL and SV should have a look at these nice chairs. There are some classic-looking metalwork signs marking different areas of the library, and special metal frames for signs on the ends of shelves.

The Children's Book Illustrator's Guild of Minnesota has a display in the children's area through September. This area included a very nice "two chairs, a table, a lamp" for reading to kids, just like home. There's a wonderful large window on the end wall, up high, and a desk for a children's librarian. A long row of low coat hooks shows that the site is ready for plenty of kids to show up for cold-weather programs.


Note that I don't as a rule take pictures inside; the fourth picture here was taken inside, but looking out, to see if the camera problem had been solved. Fortunately, it had.

100. Hennepin County, North Regional Library

This is a big building! I immediately noticed three large (3-4 feet long, a couple of feet high?) wooden sculptures of leaves. They looked large enough to serve as benches, but I don't know if that's allowed. Adult fiction and periodicals are in a room with windows on three sides. One side of a large kiosk is dedicated to language learning materials. There is a separate area for job search activities, with a bunch of computers, and other computers are available for adult use.

The teen and kids area has tall windows on two sides and a glass-enclosed room for meetings and programs. One unique item is a two-sided desk with sloped sides, kid-sized, with a wide slot at the top to hold books. Picture Bob Cratchit's desk with the legs drastically shortened--and wide enough for three kids to sit at, on each side. Another is a fantastic tall chair at the side of a bright rug; I have to believe, and I should have asked, that this would be used for story-telling. It would certainly create an aura of "listen to the story and you will hear something special."

There is a hard-to-describe set of three quasi-rooms in a row, in the middle of the floor, with unusual reading spaces. I hope someone from this branch will get in here and leave a comment about these. They are very unusual.

I saw a big binder of Read Write Draw papers. Six computers for kids were keeping 10 youngsters quietly occupied, and all eight teen computers were busy.

8/22/12, bus

I thought of going in and asking permission to take a picture of the leaf-like sculptures--but the library was closed, so I settled for taking two pictures from the car.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

99. Hennepin County, Golden Valley

The first thing I noticed was that the flag was at half staff, and I meant to ask why. But the interior is so intriguing, I got distracted and forgot. Directly ahead in the lobby is a kinetic sculpture that, at the push of a button, sends balls rising through lifts and rolling down elaborate ramps. Very cool, and I learned that it was a gift of the Friends of the Library. It's like a 3D version of the Marble Drop game I used to have on my computer.

From the lobby you can go 45 degrees left or right, and the space seems to unfold. To the left, the space is labeled "Adult Fiction," but there must have been some changes since the permanent sign was installed. The main space includes both adult and J fiction, and a space to the left, a good-sized room, is for the preschool crowd. A row of kids' computers defines one wall of this room. A very neat feature was a set of four quarter-round tables, each with a "bump" on one end and an "indent" on the other end, allowing them to be set together in a circle, like a jigsaw puzzle.

In a small reading area by a window in the fiction area, a table was dedicated to natural materials (seeds, shells, pieces of wood) and a magnifying lens. Either this had very heavy use during the day before I arrived, or I might suggest that it needs more frequent tidying up keep it looking nice and interesting.

Back in the lobby, a right turn goes first to an adult reading area with periodicals. Patrons are asked to "Please assist library staff by reshelving magazines." This space seems more open and lighter than the fiction and J area. The reference desk is here, and there are several rooms/alcoves with public computers. A second room or space beyond this includes J and A non-fiction and finally a teen area on the left, divided by a bookshelf from an adult area for reading newspapers. I wonder how the proximity of teens and paper-readers works out?

Special thanks to the staff person who consulted her colleagues in order to determine which side of the street I should stand on to catch my next bus. They were right!

8/21/12, bus

98, Hennepin County, St. Louis Park

Nice hardwood floor play space in a window bay in the kids' area and bins for picture books, and a special bookcase for board books.  I think this would be easier to keep clean than carpet. There is a large collection of Boy Scout merit badge booklets--you don't see those often, and I haven't spotted them at any other branch. The teen area has a whiteboard on an easel with the question "What are you reading?" Given some of the responses, I'd say the younger crowd has been contributing.

There's some very nice artwork, including a carved panel of trees and landscape and some paintings in the teen area done by a kid who was in high school about 8 years ago. The furniture, including shelving, is mainly wooden, with details that seem to me to give a Craftsman look.

There is a large collection of books in Russian for kids and adults, with a sign that says, in Russian, (with a translation, thank you): "Dear Patrons, don't write in books please." When I see these unique signs, and almost every branch has something of the sort, I try to imagine what might have prompted the sign.

A second window bay, at the opposite end of the building from the kids' area, is for adult browsing, and has a "living room" feeling that I find very pleasant.

8/21/12, bus

Friday, August 17, 2012

97. St. Paul, Rondo Community Outreach Library

I have attended training sessions for Experience Corps literacy volunteers here, so I can vouch for the quality of meeting space. This is the first time I've walked through the whole library, however. One large room is called The Swamp, and is used for homework help during the school year. A table right outside this room is reserved for a MN Literacy Council tutor.

I like a poster that was headed "We immigrants want people to know..." I'd like to see that in more places. Nearby is a large world languages section; I saw books in Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Vietnamese, and Chinese. There may be others.

There are large collections of teen and adult fiction and non-fiction, periodicals, and a comfortable quiet reading area near the north windows. The reference desk is in this area, at the opposite end of the library from the circulation desk. It seems unusual to have this much separation--but that doesn't mean it isn't effective, of course. It puts the librarians near the books, not as close to the technology and meeting rooms, which makes sense.

The windowed northeast corner holds children's books for all ages, starting with three bins that look a bit like train cars. There are "big books" and a half-dozen or so dolls for creative play. I noticed that tables and chairs had a variety of sizes, to suit kids of many ages. A section of parenting books and brochures of various sorts is nearby. The library was busy enough that staff did not seem available to talk, so I did not ask "what should I be sure to mention?" Comments are welcome, as always.


96. St. Paul, West 7th

I was told that this is the smallest branch in the St. Paul Public Library system, and I have no reason to doubt that claim. I propose that it also has the most dynamic and energetic staff person you could imagine. The library is within a community center, and has a wonderful new playground right outside. One of the first things I noticed was a frieze of paintings running along the ceiling all around the room. They were painted by children in grades 5 though 8, under the guidance of a volunteer artist, to commemorate the renovation completed in 2010, and each represents a book. The curved top on each panel evokes the flow of the Mississippi.

One end of the space is a glass-walled room with 10 public computers, and there is another computer in the kids' area. There is also a bright "Hungry Caterpillar" rug and bins of picture books. The collection seems to include a bit of everything. In keeping with its small size, items here may not be requested.

This is the first place where I saw a sign indicating that faxes can be sent (not received), for a fee, at all St. Paul libraries.

At the point when other branches were stopping book deliveries to the homebound, West 7th joined forces with Meals on Wheels so that books and movies can be requested and then delivered by the MoW drivers. Very nice.

The library is to the right in the pictures.

8/17/12, bus

95. St. Paul, Riverview

A handsome Carnegie library, but I doubt that it has had a "river view" for decades. Sadly, handsome doesn't mean "acoustically suited to today's library users." Historic pictures on the wall show many children using the library, sitting quietly and reading. Twenty or so youngsters were appropriately busy today, and the room reverberated. An empty library would be quiet, but somehow not as satisfying. (But of course, I was only there for 15 minutes or so!)

People have long wanted libraries, and a lending library was started in 1905 in a drug store; the present building opened in 1917. It almost closed in 1981, but the large number of books loaned per capita saved it, and it entered the Registry of Historic Places in 1984.

The children's area has a small "market" for creative play and various signs with suggestions for parents to build knowlege and vocabulary. There is lots of Early Childhood and Family Education material available, along with the request "Please do not leave young children unattended."

Shelves create three "bays" at each end of the library, and each has a purpose: media, non-fiction, kids, and so forth. This afternoon, each area was being used by kids of different ages. It's one of the liveliest branches I've visited.

8/17/12, bus

Thursday, August 16, 2012

94. Hennepin County, Minnetonka

A light, bright program area looked as if it could be configured for kids' or adults' programs. The kids' area had three computers, a thick binder of Read Write Draw pages, a separate fairly tale section (I like that), bins of E books and shelves of J books. I noticed that there were children's books in both Spanish and Chinese; I forgot to ask whether these are home languages, or languages that they would study in school.

Anyone who has read many of these entries will know that I was happy to see a curved window area that looked out into trees! And in the paperback fiction area, I liked a modest sign that said "Please ask for a bookmark, don't bend down pages." A small, colorful teen room was occupied by an older man with his laptop; I didn't spot any teens during this mid-afternoon visit. Well, maybe one, at one of the dozen or so computers.

The reference desk has that "I can help you..." sign that I'm fond of. Must get "my" library to put up one of those! Staff told me that this branch is known for its large collection of movies, and because of its location it handles a lot of requests and returns.

I think I could have come here by bus--I saw a Metro Transit sign not too far down the road after I left--but the Route Finder on line said no. Perhaps I'll try it another day, and try some of the nearby trails.

8/16/12, car

93. Hennepin County, Excelsior

What a neat, small branch, tucked into a corner of a town I had been to only for ice cream, and not recently. The first thing I noticed was a "living room" sort of area right inside the door, for newspaper and periodical browsing. Then I spotted a carved wooden beaver reading a book in an obscure corner. His name, I learned, is "Brary the Beaver," and he was "banished" to his corner when the service desk was reconfigured. There is also a collection of stuffed animals, on top of the shelves, out of reach. They include quite a few "Cat in the Hat" figures.

I had a chance to talk to the head librarian here. She praised the large, active Friends of the Library group at this branch and pointed out a number of their contributions, including some replicas of antique fire engines. (The library is on the site of a former fire station.)

The big news is that there will be a new Excelsior library in a couple of years. I hope that Brary will have a prominent place in the new building, and I'll be back to check.

The bell outside the library was used on three different steamboats between 1866 and 1898; then it was used at the Excelsior Public School from 1899 to 1962.

8/16/12, car

92. Hennepin County, Plymouth

The first thing I saw when I arrived just before 1 PM was a group of teenage girls with sidewalk chalk. I soon figured out that they were helping run the "Unbook Club" for kids in elementary school, which is a program of games and art and had a long line of youngsters waiting to sign in. It looks as if this "club" makes good use of a glass-walled program room that opens into the children's area AND the outdoors.

Once inside, my eyes were drawn to a stained-glass graphic on a large window straight ahead. Formed mainly of circles and arcs, it included quotations from various authors. Classy. This window wall is lined with comfortable chairs; I like the ones with the woven seats and backs.

The kids' area is delineated by tall poles--they look like logs--from the floor to near the ceiling, and large, colorful disks hanging above them. Cool! The disks tie in with the colorful circles on the ends of book shelves in this area. The adjacent teen area, by contrast, looks very cool and tech-y. I would think that kids becoming old enough to use the teen area would have a sense of growing up. I like that the teen's and kids' areas are designated for their exclusive use all day during summer break; I assume that the rest of the year adults can hang out and feel youthful during the school day.

The world language area seems to be mainly Russian, unless I missed something. Several rooms of various sizes can be reserved and appear to be designed for different purposes (study, meetings, quiet reading). There are at least 30 public computers for adults, and more in the kids' and teens' areas. A feature I really like is the windowed reading alcove with the large-type books. People who need large type often also need bright light, and this looked very inviting.

The quantity of reserved books on shelves testifies to the use this branch must get. Signage is very good throughout, and of course I especially like the "I can help you..." sign.

8/16/12, car

91. Hennepin County, Osseo

This may be the smallest branch yet, in square feet! There is a small, eclectic collection of books and four public computers. I was told that there is a regular, very faithful clientele. It's too bad there are no windows for natural light, but I liked the way the Curious George pictures brightened the wall. Met Charley's Aunt here--if she reads this, she'll know what I mean! Charles might, too.

I'd never been to Osseo so far as I can recall. It's nice, with a very attractive memorial park across from the library.

OK, let's have someone (or more than one someone) add to this!

8/16/12, car

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

90. Hennepin County, Rockford Road branch, Crystal

The first thing I spotted in the kids' area was a fire engine that reminded me of the one at Moundsview. A laminated table had written clues and small pictures of book covers, with a prompt to try and match them. (I love these laminated tables I see in so many branches.) A large batch of Read Write Draw papers were in a 3-ring binder. Three boys were at computers in the kids' area, facing windows but seeming to be quite caught up in whatever was on their screens.

There are a pair of DVD/VHS players with screens, not something I've seen in many other places. Public computers were tucked everywhere. There is a Spanish section, a couple of locked study rooms, and a couple of adaptive technology rooms. Adaptive tech rooms are not something I've spotted outside of Minneapolis Central, though surely there are some I've missed.

I feel that I'm not doing this branch justice, perhaps because I was concerned about the bus schedule; I hope someone will jump in here with more details. Please?

And I'm sorry about the uninspiring picture; what was I thinking?

8/15/12, bus

89. Hennepin County, Brookdale branch, Brooklyn Center

Even if you took away the Human Services Department, District Court, and County Services, this would still be a very large building. Like all the newer libraries I've seen, it is full of light from floor-to-ceiling windows. There is a Minnesota Room for quiet reading (with local history books, I think); a large glassed-in room with 20 carrels for quiet study; at least 70 public computer terminals; special business, automotive, and job/career areas. I spotted a handsome display of five Hmong embroidered story panels, given by the Friends of the Library.

Most of my time was spent in the very large children's area. It was loaded with activities to engage kids. There were pages representing "50 Challenges," one for each weekday of the summer, with questions, riddles, and suggested activities, like counting the cars that pass the library in one minute. There was a game that required kids to go to different parts of the library to find letters to decipher a coded message. A librarian showed me how this works: "Jack says 'hi' to a librarian" takes you to the information desk, where you find a sign that says 9 = K, and you fill in "K" above each 9 in the coded message. A kid would have a good grasp of the scope of the library after completing the 16 tasks. There were also laminated pictures of birds and animals here and there, each with a number; I didn't figure out what these were all about; laminated tables with pictures and games; a chess set; manipulative toys for the littlest ones.

A floor-to-ceiling (two floors high) sculpture of a tree with fabulous animals stands colorfully next to the dragon that holds bins of ABC and 123 books. And an enormous castle contains a puppet theater.

Outside, the area is pedestrian-friendly, with a sidewalk to the bus transportation center. There's a large prairie area and some really nice-looking woods to explore. I wonder if anyone explores them?

8/15/12, bus and walking

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

88. Hennepin County, East Lake branch, Minneapolis

With large windows facing north to Lake St., and to the east and south, this spacious, open branch is full of natural light. Numbers, both numerals and words, lead in at the door from the parking lot. A scattering of shapes with words in them brightens the floor in the children's area, for example, the word "moon" written in an orange diamond. This could lead to all sorts of learning games. I like the attractive framed signs on the end of each shelf, describing the contents of that shelf. The children's seemed to be roughly a long triangle, with windows on two sides. Padded benches and bookshelves run under these windows; in one place, the view is of plants and a large stone sculpture. Perhaps the best, most unusual, item in the kids' area is a round table with phrases from a Shel Silverstein poem laminated like the spokes of a wheel. It's an "endless poem," so you could go around and around the table reading it. Very cool.

Picture books are shelved on low shelves with markers indicating the first one or two letters of authors' names--like the often-seen picture book bins, but with shelves. A sign advises that "Books are roughly organized so don't worry about putting one back in the wrong place." I discussed this with someone on staff and we talked of the pros (easier for patrons, easier shelving) and cons (harder to find requested books).

Two quiet study areas are available, one to each side of the door to Lake Street. In one, a counselor from Goodwill Industries was standing by to talk to job seekers. He's there one day a week, and sometimes, I was told, he has many patrons; he didn't happen to when I was there. The library opened in 2007, and is always very busy, as it was today.

This is the first place where, when I said "I'm visiting MELSA libraries..." the response was "Oh, are you Ellen?" That was pretty cool.

8/14/12  light rail, walking, then home by bus

87. Hennepin County, Franklin branch, Minneapolis

I was happy to learn that my hunch was right--this is another Carnegie library. Not only that, it is looking ahead to its centennial in 2014! Here's a tip I learned: if you look for Franklin Library on page 42 in the book Libraries of Minnesota--well, that's not it! Instead, look at pages 68 and 69 in Carnegie Libraries of Minnesota for some handsome photos, including closeups of architectural details.

The children's area has a small "Storybook Room" reserved for kids 8 and under and their caregivers. Neat idea; when I looked in, a small girl was happily looking at books while her caregiver seemed to be napping. The regular children's area is sort of a "room within a room" that is hard to describe, but very nice to see, so you'll just have to go take a look. The inside of the "room" is lined with shelves of fiction, readers, and Spanish books; picture books and non-fiction are outside.

In the adult areas there are two handsome fireplaces. The area to the east houses an American Indian collection and has a colorful mosaic, "Red Lake" above the fireplace. To the west is the world languages collection and a mosaic "World Language." The contemporary glass mosaics, added during renovation in 2005, fit wonderfully with the classical Carnegie library look.

The library was busy, with computers in use in every available space; there is also a learning center on the lower level. There is a special collection on local history, and at one time this library housed the largest collection of Somali-language books in the country. (The person I was speaking to is not sure this is still the case.) It is clear that this branch is serving the needs of its population.

8/14/12 light rail, bus, walking

Feedback from Anoka County

I received an email that addresses Anoka County globally. In my rather random notes, I mentioned that several Anoka branches shelved J and A non-fiction together. Now I know the situation exactly:

"J and A nonfiction interfiling --- this is in all branches except the Northtown (HQ's) and Rum River libraries.  These 2 buildings have definite children's departments."

The reason this caught my eye during my visits, I think, is that I grew up in the days when the children's room was entirely separate from the "grown up" part of the library, and there was no way a kid could get to the adult books until probably grade 7 or 8. I like the practice of shelving them together, since kids get to delve into "adult" books--and adults who want an introduction to a subject, or perhaps are not strong readers, can find easier books without going to the "children's shelves." I recall an English Language Learner who wanted a kids' book on tennis for exactly this reason.

Monday, August 13, 2012

86. St. Paul, Rice Street Branch

I felt a real science/technology vibe here. Perhaps that is because, in a meeting room inside the main door, about 16 boys and girls, grades 3-6, were using wood and hand tools to create catapults. They were obviously having a great time. I wish I could have stayed around for the logical conclusion, when they would have sent something catapulting! A whiteboard in the entry listed, in addition to the carpentry, snack time, Tech Time, a Microsoft Excel class, and an e-reader clinic. Also, this is the branch I've read about that hosts "Collector's Corner"--bring in natural history finds and get help with identification. As soon as I find that skull I've had for many years, I'm going to take it in. Really.

The teen area is very attractive, with "stained glass" on the tall windows. Next to it, the kids' area has couches, soft chairs, kid-sized tables and chairs, and many books. There's a dollhouse with furniture and people.

The librarians told me that this building is about 10 years old. The previous building was very small and reportedly had a dirt floor in the basement. An interesting angle on patrons at this branch: it used to be a very popular spot for teens, until a new youth center opened next door. Now the users have shifted to an older group, those who possibily had found the large numbers of youth intimidating. I can understand that.

When I checked out, I saw that the workroom is right behind the service desk, with a large window wall. I like the idea of patrons being able to see what goes on behind the scenes. The clerk also mentioned that being able to watch the desk while working on backroom tasks allowed better coverage when staff is short-handed.

8/13/12, bus

85. St. Paul, Hayden Heights branch

The first feature that struck me here was: auto repair manuals! Two walls of them, floor to ceiling, everything you can imagine, at least back to the mid-60s! Before I left I talked to staff about them, and learned that they have a back room with all sorts of other repair manuals for items electrical and mechanical. They have a computer dedicated to Mitchell's Auto Repair; and if you come in looking for a manual they don't have, they will find it and buy it for the collection. So far as I know, this is unique in MELSA. Kudos to Hayden Heights!

They are also a neighborhood library, of course, and have everything you would expect in fiction, non-fiction, reference. There is a coin-op copier with a note that it is "turned off 15 minutes before closing." Good idea; closing can be difficult enough without someone trying to copy a bunch of pages at the last minute.

The feature of the kids' area is a "reading cart" that looks like an open-air truck. There's a steering wheel, of course; on the back there is "produce" of various types and a cash register. This reminded me of the children's "market" at the Hopkins library. There are lots of E and J books on shelves.

There are a couple of meeting rooms and a sign mentioning a "quiet study room."

I have one regret: I was having such a good time talking to staff, I forgot my rule about "take out at least one book" and left without any. This one time, I forgive myself the lapse.

8/13/12, bus

Friday, August 10, 2012

84. Hennepin County, Roosevelt

This branch closed in March, 2012, for remodeling. It will reopen in the summer of 2013, according to the sign out front.

8/10/12, walk and bus from Nokomis

83. Hennepin County, Nokomis

This branch is rightfully proud of the environmentally sustainable features incorporated in its renovation, documented on the poster inside the door. DVD reserves are clustered at the beginning of the regular reserve shelves, where they are visible from the service desk. In addition to the security advantage, it would be easier to shelve "like with like."

The teen section has lots of windows overlooking a fairly busy corner. Nice curved bench with round tables looks very inviting.

There's a handsome fireplace made with local stone (a sustainability feature). The meeting room looked especially flexible; it has a window wall to outside and a folding wall of windows separating it from the kids' area. It was being used for an adult meeting when I was there. I could see it being used, either open or closed, for children's programing, as well.

Someone has put a lot of work into a corrugated cardboard "castle," and I like the language prompts on the window by the castle, with questions like, "If you had a castle, how big would it be?" There was also a trunk of dress-up clothes. The wooden chairs in the kids' area are the cutest I've seen, with their animal-shaped backs. The interactive toys are cool. The magnetic letters are pretty standard, but the "Early literature" sign that explains their importance, and the "Look, I can spell my name!" sign are neat. Bookawocky Read, Write, Draw papers filled a thick 3-ring binder.

8/10/12, bus, light rail, and walk

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

82, St. Paul, Dayton's Bluff

This unusual branch is part of the Metropolitan State University campus; in fact, entering the library took me past the MSU bookstore and the entrance to the university library. Nice cooperation!

The first sign that caught my eye told how to get free interpreter service. Voter registration forms were readily available, along with large buttons that say "Vote in honor of a veteran. My vote honors _________." When I left and was heading down W. 7th on the bus, I saw a sign indicating MSU's commitment to voter registration.

There's an enclosed computer room called "The Zone." Its schedule for today was Job Search, 12-3; free snack for anyone up to age 18, 12:30-3:30 (many sites in the city offer this in the summer); and PowerPoint class 4-6.

There are windows along one wall and around a corner. The view was mostly of concrete, with some shrubs and trees, but it was light and connected to the outside world. I asked the volunteer in the children's area what I should be sure to note about this branch, and she mentioned how busy they usually are in the summer. I asked the same question of a staff person at the service desk and she pointed out that the building is quite new, about 8 years old. The connection with MSU allowed some funding advantages, including having The Zone for homework helper programs during the school year.

There was a lot of neighborhood and consumer information available in several languages. Definitely an interesting and vibrant branch.

8/8/12, bus

81. St. Paul, Arlington Hills

The bus stop was 3-4 blocks from the library. I don't know this part of St. Paul well at all. After riding the bus south on Arcade, I walked through a well-kept neighborhood and suddenly came upon a genuine Carnegie library! Like all of its ilk, the building is handsome, with tall windows curved at the top and a high ceiling.

The building had only been open about 20 minutes when I arrived, and already the computers were busy and there was a general sense of purposeful activity. Both adult and kids' areas had material in several languages. [I managed to forget my notebook--what is it with me and note-taking? I took notes on a couple of pieces of scratch paper that I found next to a computer, and tucked the papers into the book I took out. Now those notes seem to have vanished.]

I enjoyed talking to library staff, and provided the blog address. I hope the woman I talked to will comment and add whatever I've missed here.

8/8/12, bus

80. Ramsey County, Mounds View

The children's area has a fire engine bookshelf/reading seat, great for the imagination. In the teen corner, the ubiquitous booth seating has been opened to 90 degrees; it looks to me more inviting and flexible that way than the same seats would in a parallel, facing "booth" orientation. The wall pockets for periodicals are nice. One minor issue: the shelves are labeled only on one end, not too helpful if you have walked through the library and are looking for something on the way back.

There was a State Fair display in the entry, and framed State Fair posters on the wall.

As usual, I find it difficult to know what to write about RCL branches; too close to home, I guess. Anyone familiar with MV, please add comments!

8/6/12, bus

79. Hennepin County, Augsburg Park, Richfield

I like the windows that come down to the floor in the periodical browsing area and look out on grass, trees, and a playground. There's a nice 2-sided fireplace and a quiet study room with window walls on three sides, one side looking outdoors and two into other parts of the library. The kids' area has an easy chair and a couch, and two pre-teen girls were ensconced, reading and looking very cozy. Pictures books are in a large alcove with windows, and a lot of Bookawocky read/write/draw pages are posted. I like the big kites near the ceiling, and the sculpture and other art displayed throughout. Collections include Spanish, Vietnamese, and Somali material.

Large signs hanging from the ceiling guide the user to the Service Desk, Information, and Express Checkout. First place other than Minneapolis Central where I've seen uniformed security; there was also a sign "DVDs now held behind service desk, ask for help." Signs of a problem?

8/6/12, bus