Monday, November 26, 2012

On the relevance of libraries

There is an article in the New York Times today about libraries after the assault of Hurricane Sandy. I think it would violate copyright to paste the article in here, but you can look for it at If you are a library fan (and why else would you be reading this blog?) you will be warmed by this article.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

134. MORE, Rice Lake, Wisconsin

A nice touch that caught my eye as I entered the lobby is a courtesy phone "for local calls only."

There's a browsing area by the windows, with comfortable-looking chairs and a collection of newspapers and periodicals. The adult fiction books are on the first floor. There is a history corner with a microfilm reader, a wooden card catalog file (but with larger drawers) with a newspaper index, drawers of newspapers on microfilm, and a collection of local history, some in a locked bookcase. (Key available from staff.)

On the wall on the way up the stairs is a "wreath" made partly of book pages with a sign "The gift of reading lasts forever." Two gerbils live upstairs in the children's area; I saw one of them, briefly. The teen area has two set-ups for video games; this is the only place where I've seen video games in use at a library, except for a couple of branches in Ramsey County. Young teens were using laptops; it looked as if these might belong to the library; perhaps the kids can check them out to use there?

The adult non-fiction collection is upstairs. The shelves are painted a cheerful yellow and have woodgrain ends; the result is very light and bright--I like it!

At the other end of the upper space is the children's are. A small boombox was playing children's music softly. One area had a poster on the wall that said simply "Storytime," surrounded by eleven smaller signs telling the skills that are developed by listening to stories. There are also a play house, a "workbench" with tools, toy kitchen, play store, some dress-up clothes, and manipulatives of various sorts mounted on the wall. One shelf holds parenting books, another has children's books in Spanish. (There are also some Spanish books elsewhere for adults.)

I like the sign beside the elevator that asks patrons to "Save energy, use the stairs if possible."

Back downstairs, I visited the "Back Alley Bookstore" run by the friends. It's about the size of the store at Maplewood in Ramsey County. In addition to books for sale, it offers jigsaw swaps and free magazines.

When I was on the corner waiting to cross the street back to my car, I saw a window display about plans for a new or renovated library. There was a picture showing a Carnegie library that was in use until 1978. I didn't see the building as I drove out of town; I wish I had gone back in and asked about it.

11/24/2012  car

133. MORE, Ladysmith, Wisconsin

The Ladysmith library overlooks a lake (pond?) and a park, which gave me a chance to stretch my legs--briefly. It was cold today! One of the pictures below looks back at the library from the park.

There is a fountain in the lobby; I think it was called Dripping Leaves. (Sorry, the name didn't get into my notes.) There was also a woman weaving on a tabletop loom, which was fascinating to me and to a boy about 10 years old.

There is a cozy teen area with two couches, a TV, and a sign gently asking that "If you move the furniture, please put it back." Near this area I was able to look into what I think is the librarian's office. A picture of a cute pirate cat was on the computer screen.

An adult browsing area looks out over the park. Large and medium tables along the window wall provide space for study and jigsaw puzzles. On top of one shelf I spotted a stuffed bobcat; I'm not an expert, but it looked like a good job. There is a stuffed owl, also good.

Moving toward the kids' area I saw original art on the walls, a coupon swap, a mineral display, and a nicely decorated Christmas tree. I've learned that outdated coupons are collected for military families, who can use them for a certain time beyond their expiration date.

The kids' area has windows on two sides. It features a tepee, probably 6 feet tall or more, with cushions inside. And to me, the piece de resistance, a wooden horse with a real saddle! I asked permission and took a picture; see below. I learned that the recently retired children's librarian provided (built?) the horse and gave the saddle. When I was a kid, I'd have been in that saddle every chance I had! A corner for the littlest kids had a set of three quarter-circle carpeted steps in one corner.

The juvenile collection seemed to be very large and included book-and-media sets and many, many VHS tapes.

That horse distracted me from the adult collection; fear not, there is one!

11/24/2012  car


132. MORE, Chetek, Wisconsin

This small library has a delightful children's area, with a dragon mural, a bright rug with the sun, numbers, and letters, a puppet theatre and basket of puppets, and a good collection of books--including a large group of Little Golden Books. A toy corner was keeping a number of small children engaged while I was there.

A browsing area was made homey with a number of glider-type easy chairs and a couple of rustic lamps, along with periodicals and newspapers.

The back wall featured articles and pictures of Hazel Calhoun, Superintendent of Schools in Barron County from 1952 to 1963. Even a cursory reading made it clear that she was a wonderful philanthropist in this community. Look at the picture below and you will see that the library was named for her.

The library provides fax service at $2.00 for six pages. Ive rarely seen this service in libraries, except in St. Paul.

As I was leaving, I spotted a poster about Operation Military Kids, a collection of 20 books provided by the state. There were suggestions about reading one or more of these books and discussing them. For more information, check out

Today was the last day of a Friends booksale in Chetek, and I scored three children's books and a recorded book by Crichton--all for a buck! Thanks, Friends!

11/24/2012  car

131. MORE, Amery, Wisconsin

The "we care about people" vibe starts as soon as you walk in the door, where a sign lets you know that a wheelchair and walker are available. Containers are provided for collecting box tops, bottle caps, and Campbell's labels, as well as food for a food shelf. The lobby is dominated by the Harvey and Marilyn Stower Coffee Corner--a comfortable living room with newspapers, periodicals, and vending machines close by. The Friends of the Library have a bulletin board that includes posted reports, and a shelf of books for sale. There's also a rack of greeting cards provided by a women's club, for sale to support the library.

Inside, painted silhouettes of children lead the way along the wall to the children'a area, which features (along with plenty of books of all types) a playhouse corner and a wooden train on a low table. There are several large areas for kids of different ages. A "bookworm" table made of five overlapping circles reminded me of the Very Hungry Caterpillar table in Elk River, MN.

There is a large meeting room off the lobby, and I saw at least two smaller meeting/study rooms inside. The adult area has three "living room" type areas, in addition to the space in the lobby. Two of them flank a two-sided fireplace.

Several chess boards were set up, ready for games. The Westerns section has a large number of old Zane Grey books, marked as gifts on the back of the title pages. That's something I don't see every day!

The library is attached to a large assisted living facility by a passageway; I was there early, right after opening, and did not see seniors around, but the whole space would welcome them. At the same time, I can't think that it would in any way put off younger adults or kids.

I spotted few public computers relative to other libraries I've visited. Perhaps I missed them?

The entire space feels very spacious and bright. I think this may be in part because the walls are decorated, not with framed objects, but with painted quotations, like, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  Aesop." These are on the walls in the adult area, also. This large small-town library seems ready to meet the needs of the community.

11/24/2012   car

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

78a. Hennepin County, Penn Lake, Bloomington, Re-visit

This branch closed for renovations shortly after my visit last summer. To a couple of friends who think my visit may have been a cause of the remodeling, ha ha no, it was part of a long-range plan. Today was a good day to get back and see what has changed.

When I visited last, many picture books were packed, some shelves were empty, there was a definite closing-soon vibe. Today was very different in some ways that I noticed quickly, and in one way that I would have missed if I had not had a conversation with staff.

First, the obvious: the place is totally "put together" now.  Picture books (and other books) abound, though the children's "new books" shelf was oddly empty.  I like the practice of putting series books, like Hank the Cow Dog, in plastic boxes which are then shelved alphabetically by author. Does this perhaps get children "into" the non-series books, where they might spot something interesting? I like the bright plastic laundry baskets for board books. The child-sized couch and upholstered chairs look inviting. The children's area has eight computers with Little Links reserved for kids 12 and under.

In the adult area I noticed comfortable seating by the windows that look out on Penn Ave. There is some interesting art on the walls, world language books in Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese, and a basket of books for "Adult New Readers" on the shelf in the 400 section of the non-fiction shelves, something I haven't seen before. There were about 16 computers for adult use.

A teen area has comfortable seating, three computers, and a counter with stools and outlets for laptops.

A certain Safety Committee (not in Hennepin County) recently suggested putting bright tape on black kick-stools to make them more visible. Here, I spotted a kick-stool completely painted bright yellow. Way to go, Penn Lake!

Before leaving, I talked to a staff person about the changes, mentioning that the space feels larger although it's clear the footprint has not changed. She reminded me that before the rennovation, the reference desk had been in the center of the building, separate from the circulation services desk. Now, both have been combined into one service desk on the left as you enter. It certainly makes the library feel more spacious. One unintended consequence, however, is that when the librarian was in the center overseeing the entire space, circulation staff could be in the workroom behind the desk. Now, it's sometimes necessary for circ staff to stay at the desk and help with oversight. But my impression was that the changes are considered a net plus.

11/20/12, bus and walking

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Hello, readers. The site is seeing quite a bit of action, which is great fun. But there are very few comments. My guess is that blogspot deters comments by requiring that you log on in some particular way. Here's an alternative: I you email your comments to me at, I'll put your email in as a comment. I won't include your email address, but please give your name or an alias. And be sure to identify which post your comment is related to.

Does that help?

Ellen (library.logger)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

130. SELCO, Faribault, MN

This library is part of a row of linked buildings that house, from left to right, the City Hall, library, parks and recreation center, and a senior center.

I arrived about 20 minutes before closing, and the lights were mostly off already in the children's area. I did see a fine dramatic play area, with kitchen, store, dollhouse, and (a first for me) a child-sized "living room" with easy chairs, a "coffee table," and so forth. Round pizza pans are attached to the ends of some shelves, and each has a collection of pictures with magnets.

There are two attractive fireplaces and other features that hint "Carnegie," but this building is not of that heritage.

There is a sizeable collection of foreign and silent films on DVDs. Reference materials are "on shelves behind the reference desk."

A wall rack holds resource guides for courses that might be college or high school.

An old, large, glass-fronted bookcase with a collection of books is "...from the home of Judge Thomas Scott Buckham, 1835-1928."

Large plastic baskets are at the ends of rows for books to be reshelved. I saw a dozen or so public computers.

With 15 minutes to go, staff announced that "The library will close in 15 minutes. We are not able to issue library cards 15 minutes before closing. Lights and computers will turn off 10 minutes before closing." Staff at this library must have a good track record for clearing the building on time!

11/10/12, car

129. Osage, Iowa

Today's trip was inspired by this library, which is written up in Main Street Public Libraries from the University of Iowa Press. The original building, a Carnegie now serving as the City Hall, is a few blocks down the street from current library.

[A maple theme pervades the town]

I have a variety of impressions of this library, all good but rather scattered. I like the display cases, which today house very well-crafted handmade vehicles like ox carts and covered wagons, complete with animals. An alcove that appeared at first to house reference materials also had a display of materials relevant to caregivers and a collection of medical and nutritional books; a nearby computer is "reserved for medical research," and apparently has access to special databases.

There are photographs of librarians from early days to more recent, and also a display of photos and brief biographies of local notables from the early 20th century to near the present.

A fireplace provides the focal point for a very nice "living room" area, with upholstered chairs, stone-topped tables, and homey touches. Art on the walls is available to borrow. Other things available to borrow--I saw these on the library website and now I've confirmed it with my own eyes--include folding tables, coffee urns, electric roasters similar to the one my mother used to have, and just about every size and shape of cake pan you could imagine, each in a hanging plastic bag!

A Youth Activity Room holds 4 round tables, 16 chairs, a couple of adult chairs, and a lot of easy readers and early chapter books. The sign made me think "teen," but the furnishings make it clear this is "early elementary." There is a clever bulletin board display with a paper tree and rake and small reproductions of children's book covers on paper leaves. The title is, of course, "Rake up a Good Book."

Story packs are in large zipper notebook binders. Some are labeled Chickasaw County Extension: Exploring Avenues for Getting Literate Early." It's nice to see the library and extension service collaborating.

A sign by the DVDs says that "Age 17 and up may check out R-rated movies. Younger borrowers must have a signed parent consent form."

A table in the entrance is used for patrons to drop off items to swap or give away: magazines, stationary, paperback books, and more.

Last but not at all least, this small town library has a children's program that has grown to 90 kids, from pre-K to grade 5, and their activities have had to move from the library, across the parking lot to the large meeting room at the police department! Clearly, this library is connecting with the new generation!

11/10/12, car

128. SELCO, Austin, MN

Another library where kids are supreme, which I totally support. Here, I was greeted with a glass case full of creative LEGO models made by boys and girls. Just beyond was a room labeled Early Literacy Room; it has two glass walls, toys, seating, a nursery rhyme rug. A sign that you see when leaving this space says, "All picked up? Great. Thank you!"

Familiar items in the children's area include computers (I counted about 16), chairs with animal motifs, a fire engine reading space similar to the one in Moundsview (Ramsey County), a puppet theater, and a large collection of all kinds of books, including Garfield comics, graphic novels, and many holiday books. But wherever I go, there is something I haven't seen before. In this case, it was strollers with bookbags attached, allowing a parent to cope with a small child and a large bunch of books while browsing. I know I'll think of these when I see certain parents at the library where I work!

I was literally stopped in my tracks when I left the children's area and headed to the adult area. There are two window walls that give a stunning view of the Red Cedar River. I hadn't even known there was a river out there! One wall is lined with 4-person tables for study or browsing, some with reading lamps. The other has tables with power strips for laptop use.

If you read many of these entries, you know that I'm always on the lookout for interesting signage. Here I found a sign that reminded me of one in Northeast Branch, Hennepin County: "Cutting articles and pictures out of our newspapers and magazines is theft and vandalism." OK, that's straighforward. But the next part of the sign says, "If you need a xerox (sic) copy and cannot pay for it, we will make one free of charge." That's very humane; I like it. The third part of the sign I understand but it makes me squirm a bit: "If you see someone destroying library property, please tell a staff member immediately."

A sign advertises Zineo, "the world's largest newsstand now available it your library." Along with what looked to me like a very large variety of periodicals, this really opens the world to patrons.

There are a lot of "Playaway" systems for adults, teens, and kids; for children, there are even "Playaway View" systems, which I'd never seen before. Maplewood in Ramsey County still has a few Playaways for adults, I think, but I haven't seen one or heard them mentioned in a long time.

Music CDs are shelved in a way that is new to me. Each has a flat plastic sleeve with space on one side for a CD and on the other side the descriptive insert. This allows a lot of CDs to be stored in a relatively small space, and you can see both sides of the CD and the insert without opening or removing anything. It would be immediately apparent to the patron if he/she was about to return an empty case!

I almost missed a large (about 11' diameter) polished stone inlay with the words "Austin Public Library" and "Supported by the Ladies Floral Club since 1869." That must make it one of the earliest libraries in MN. The present facility was built in 1996.

After leaving the library, I took a walk along the river. I've been going on and on here, but here's one more thing: There are signs in Spanish and English by the playground and along the river path based on materials from I hoped that I could just refer you to the signs at that site, but it's not that easy. I'll just cite one: "Watch. Learn. Stop. Play. Let your child lead the way." Then it gives ideas for playing with your child, starting with "Watch what your child likes to do..." Very, very nice idea, with signs thanks to the Hormel Foundation.

11/10/12, car

127. Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO) Owatonna, MN

It took me a while to grasp that the whole first floor of this library is the kids' area! There are many windows, a dollhouse, puzzles, lots and lots of books, a large parenting collection, and at least 10 computers for kids. About half of the space can be closed with folding doors to create a large program space. How large? Well, there is ample room for eight tables, each with four chairs--room enough for an entire class from the nearby elementary school. In addition to children's programs, this space is used for movies; coming up soon: Auntie Mame. [I think that came out when I was in college!]

There are story bags with books and audio and lots of recorded books. Near the entrance is a glass case that today had a nifty display of animal books and many small animal figures, grouped near each book.

I thought this was a Carnegie library, because of the beautiful fireplaces, classic oak tables and chairs, and large windows. However, a plaque in the entranceway says "In memory of Elisha Y and Elizabeth C Hunewill whose generosity made possible the founding of this free public library." [And I just discovered that it is not listed in Carnegie Libraries of Minnesota.]A nearby plaque states that modernization in 1954 was made possible by the Gainey Foundation. It clearly has been modernized again since then, with the addition of the new part. There are many old photographs indicating pride and interest in the history of the building and the area.

The newer part upstairs, above the children's area, has windows on three sides, some oak carrels, a good-sized collection of fiction and non-fiction (in addition to  mysteries and "Christian fiction" in the older area), about a dozen public computers, a reference collection, many large-print books, audio books, and DVDs, including Blue Ray DVDs, which I have not noticed at any other library I've visited.

I registered my St. Paul library card in the SELCO system, but did not take out a book as I don't know when I'll get back down this way.

11/10/12, car

Thursday, November 8, 2012

126. Great River, Staples

The library shares space with other municipal offices. The first thing I noticed here was the cool bike rack (see picture), which is surpassed only by the racks at the Mother Ship in St. Cloud. Once I got inside, I was captivated by a large, three-panel fabric mural. It's hard to describe; it's not a quilt, but it uses fabric to give the impression of the farmland I'd been driving through all day. You'll just have to go see it!

There are at least seven public computers. As I've noticed throughout the GRRL system, there are movies on both VHS and DVD, and recorded books on both CD and cassette.

I had to hang around for about 40 minutes before the library opened so I got a bite to eat and noticed that trains go through Staples about every two minutes. Well, not that often, perhaps, but very often. So I wasn't surprised to see a periodical called Trains and to notice a train theme on the picture book bin labels.

There are clear, sensible rules of behavior. Too much to write here, but I like them.

An attractive wooden wall, about 7 feet high (not to the ceiling) divides the children's and adults' areas. A charming round room with windows and window-seats part way around is for the youngest children--and perhaps for programs? There are a lot of book and audio story sets, both cassette and DVD. Brochures in the children's area represent the "1000 books before kindergarten" program that I first saw at Big Lake, a "Circle of Parents" support group that meets at the elementary school, and a story hour at a local coffee shop.

On my way out, I noticed a rack of "newspapers on sticks" that take me back to my youth, when putting papers onto sticks like those was not my favorite task. And the bookdrop had a sign I like, especially the second sentence: "Please insert large items one at a time. The book drop is a courtesy, not a guarantee."

11/8/2012, car

125. Great River, Eagle Bend

I had missed Eagle Bend when I was planning this trip, but a staff person at Little Falls told me that it was right between two branches I planned to visit. The problem: it wouldn't open until 4 pm, and I surely wanted to be headed south by then. So I stopped by, took a picture, learned what I could from posters in the windows and on the door, and left a "check out the blog" note in the book drop.

So, I can tell you that the branch shares a downtown building with a history center, adjacent to a senior center. There will be a Talking Turkey storytime from 10:30 to 11 on Saturday, November 10; somehow in that short time there will be stories, flannel board, crafts, and snack. Wow! Perhaps I wrote the time down wrong? That seems like a lot to fit into 30 minutes.

There is a poster about "Rebel Pride for a Blue Ribbon School"--I think the Rebels are the local high school teams. A brochure about language learning is displayed: "Journey to a land of 60 languages with Pronunciator." And the "Every child ready to read" poster from GRRL is in the window.

I hope that Eagle Bend staff found the note I left in the book drop and will check out this post. Perhaps they will even be kind enough to leave a comment telling what I missed by not getting inside.

11/8/2012, car

124. Great River, Long Prairie

This is a downtown library that shares a building with an attorney and various other offices. Once inside, however, it was easy to forget the unassuming exterior. One large wall held a handsome mural of the area, and a smaller space had a painting of community members: doctor, police officer, boy, mom with baby, and others.

In the children's area I immediately spotted sixteen 4-H binders on various topics; I think it was Sauk Centre where I first saw such binders. The collection overall is small--hey, the space is small!--but patrons have access to the entire GRRL collection, too. And because the collection floats, new and different books are available each time a patron comes in.

Some attractive quilts hang on the walls. There are Spanish books available, and I noticed a number of Hispanic businesses in town. I spotted at least four public computers, and there are several shelves designated for teen books. The art on the walls and a number of large windows make the space bright and inviting.

11/8/2012, car

123. Great River, Little Falls

A nice day for a drive, so I decided to tackle the farthest-northwest branches of the Great River Regional Library, starting with a Carnegie Library in Little Falls. That's the location of the boyhood home of Charles Lindbergh, by the way.

Like the Carnegie library in Sauk Centre, this one has had an addition "wrapped around" the original building. It was done so artfully here that it took me a while to recognize that the stone and brick walls, with windows into the lower level children's area, were once part of the outside wall.

The library is on four levels. [The entrance is accessible, and there is an elevator.] The top floor houses a teen area that I hope gets a lot of use, because it is very cool. Some good teen programming must be going on, judging by a poster about a book club. From the photos and names it appears to be mostly, but not entirely, girls. There is also a display about the book club exchanging letters with a similar club in Scotland in 2011. The space has a diner booth and a number of tall tables with tall stools to match; one of those tables has a jigsaw puzzle in progress. The collection was modest, but of course patrons have access to the entire GRRL collection.

The next level down is also part of the original library, with a fireplace at each end. The tables and chairs look as if they may be originals (and that is a compliment, folks). The Lindbergh Room is available for quiet study or small meetings. There are periodicals and newspapers, and the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature for years 1990 to 2007, which I haven't spotted anywhere else. Perhaps I've missed it.

The main, entry level includes circulation and the adult collection. The adult fiction, non-fiction, and media sections seem to have been rearranged recently, and the signage hasn't quite caught up! Spanish books are available. There are couches, chairs, DVD and VHS movies, books on cassette, both checkers and chess sets ready to go on small tables, and another jigsaw puzzle in the works.

The lowest level is the children's area, just as it was in my childhood library. The space is half underground but is brightened by many windows at ground level. I like the small bright blue rugs with the "library" logo on them. The picture book area has books in bins, of course, and also puppets, a wooden train set on a table, and a play kitchen. There are couches for adults.

In the older kids' area I like the list of series available, with the shelves marked alphabetically. I know from experience that series books can be very challenging to shelve and maintain. And I especially like the sign on the non-fiction shelves, "If the book you want is not on the shelf, ask a staff person to request it for you." This would be very helpful since the GRRL collection floats.

11/8/2012, car

Original building to the left; the addition blends nicely.

Friday, November 2, 2012

122. University of Minnesota Andersen Library

ADDED on 10/26/2015: Here's a link to a recent article about the caverns that store the special collections, and more:

Andersen Library houses special collections, and includes the caverns carved out of limestone about 10-15 years ago to house various archives.

My Children's Literature course met here last week, because it is the home of the Children's Literature Research Collection. Part of that collection is the Kerlan Collection, which includes manuscripts, graphics, and correspondence representing hundreds of authors and illustrators.

At that class, I learned about the "First Friday" lectures, so I went over today to hear two speakers. The first, representing the Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies, talked about gay marriage, and surprised us with an article on the subject from 1950.

The second speaker represented the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine, and talked about patent medicines; these nostrums rarely helped the conditions they were touted for, but probably provided a certain relief through their common ingredients, alcohol and opium.

When my class met here, I got the impression that after the First Friday lectures there would be an opportunity to tour the storage areas (which have a formal name that I have forgotten, but are known informally as The Bat Cave). I have an ailing kitty at home today, so I didn't stick around. But next month's speakers will represent the Immigration History Research Center and the Kirschner Cookbook Collection, and I hope to get a tour then. I'll update this post, or add a comment, if I get a tour.

The building is worth visiting on any given day for the displays created by the various collections.

11/2/12, bus/walk