Saturday, September 29, 2012

117. Great River Regional, Waite Park

It's difficult to follow a large regional library with a small community branch, but Waite Park is clearly a special space. It definitely fits "good things come in small packages" and "don't judge a book by its cover." Several walls have large, attractive murals. Chairs and a table in the children's area are painted with images from well-known children's books. This area is well-stocked and includes a wooden train set and a small kitchen play set to help little ones feel at home and use their imaginations. There is a display of leaflets encouraging parents to help children develop early literacy skills. All picture books and J books are on shelves (not in bins) and signs that stick out from the shelves help young patrons find their way through the selection. A small area of books for teens is marked by a vinyl record (a 78?!) and a few inflated plastic guitars hanging from the ceiling.

The adult area is down a few steps (a wheelchair lift is available) and has a pleasant browsing area. The AV selection has a sign indicating that there have been recent thefts, prompting surveillance, an unfortunate but common situation these days. I thought it refreshing that the sign comes right out and mentions the thefts, rather than simply saying "surveillance cameras are in use" or something like that.

I was intrigued by an array of many glazed clay bowls, all different, on the tops of shelves. To learn what these are about, go to, as I did. It's very interesting and a very worthy cause. I am guessing that "bouja" is the local version of what is spelled "booya" in St. Paul.

9/29/2012, car

116. Great River Regional, St. Cloud

This four-year-old library is really impressive, starting with the unusual bike racks, then the glass panels in the lobby (see picture), and continuing through both floors. I went upstairs first, and found Teen Central looking like a great teen hangout, with tables, couches, computers, and many teen books. Continuing from there, a long, curved window wall is lined with study tables and chairs, and an inner row of upholstered chairs. There is a large reference section, including pamphlet files (which don't seem very common these days). A sign asks that patrons seek help from staff in using these files.

A sign on the computer room asks that patrons take "phone calls, loud conversations, and unhappy children" away from the service desk and the computer room. Good idea, and the first place I've seen "unhappy children" included in such a list! A large area of adult books includes meeting rooms of various sizes and updated-classic tables with study lamps. Bookshelf ends are translucent with a design of small letters on them; these seem to add to the lightness of the area. Several signs ask patrons to "Relax, leave the shelving to us, thank you!" but I didn't see specific areas for leaving unwanted books. I should have asked someone about that.

Staff at the information desk were very helpful in tracking down the age of the building, and also tipped me off to an unusual sculpture outside; it uses recycled materials to screen the mechanical systems. See the picture, which doesn't do it justice.

Downstairs, the first floor houses media, hold shelves, and a huge children's area. There was so much to see. I spoke to a staff person (children's librarian?) who asked what I liked best. Where to start? Quilted book bags for use in the library; ten computers for "children 12 and younger," and room for more; a sign "Ask about our free children's programs;" the play area with Legos, a wooden train set, and a pretend boat. I think my favorite was the book display with a sign "Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!" I imagine that it draws kids right to it!

Even the restroom was great, with gleaming white, red, orange, and yellow glazed tiles. The bright colors and high ceiling... Well, every library I've visited has had a clean restroom, but this one has to get top honors.

9/29/2012, car

Sunday, September 23, 2012

One I Haven't Visited

A friend in Arizona mentioned signs outside a library there, and he very kindly provided pictures. I not only have not visited this library, but I'm not sure that I want to!

Since I've often commented on signs I see at the various branches, this seems apt. Desert Bloom is a branch of the Phoenix Public Library.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

115. Hudson, WI (MORE Group)

One of the few two-story libraries in my travels so far, Hudson Area Joint Library has a prime location by the river. The first floor has a lobby seating area designated a quiet area, with a sign indicating just what that means (occasional quiet conversation, no cell phones, etc.). There is a small piano or keyboard. Also on the first floor are the computer area, some study rooms, the service counter, and a pop vending machine.

Stairs or an elevator go to the second floor. The stairs are broad, with low rise, very easy to ascend. Upstairs there are two information desks, one in the children's area, one in adults; only the children's was staffed, and a sign on the adult desk directed one there. There is an inviting teen area with funky seating--but no teens on this nice Saturday afternoon.

The Friends' bookstore is large and very well organized. They stock some magazines and have a rack of greeting cards. From the prices on the cards, I'm guessing they've been donated. If so, I applaud this as a way to clear out the cards one buys and never sends, and also make a few extra bucks. There are also some free books, and down a short hallway is a volunteers' workroom and a shelf for donations. I like the idea of a specific place for donations, though a staff person told me that they do still get donations in the book drop--along with those volumes that might be donations or might be books picked up by mistake when collecting the library books at home. A chronic problem in libraries!

Lots of windows look toward the river, a view that is largely screened by leafy trees now. I spotted a small reading porch with just room for a couple of Adirondak-style chairs; very cozy. There are a number of small meeting rooms with policies posted on the door (no money-making activities, like tutoring for pay, for example), and one large oval meeting room.

The entrance to the children's area is dominated by a tall model of the Eiffel tower made of craft sticks, and another made of Legos. There is a reading are with rocking chairs along the west-facing window wall, and a small room for little kids. Another wall has a series of small rooms. The first is for magazines, with at least 13 titles and a couple of beanbag chairs for comfy browsing. The next is for parents or teachers and has a collection of books on special-needs kids, especially those on the autism spectrum. It included a corrugated-cardboard "b-calm" box for "peace within the noise." This seems to be a commercial product, but not one I'm familiar with. (A non-commercial version, 3x3x3 feet with a door and window, painted on the outside to look like a playhouse, is in the main children's area.) A third room is for games, and has a collection of board games and puzzles and a table with a chess/checkers board built in. It also houses many books on cassettes.

There is a history display with booklets for sale. And of course there is a nice walking path along the river, where a father-son team directed me to a fine ice cream place. Great visit.

9/15/12, car

114. Baldwin, WI (MORE Group)

I got here pushed for time, and there was so much to see. In all my visits so far, this is only the second or third place where newspapers are kept on "sticks"--you have to be of a certain age to know what I'm talking about. This library still has audiocassete music tapes and recorded books, and VHS movies; the music tapes are kept in old card catalog drawers. The librarian commented that they are still in demand; she had just shelved three recorded books on audio cassettes. There are bound newspapers and a history room (available for meetings or study), and one corner of a reading area has a poster with a history essay that apparently is changed every few weeks.

Large baskets are used for unwanted books: "Place your unwanted books here, we'll be happy to shelve them."

The children's area has clouds, stars, and other sky phenomena hanging from the ceiling, left from a summer "Dream Big, Read!" reading program. There are lots of puppets, lots of videos, and a big chapter book collection. And the children's program room has a totally cool dragon and castle mural; I think it covered all four walls.

It was close to closing time when I arrived, but the kind and friendly librarian stayed around an extra 10 minutes or more to chat about this library and my project. Thank you!

See those benches in the picture? All libraries should have a couple of benches outside the door.

9/15/12, car

113. New Richmond, WI (MORE group)

You have to love a library that greets you with a display of jokes, comics, and humor books marking "National Smile Month." The building has a number of discrete areas that sort of radiate from the center. The first has plenty of windows, with upholstered chairs and tables with wheeled chairs. This appeared to be a browsing area, with large-print books. A passageway to the teen and children's area passes the restrooms and a windowed workroom for library staff; I like it when patrons can see staff at work! There is also a display of historic photographs, another sign that libraries are often repositories of town history.

The teen area is small but has a bright neon sign to identify it, a slight sense of privacy, soft chairs, and some tall chairs at a counter. It even had a teen patron on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

In the children's area I saw a "book fortune teller"--a jar with tongue-depressor sticks, each with a Dewey number. The challenge: pick a stick and choose a book with that number. That would be an easy idea for any library to copy. Two long tables with benches and a sort-of-round table with scooped-out bits (I wish I could sketch in here!) provided some unusual seating. I could imagine a school group or program group using either of these effectively. In addition to the J collection, there are shelves of picture books, bins of board books, and a toy area with dinosaur figures.

Another area has a copy-print-fax station, at least 7 public computers that were being well-used, and Wii games. I think this is the first place outside of Ramsey County that I've seen computer games available, though I may not have noticed them at other sites.

The final area was the stacks, which included some "classic" aisles of books with glass-brick walls at the end.

There's a nice park outside the library, with a ... thing ... that wasn't explained. It seems to have eyes. See second picture.

9/15/12, car

112. Somerset, WI (More Group)

I saw a lot of things that made me think this is a particularly friendly library, including a basket of magnifiers ("Magnifiers available, ask for assistance) and a sign explaining how people who can't get to the library can get books by mail. Nice. Another sign said "Help! We need yours. Be a library volunteer." I also like the one that said "No cell phone use inside. Go outside." Just tell it! Another, in the lobby, said, "Thank you for being respectful. If you choose not to be respectful, here's our policy..." and went on to explain the steps that would be taken. A separate sign defined what is meant by respectful library behavior.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has a  sign in the lobby about a Transportation Reading Challenge, for kids up to 10 years old. Read 10 books, each about a different type of transportation, and get some recognition. Neat idea. Somebody tell the MN Dept of Transportation, OK?

The collection looks good for adults and kids (though I don't really study collections, I'm more interested in ambiance).There seem to be a lot of periodicals. There's even a microfilm reader, and you don't find those everywhere these days. I liked a sign in the kids' area that explained "Easy non-fiction has many photos, few words" and pointed out that they are marked with a red dot.

There are 12 labeled bins of toys available for little kids, including various types of blocks and animals. And there must have been a summer project that resulted in an amusing display of "Frankentoys," toys that have been altered in some way.

I was there during the last half hour of a two-day Friends of the Library book sale. The books were well picked-over, but I thoroughly enjoyed the double-chocolate mint cookies from the bake sale table!

9/15/12, car

Saturday, September 1, 2012

111. Great River Regional, Big Lake

This was a real two-fer: A train ride AND a library. On Saturdays, the NorthStar train and Big Lake's library hours combine to make a visit possible. I recommend the train ride, just for fun, but I'm glad there was no Twins or Vikings game today.

The library is in the noble tradition of store-front libraries, though larger than most of that ilk. The first thing I spotted was a display of "challenged books" decorated with yellow CAUTION tape. Nice job.

The kids' area seemed quite extensive in proportion to the entire space, and the emphasis on kids was also evident in the "Blue Ribbon Readers" essays displayed, and the "One Thousand Books Before Kindergarten" program, Sadly, I missed the culmination of the latter program by one day. It would have been fun to see.

There a study room, a large meeting room, tall tables with tall chairs, plenty of seating of various types, and a light, airy atmosphere although windows are limited in this space. I spotted six public computers and a couple for the library catalog. There must be an active Friends organization, because a silent auction was in progress on a large table near the entrance. All of the auction items I saw were bags of themed books.

Art includes a beautiful quilt on the wall, made by the Friends, and a miniature sculpture of the Swans public art displayed at the train station, a sculpture by a local artist.

Perhaps my favorite moment in the library, in addition to chatting with the branch assistant, Jenni, was listening to a child giving a tour of the children's area to a younger child: "And these are harder books, for bigger kids like me."

9/1/2012, bus, train, walk