Tuesday, December 31, 2013

221. Manchester City Library, Manchester, NH

I grew up only 20 or so miles from Manchester, NH, so it seems strange in retrospect that I had never been to this library. The omission was rectified on Friday, Dec. 27, because my sister and I headed for the airport very early, leaving time for one more library visit.

The building is impressive, filling a city block. Manchester being the largest city in NH, it is appropriate that it has the largest library. The building was given by Frank Carpenter in memory of his wife, and it will celebrate its centennial in 2014.

The lobby has a helpful sign that tells what is on each floor and "what you can do" there. There is also a collection box for a local food shelf; I haven't mentioned them, but I saw these in most of the libraries I visited on this trip. Beyond the lobby is a handsome central rotunda, with a circulation desk. To the left are YA books, followed by adult fiction and non-fiction. There are classic "stacks"--I did not determine whether they are open to the public. The stacks that clearly are open are massive, 8 shelves high, with the lowest mere inches above the floor and the highest about seven feet up. Thoughtful signs remind patrons that if they have difficulty with things that are too high--OR TOO LOW--they are welcome to ask for help. Occasional empty shelves or with books that do not match the shelf designations are explained by signs that say "Shifting project in progress."

Tall windows surround the room. Each has a warm air duct and a pew-like window seat.

A sign on a centrally located table asks patrons to "Please remember that this is a public building. Please keep all valuables, especially children, close by." I like this, especially the idea that children are valuable.

The upper floor houses the New Hampshire room, genealogy resources, art, music, and a conference room. We did not go up to that level, but I'm willing to bet
 that there is a grandfather clock up there! Perhaps someone from Manchester will read this and let me know if my hunch is correct.

The lower level has a large room for children's programs and a modest auditorium with raked seating. The rest of the area houses the children's collection. Although this space is partially underground, it is brightened by large windows. A long shelf held near-life-size reindeer and trees made of corrugated cardboard (by the children's librarian, I was told). The space was very quiet when I got there, but before I left a couple of small children burst in, clearly at ease and happy to visit the library.

Almost forgot to mention a teen program that intrigued me: "Ages 12 - 18 are invited to learn and play and enjoy new card, strategy and board games.  Semi-professional gaming geeks will be on hand to mentor new players in an array of classic and modern games." What caught my eye is the presence of "semi-professional gaming geeks"--that should pull in some participants!

For more information about the Manchester library, visit http://www.manchester.lib.nh.us/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/manchesterlibrary.

12/27/2013, bus, plane, car (and headed back to the airport)

If you look carefully, you can see part of "Carpenter Memorial Library."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

220. Weare Public Library, Weare, NH

The Weare Public Library is clearly in New Hampshire, as it has the requisite grandfather clock! It also has a fireplace, seemingly unused, with a "living room" browsing area. A teen area includes a subscription to Teen Ink, a publication I rarely see. This library clearly caters to a youthful audience, providing a table for after school snacks: "Food may be eaten at this table on school days only between 2:15 and 3:30. Please be seated and use the wastebasket...." From discussion with staff, I gather that the table is a constructive "If you can't lick them, join them" solution to what could become a problem.

A display near the adult collection holds the current NYT bestseller list, with books available at the library highlighted in yellow, those available for download in pink. That's a nice touch. I know that there is a "Knit Night" club, but when I went to the library website to look for other programs, the monthly calendar was still on November, 2013. Oops!

The children's area is downstairs, where the space is divided into a number of alcoves. I spotted at least one set of shelves on wheels, suggesting that it may be possible to rearrange the space for programs. Each alcove had something special, including a large puffy fabric turtle, ideal for the tiny tots to sit or lie on. My favorite was the one with a display on the wall titled "Dewey know where to go?" with Dewey hundreds paired with pictures representing the topics. Very nice and inviting way to introduce nonfiction searching to young patrons.

Another sign said "Hoping to make it easier for you," and pointed out that orange dots on the spines indicate easy chapter books. Two computers are available for kids, and the Friends support a program of museum passes, which is very nice.

For more about this library, go to http://wearepl.wordpress.com/.

12/26/2013    bus, plane, car

219. Tucker Free Library, Henniker, NH

This handsome building was erected in 1903 and has been serving as a library since then. A large room to the left of the entrance houses historical material that belongs to the library, including many historic photographs and old books, a great fireplace, and an amazing dollhouse, built by sixth graders in 1913-14. This school year is therefore the centennial year for the dollhouse, and library staff are trying to learn more about its history. It's a very long shot, but if anyone reading this has any tips, please contact the Tucker Free Library. Seriously!

On the other side of the entrance hall is a quiet room with books and public computers. Directly ahead is the circulation desk and the adult fiction and nonfiction stacks. The circulation desk looks totally at home in the library, although it is very new; it was built by a local craftsman, who did an excellent job of both design and execution.

The children's area is down a flight of stairs at the rear of the building; there is also a more direct entrance from a rear parking lot. The walls here are mostly brick, warmed by light from many windows, bright colors, and cheerful, friendly staff. A large room holds picture books for the youngest patrons, shelved topically. Down another five steps is a similar room for school-age children including teens. Standard metal shelving has been brightened by strips of color on the front-facing edges, bright purple, green, and yellow. Signs invite reading: "It's vacation. Pick a book you want to read." "Cool new reads. Brand new young adult books." There is a flat-screen TV and an X-Box for gamers.

Staff upstairs and down were pleasant, informative, and fun to chat with. Their pride in the library is clear. Congratulations to the Tucker Free Library as they enter their 110th year of serving Henniker residents!

For more about this library, have a look at http://tuckerfreelibrary.org/.

12/26/2013   bus, plane, car

218. Hopkinton Town Library, Contoocook, NH

It's a great treat to be going through a small NH town (with someone else driving in the snow), turn a corner, and find an amazingly handsome library. I was surprised to see the 1998 date in the lobby; this library could have been built yesterday. As soon as we walked in, my sister (the driver) went directly to the inviting granite fireplace she saw straight ahead. I turned left and immediately found one of the "living room" areas I like so much. This one had windows, new books for browsing, and a craft display.

Continuing, I came to the kids' area with three tall windows, each with a cushioned window seat. There were also a wooden train table, a shelf of parenting books, a purple wooden rocker with a Peter Rabbit motif, and a sort of cubby corner with a slightly raised floor; it might be used as a tiny stage, a hiding place, or ... ? Whatever imagination can conjure. The librarian's desk and office plus kitchen and restrooms are nearby. Programming includes a day in early December when parents were invited to drop off kids ages 5 and up, with their dinner, to play "Bingo for Books" and watch a movie while their parents shopped locally. Neat idea! There is also a winter Story Walk based on Jan Brett's Three Snow Bears; the walk is located at a nearby playground.

There is a long table with a lendable telescope and a variety of games. A long screened porch is lined with Adirondack chairs, perfect for reading in more clement weather. I learned that a mirror image of this porch is on the other side of the library, but did not see it.

One thing had puzzled me: every NH library, it seems, has a grandfather clock. A staff person showed me the "History Room" and there it was. See picture below. [The picture of the clock will be delayed until I am able to rotate it 90 degrees!] This room is full of murals painted by local residents, showing a variety of local scenes. There is a lot of talent here!

One of my favorite features was the prevalence of READ posters featuring local individuals and groups: cheerleaders, a firefighter, families, the knitting club! These posters, in full color, are created by high school students as part of a graphic arts class--what a great idea.

For more information, have a look at http://hopkintontownlibrary.org/.

12/26/2013 bus, plane, car

A fireplace in the Granite State, the perfect place to sit on a snowy day.

Monday, December 23, 2013

217. Durham Town Library, Durham NH -- Revisit?

Is this a revisit or not? Well, I posted about the Durham library last June, after peering in the windows and looking at signs at their "temporary" (about 15 years) location in a small strip mall. This week I made my first visit to their new quarters, a stunning small building in this university town. Nestled into fraternity row, the new facility is comprised of an old house and an attached new building.

There's something new to see at every library, right? Here, it was outside: bike racks (no big deal) housed under a portico called the Bike Porch (very clever and thoughtful idea). Entering the lobby, the library proper is to the left. To the right, stairs and an elevator take you up one level to the main floor of the old house. A small room houses the Friends bookshop and a long room houses the self-service Cafe. Beyond the cafe and to the left is the original living room of the old house, now holding a long conference table and a fireplace.

Another level up is a large program room that can be divided. When I was there, a showing of Polar Express was just ending, with pajama-clad kids clambering down the stairs. The area outside the program room provides an art gallery for local talent, of which there is plenty.

OK, back downstairs and into the library. Initially I bypassed the adult area, on my way to see the piece de resistance, the life-sized reproduction of a boat known as a gundelow. [You'll have to go to their website to see this boat; see the link below.] Behind the gundelow is a large program room for the children's area, partially carpeted for story time, partially tiled for crafts. The boat and program room make this a real sister to the main library in LaCrosse, WI.

A flyer about programs includes the usual suspects, including a summer program, but also a few surprises: a University of New Hampshire "reading buddy" program, a middle school book club called "Bookeaters," a high school club called "Libros Lovers," a writing/blog group, and a reading patch program that rewards reading during the school year. [Note: The middle school group should check out www.unshelved.com and look for the Bibliovore T-shirts.]

The teen area is a separate room, with a door, right beside the youth services office and desk; this gives it a nice set-apart feel, but is close enough for good supervision. There are computers, games, and a large flat-screen TV. I learned that the library is within walking distance of the middle school, and is very lively with young people when school gets out. [I was there on the Saturday before Christmas; not a kid in sight!]

Each new section of the library has large alcoves with tall windows and comfortable seating. There is one such area for adults as you enter the library (with a seasonal reading porch outside), one in the children's area, one in the pre-school area, and so forth. the teen area, and the "back" of the adult area. Each has its own personality. The windows look out on buildings in a couple of cases, but also onto a lawn and wooded area. One view includes sculptures of a woman who was a major benefactor, her husband, and swans, famous in Durham.

Re-reading this, it seems that adults have been neglected. Not so...they have a couple of comfortable reading areas, computers, and collections of fiction and nonfiction. Staff is very friendly and helpful.

For more information, go to http://www.durhampubliclibrary.org/durham/ or their page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Durham.NH.Public.Library.

12/21/13, bus, plane, car

Sorry, I didn't have a camera with me; there are plenty of pictures on the websites mentioned above, and I strongly suggest that you have a look!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Updated: Adventures of a Librarian: Siskiyou County, CA -- 1937

This report came to me long ago from a friend who has connections with the author. I've misplaced the original, but I recently discovered the text on a floppy (yes, a floppy) disk. I read this to a mixed-age group at a bookstore 10 years ago, and I will read it to third graders soon, each time challenging them to create pictures in their minds. As you read, try to remember that this is a report; at least, that was the intention. The location is the far northern area of California; I'm looking for a period map to add. In the meantime, enjoy. And visualize!

I read the report to the kids today (12/10/13). Despite having a guest (substitute) teacher, and two restless days of indoor recess because of cold and snow (as in the report), they stayed with it, paying good attention. The hardest part seemed to be understanding that I had read them a real report, by a real person. One girl asked "Where can I get the book?"


No doubt you have received the two circulation reports, Dec. & Jan. sent you last week, but as the mail has been held up by snow in the mountains, it may be that the letter has been delayed.  I mailed the reports on January 29, and also two boxes of books (28 books), which left Cecilville at the same time (Feb. 1)  I put the books in two boxes so that they would have a better chance of going through, but snow began to fall again on the evening of Jan 31 and it stormed here very hard on Feb. 1, so probably the books did not get any further on their way than Snowden, which is the changing place from stage to mules on this side of the Etna mountain.

I waited a long time in Etna before starting for Sawyer's Bar.  The stage was not running, and it seemed as if I could not bring myself to the point of starting out on muleback at 6 A.M. with the temperature considerably below zero.  It is simply impossible to keep ones feet warm, and it takes four or five hours to make the trip to Snowden at best, and longer if snow conditions are bad. 

By waiting, I managed to get from Etna to Sawyers Bar by stage.  It was the only day that the stage did go through and then only because the contractors had a big load of freight they wanted to take over the mountain.

[For an idea of this trip, go to MapQuest and ask for directions from Etna to Sawyer's Bar to Snowden. Be sure to mentally adjust anything resembling today's Rte. 5 to be the smallest yellow line on the map!]
We left the post office at six, and crawled up the mountain to the rest cabin on the mountain, where we had to wait for the bulldozer, and then when the man did come we had to wait while he built a fire under it to thaw out the frozen grease.  The waiting was not so bad as the stage driver built a fire and we, there was another passenger, warmed up thoroughly.  It was interesting too, for the stage driver is quite a talker and a lover of horses, and he entertained us with the history of Arabian horses in this country; the origin of Pintos and tales of race horses which he named, and how they pep 'em up with dope and what-not, and so on, and then the passenger, who was a mining engineer told of his experiences with mules in Mexico.  All very interesting.

Then the bulldozer started up the mountain and we crawled along behind and finally went ahead.  It was hard going.  The road had been opened on Saturday (this was Monday) but the wind and squally weather Saturday night had filled the road with drifts, so it was slow.  Near the top it was worse.  We could see the other stage parked up there and two men coming down from the top tramping the snow down with their feet to make it easier for our stage to dig in and climb.  The wind was blowing a gale and although it was not storming, clouds of top-snow swirled over the summit and thin streams of snow shot over in places, something like water from a small nozzle on a hose, helping to build up the comb and filling the road faster than the bulldozer could scrape it out.

That machine came up behind us, dragging a coupe, for cars can not get up, when the stage, with its greater power, can.  On this side the road was not so full of drifts and several cars were lined up waiting to go over.  We had to change stages.  It was only about 60 feet between the two trucks but that was far enough.  The stinging wind-driven snow cut on ones face and the wind nearly tore ones hat and coat from them.

Before starting on the stage Monday morning, I had a sort of adventure.  The husband of one of my friends had driven across the mountain Saturday night and wanted to return Sunday to be at his work on Monday.  I started with him Sunday afternoon about 5 P.M.  The road was barely open on Saturday and it was squally Saturday night and while Sunday turned out to be a fine day, the wind blew hard on top, so it was uncertain whether he would make it or not.  We did not, but it was not the snow that blocked us.

It was a beautiful afternoon but oh, so cold at 5 P.M.  I went prepared; experience has taught me how to keep the heat in.  First a long unionsuit, then bloomers and a snug woolen slip-over sweater; two pairs of stocking, overalls; a second woolen sweater high in the neck; a woolen skirt; a pair of men's heavy woolen socks; a pair of gum boots with the overall legs tied down around the ankles; a leather coat; a tweed coat; a muffler around neck and head; a felt hat; gloves; but when I brought out an extra large thick and heavy blanket, my friends had to laugh.

It was a little difficult to climb into the car, but I sat on the blanket and brought it up over my feet and legs and as soon as we were out of town drew it up over my head and shoulders; at least I intended to be warm!

We crawled along.  It soon was dark.  The temperature went down and one could see it getting colder because the snow began to glisten in the car-light and tiny icicles formed on the edges of the drifts where the sun had thawed the snow a little in the afternoon.

At every turn the driver had to maneuver his way, backing and filling and crushing down the snow so that his wheels had traction.  At every steep place I thought we could not make it, because the road was icy under a powder of snow, but we kept going until we were within about a mile of the top.  Our progress was slow, but we went ahead steadily.

Then we came to a turn in the road, and out of the darkness ahead, two men came running and waving us back.  It was not a holdup!  Their car, out of sight around the bend was on fire!  They had seen our lights and were waving us back for fear of an explosion.  The men and my driver walked back around the bend, and of course I had to see too, so climbed out of the car and followed behind them.

It was an eerie sight!  The still dark woods mantled in snow, the snowy road, the three black figures ahead, silhouetted against the glowing back window of the car (the fire was still in the interior of the car) no light except the glow in the car and star-light. There was no wind; everything was so still except for the squeak, squeak of the frozen snow underfoot and a faint hissing sound from the fire.  Weird is a good word to describe the picture.  We seemed so far away and detached from the world.  We looked on; the trees looked on; nothing could be done.  The fire had started under the floor and had a good start; there was no way to extinguish it.

I went back to our car; the men stayed and watched the fire; it did not show from where I sat, but presently a pale glow lighted the tops of the trees around the bend, but there was no sound.  The thing I will always remember was the profound silence; it was like sitting out alone in nowhere.

When the men came back the three squeezed into the seat with me, a seat built for two in the days when two were meant.  They had low shoes on their feet and thin socks, so their feet were soaking.  One of them said he did not know that feet could get so cold.  They had started out without even a shovel and were helpless when the fire started as their car was wedged in a snow drift.  The owner had been demonstrating the car to his friend, a possible purchase.  It was a new Super-Charger Grahame Page.  He had intended to show how his car would take the top with ease, but that was one sale that was not consummated and of course the other man will never buy a Super-Charger Grahame-Page now.
 [I'm not certain of the date, but that ill-fated Graham-Page may have looked something like this:


At Sawyers, there was no mule for me to ride the next day, so I had to lay over, and of course it stormed.  14 inches of new snow fell and piled up on that already on the ground.  But there was more or less excitement; cars came "around the Horn" and owners knocked at the Hotel at all hours.  About 2 A.M. a resounding knock at the door wakened everyone, a male voice pleaded, "Please Betty, please Betty." Betty appeared to be cross but finally softened and told the wayfarer to go around and take an upstairs room.

In the morning it turned out that people from the White Bear had gone out the day the mountain opened but had had to come around by way of the Klamath.  They were still marooned in Sawyers when I left.

That day more excitement; the road dropped out from under the front end of a car passing the Hotel.  Soon all the men (or so it seemed) and all the dogs and most of the women in Sawyers came to see and give advice.  The car was finally hauled out onto the road again, and the Constabule put a flare over the hole as it was evening.  No harm was done, the crowd and the Constabule went home (it is always constabule in small towns).  Just another old drift had caved in.

I left Sawyers riding the best mule in Siskiyou.  A good mule helps but it is not everything.  Anyway, I put on the sweaters and the socks and the coats and the boots and did not forget the blanket!  It went over my knees and dangled below my feet.  It not only kept knees and feet warmer, but shed snow.  The trees were bowed with snow.  The branches met over the trail, great masses tumbled down; the mules went down to the bottom and broke trail.  My feet dragged in snow nearly all the way to Cecilville, but my good old blanket acted as a buffer and kept the snow off of my boots and out of my stirrups.

I did not melt snow with my feet all that day as did the two packers.  The coldest thing on earth are feet wedged into stirrups by snow.  It packs tight and makes a ball of ice under the sole, not only cold, but difficult to balance on.

I took us from 7 A.M. to nearly 4 P.M. to wallow through with only two short stops at Black Bear and King Solomon.  At King Solomon an Angel in a cook’s cap served us coffee and hot food to stimulate our stomachs so that we could finish the trip alive.  Never until we take such trips do we realize how many muscles we have that we do not use and every one of them protested against the constant slipping and jerking especially toward the end of those weary miles.

And then -- no car at Cecilville!  Road closed!  Saddle changed to horse, old horse!  mount! ride! or rather just sit and endure, until home in sight at last.  Good old home, just like Heaven.  Next day?  I can not write about it yet.

But then, I started to tell you about the circulation reports and my letter has brought me to Heaven, which is really quite some distance from Cecilville, I am forced to believe.  But the book reports -- they are good. This surprising winter has made our branch extremely popular.  People snow-bound, nothing to do but read.  Mr. Ball kept quite a good record, too.  Between times he shoveled snow and looked after the stock.  He loaned books and books and magazines.  The men at the mine are marooned, can not work.  The books have been a Godsend to them, as well as to the East Fork people who live here all the time, one a boy who came from Chicago to visit his father.  He thought of mining as a great game, but has seen nothing of it so far.  Poor lonesome kid, 17 yrs.

Shall I mail this immaterial letter to the Librarian?  I should have sent a nice understandable report about this branch, and here it is an irrelevant three-page letter, but you know so much happens in the mountains; it is not like town where everything is so hum-drum and all of a sameness, that is because everyone follows his little routine there, and here we see or do everything.

I loaned some books yesterday, but before that at 4 A.M. we found a new calf in the snow, nearly frozen; would have been dead by daylight.  We dragged it to shelter of a sort, and brought the good old blanket mentioned already and wrapped the new baby in it.  We heated stovelids to put under it and rubbed it vigorously and kept it warm until daylight, then got a man from the mine to carry it to the kitchen where we finally got it onto its feet and now it is a fine husky fellow out with his Mama.  It is quite an experience, not exactly pleasant, but could never have happened if I had been a branch librarian or custodian in a town; so many things happen in the mountains.

Oh yes, the books!  The boxes contained two recalls besides the others, I also want to ask for an extension on the State book for Mr. Dukes.  Owing to the unfavorable weather and poor traveling conditions the book was not delivered promptly; no way to do so. I hesitated about returning it before Mr. Dukes had it, but finally decided to send it to him and ask for more time.  It did not appear to be such a popular book, that a little more time would matter, but I remembered your plea for "no overtime" on State books.

Between us all, this branch is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable, and with that I must close or write another page!

Sincerely yours,

Lottie Ball



Sunday, November 3, 2013

86a. St. Paul Public Library, Rice Street Branch--Revisit

Here is another library that has had a recent facelife. There are no changes (that I am aware of) on the outside, but inside, oh my! I had some St. Paul books with me, so I had a chance to try the new book return. On the downside (in my opinion), books must be put in the return slot one at a time, and you have to scan the bar code. On the upside, and this can be very important, you have the option to get a receipt for books returned. Such a receipt could eliminate a lot of the difficult conversations that circulation staff can be involved it.

The service and reference desks have been combined into one, freeing space for one of the "living room" configurations I always enjoy seeing. There is a computer lab that is used for instruction and help with job applications, resumes, email, Office applications, and typing, as well as for Open Lab four days a week. There are four study rooms for one or two people, and a roomy laptop counter allows laptop users to spread out. I counted about 18 computers; five are near the kids' area, and two of those are designated as "family" computers. I forgot to ask whether that means Internet filters, or is simply a matter of priority.

The teen area is still in the corner with the attractive stained glass sections of the windows. Toddlers have a greatly expanded space directly across from the service desk. I estimate that it's about 10' x 20', with a magnetic white board on the long wall. There are interactive toys, a couple of tables with chairs, a dollhouse, and a computer. Large pencil drawings and stories created by students at the Washington Technology Magnet School are on one wall in the kids area. I was pleased to see that the stories were well-written and had been carefully edited before being displayed.

There are a lot of easy readers and series books, as well as several J fiction shelves; poetry and fairy tales have their own locations. [All non-fiction books are shelved together.] A bin labeled "Let us put it back for you" is in a central location. A world language collection includes material in Vietnamese, Hmong, and Spanish, as well as book and audio sets for learning various languages, including English. Talking books are available on cassette and CD.

Staff are friendly, and gave me a lot of information about the recent changes. When I visited, tables staffed by volunteers were dedicated to rocks, minerals, and fossils. Off the lobby, there is a large meeting room that can be divided into two rooms. In the picture below, the windows on the near corner of the library allow a view of two painted  "Snoopy" statues from a city-wide project some years ago.

For more about this library, go to http://www.sppl.org/about/locations/rice-street. Once there, click on "Collectors Corner Neighborhood Trading Place" to see what the rocks, minerals, and fossils were doing in the lobby! Also note that the site includes a map and information about bus routes!

11/3/13, car (I could have taken a bus, but I was on my way to work.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

216. Taylors Falls, MN, Pubic Library

Such variety in one half-day trip! The picturesque building, with its new yellow-and-white paint job, dates to the 1850s. The Taylors Falls Library Association served the town from 1871 to 1919. At first the book collection was housed in rental sites in the town; in 1887 the Association bought the small house where the library is still located. In 1919 the Association was dissolved and the Taylors Falls Public Library began. The building was remodeled in the mid 70s, and recently celebrated 125 years as a public library.

This is definitely the smallest library I've visited so far: two rooms, one behind the other. The first room holds the adult collection, the second has children's books, including many old, old volumes. The room felt cozy, with a nice rug and a few large stuffed animals. When I asked whether the old books circulated, I learned that children rarely come to this library. The exception seems to be a program at the local elementary school that brings kids to the library for story time several times during the summer.

The library is a slice of living history. There are no computers, the librarian has an electric typewriter at her desk, a 12-drawer card catalog is kept up-to-date, and book cards in pockets are used for check-out. But I stress living history. The librarian is dynamic, and three different patrons came or went while I was there. The library does not have its own website, but you can learn more about it at the town site, http://www.ci.taylors-falls.mn.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B91979FAB-71B9-49B5-9BD9-B812C6D2EE65%7D. Better than the website, though, I suggest you stop in. Bring the kids. Look for books you remember from your childhood. Sit and chat for a while.

10/30/2013, car

215. St. Croix Falls Public Library, St. Croix Falls, WI -- MORE

Now for something entirely different: the St. Croix Falls library is in a building that was once a grocery store! The conversion to a library has been artfully done, with many nods to the geological features in the area. The children's space is dominated by a large wooden "table," an irregular hexagon, one side against the wall and chairs along the edges. The table top has a "pit" that echoes the glacial potholes found here, though I doubt that the real potholes have cozy pillows. A large mosaic behind the service desk was a community art project, and reminds one of the St. Croix River. Thick, felted "banners" hanging from the ceiling to improve acoustics are designed to remind one of local rocks. This is all very cool, and it's clear that the staff is knowledgable about their special environment.

Other features of the children's area include book art projects using found objects and mounted on large sticks; these are visible from outside through the large windows and are very intriguing. Convex mirrors are mounted beside a metal section of wall provided with magnetic letters and pictures. A sensory table held dried beans, very small gourds of several types, and some plastic forceps; what a great chance to practice small-motor skills! When I was there, a rather small tiger was "helping" shelve picture books. The tiger turned out to be the child of a volunteer, and I suspect she had been there for a Halloween event earlier in the morning.

Shelving is angled in a way that makes the space seem intriguing, even a bit mysterious--what will I find if I go down here? The teen area has a computer with priority for AR tests and a sign that says "Keep calm and take an AR test." [Keep calm seems to be an important phrase here; I bought a T-shirt that says "Keep calm and carry a library card" that I'm looking forward to wearing to work this weekend.] Some origami projects that looked complicated to me were on various shelves in the teen area. There are also some nearly-round bowls make of papier mache (I think) holding small games and a set of magnetic words.

There are two small study or tutoring rooms each with a nice window to the outside. A broad upholstered bench looked like a nice place for a kid to curl up with a book.  An old upright L.C. Smith typewriter was on top of one shelf. The Friends have a sale shelf where I found a nice little pile of books that I bought for a quarter each, for Halloween treats. (No candy at my house.)

Finally, this is the first library I've found where patrons can check out...an amphibian! They have several of the small critters in cages, thanks to a local "frog man." Two were in-house when I was there, though one was "on reserve" for a nearby branch of the MORE system. Amazing. Nice friendly staff, too, though I truly haven't met any of the other kind in my travels. If they exist, they must hide in the back room when I walk in.

For more about this library, go to http://www.stcroixfallslibrary.org/.  Also take a look at https://www.facebook.com/#!/scflibrary!

10/30/2013, car

It's hard for a library to fill an entire grocery store; they share the space with a couple of dental practices and the St. Croix River Association.

214. Centuria, Wisconsin Public Library, MORE

I set out on this gray, drizzly day to find a small cluster of libraries about 50 miles from home. My first stop was Centuria, WI, in a downtown storefront. The drizzle couldn't stand up to the bright yellow paint job on this small library! I received a friendly greeting as soon as I entered, explained my project, and wandered around. The children's area is a modest corner, but has a nice selection of books. In fact, I spotted two of interest that I've not seen before, and have requested them from the libraries I use, one from Hennepin County and one from St. Paul. Toward the end of my visit I chanced to look up at the ceiling and noticed that the plastic panel over the lights in the kids area is blue, with white clouds! Panels are available at big-box hardware stores, I was told.

The library has several computers and a scanner and printer. The book collection is small but the librarian tries to keep current with a clever system of dots on the spines. When she began here, patrons would sometimes comment on the lack of current books. So she placed a red dot on the spine of every book or AV material added to the collection that year. The next year it was a blue dot--each year a new color is used. These dots make it easy to shelve the new books together, shows patrons how much is being added, and aids in weeding. I mentioned this system at another library and the person I was speaking to thought it was quite a clever idea. So do I! [And of course, patrons have access to the entire collection of the MORE group of libraries in Wisconsin, and those further away through interlibrary loan.]

Favorite sign: "Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague," attributed to Eleanor Crumblehulme. I thought that name was a joke; it's not. Google her!

Although this library is one of the smallest I've visited, it has a lot to see. Go to http://www.centurialibrary.org/ and try the video tour; the area that looks like a dining room/kitchen in a private home is really there; it's used for literacy classes and other meetings!

10/30/2013, car

Saturday, October 26, 2013

90a. Rockford Road Branch, Hennepin County Libraries, Crystal, MN--Revisit

I returned to this library because they recently reopened after renovations. The first thing I noticed was the attractive and interesting ceiling, with open rafters made of wood and metal. Of course, when I talked to the librarian, I learned that this was not a change from last year! Some things that have changed include the placement of the service and information desks. I liked the visible workroom, but had the impression that perhaps staff doesn't find this so desirable. I'm probably influenced by the fact that where I work, the circulation workroom isn't even on the same floor. A "right there" workroom looks pretty good to me.

There are many windows, and some look out on a large park-like lawn with mature trees. Very nice. Two "living rooms" are by these windows, and there is a third right in the middle of the library. Teens have their own corner. There is a large alcove, more like a room, really, for reference materials, newspapers, and periodicals, plus a long counter with stools and electrical outlets for laptop users. I counted about two dozen public computers, and I overheard someone on staff telling a patron that there are "about the same number" as there were before the renovation.

The children's area has a science table, which today had two large magnifying lenses and a collection of insects embedded in plastic blocks. A sign suggests that parents explore science together with their children, and says that "When I use a magnifying glass, I am learning to use a science tool." There is also a light table, with neat wooden blocks with colored acrylic panels. There is a fire engine reading spot, similar to the one at Mounds View; this one also has a rack with several firefighter coats and hats for dramatic play. This is an interesting contrast, with one library stressing books about firefighting, the other stressing dramatic play. Both, of course, are worthy goals, and either space could be used for either purpose; it's just a matter of emphasis.

I saw 10 computers in the kids area, as well as couches, large plastic tubs of board books, and a Farmer's Market structure with many plastic fruits and vegatables--more opportunities for creative play. I almost missed the piece de resistance, a floor to ceiling beanstalk complete with Jack and part of the giant up at the top. Children's series books are shelved in baskets placed on the fiction shelves where they belong alphabetically by author's name.

A big activity cube is outside the kids area, near the self-checkout stations. This puzzled me for a moment, then I realized what a help it could be in occupying kids while the adult checked out. The library has a uniformed security officer, which surprised me  because the local police station is next door, just across the parking lot. The lobby displays a transit map and also provides a bin for recycling batteries.

For more about this library, go to http://www.hclib.org/AgenciesAction.cfm?agency=RR.

10/26/2013   car

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mounds View Library, Ramsey County, MN -- Revisit

One thing I really like about the Twin Cities / MELSA area is the respect for libraries. I recently saw a letter to the 9/15/2013 Library Journal that read in part, "We have succeeded in saving our three Miami Beach public libraries, but major cuts in days and hours open are on the horizon. ... As I write this, the archives at the main library--in Miami--are being removed..."

The difference here, where I live? I have on my list for this weekend three libraries that have recently been re-opened after refurbishing. I can think offhand of at least two with new buildings under construction, and several others in the planning stages. We who live here need to remember from time to time how very fortunate we are.

With that said, I drove up to Mounds View after my shift this morning, to see what changes have been made there.

My first impression was "it's so light!" This is not at all a sunny, bright day, quite the contrary, but new carpet and paint, light wood ends on the shelves and a faux-stone countertop at the service desk, both replacing bright-red predecessors, have made a world of difference.

 I don't recall seeing the meeting room or the two study rooms during my first visit, summer 2012, though they were surely there. Two sides of the building have large windows. There is a teen corner near these windows, with a modest sign asking that users "Respect yourself, respect others, respect the space." There are also a couple of "living room" areas by other windows. I counted about 10 public computers, and there is a wide counter along one wall for laptop use. I like the wall-mounted storage for Manga and periodicals.

Last year my favorite focal point in the children's area was the fire engine seating area with shelves of books on fire safety and firefighters. That is still there, and I still like it, but now my favorite has to be the rug with a map of the United States!

Congratulations to Mounds View for a make-over that seems to my eyes to be all positive!

No new picture, because I didn't have my camera. But you can head to http://www.rclreads.org/about/locations/rcl-mounds-view for more information. That site has a nice map of the area...I do wish it had information about access by public transportation!

10/24/2013, car

Friday, October 11, 2013

213. Carlton Library, Carlton, MN, Arrowhead Region

Carlton wasn't on my list for today's trip, but two things happened to change that. First, the librarian I spoke to in Cloquet said I "really should" visit; second, one library I had planned to visit frustrated me because parking meters took quarters only (and I didn't have any) and when I looked for alternatives I got messed up in the spaghetti pile of one-way streets, and I gave up. So on the way home, I stopped in Carlton. Good choice. I just have to like a library that shares its storefront entry with a barber shop! And there is a wood sculpture just inside the door that looks like a stack of rough-hewn airplane propellers; I really should have asked about that, and can only hope that the librarian or a patron will see this post and leave an enlightening comment.

Kids get the best seats in the house, in the front near the windows. Display space features many three-D wooden puzzles of dinosaurs and such. The book and media collection is modest, but from the library website I learned that part of the video, audio, and large print collections rotate among the Arrowhead branches, and items from the entire Arrowhead Region collection are available on request, of course.

I enjoyed seeing two antique upright typewriters out where kids (or anyone) could give them a try. There was also a paper-tape machine of the sort I saw in the 40s when Dad was a volunteer fireman in NH.

I like seeing spine labels in a larger-than-usual font. And I was surprised and pleased to see that Kill-A-Watt meters are available to borrow.

There is framed art by local residents, including kids, on the wall, and the librarian would like more.

A friendly, welcoming place in this very small town. To learn more, go to http://www.cityofcarlton.com/Library.php.

10/10/2013, car

212. Two Harbors Public Library, Two Harbors MN

This library bills itself on its website as "The Little Library by the Big Lake." It's not so little, but it is definitely close to the big lake. And the original part of the building is a Carnegie library from 1909.

There are many ways to ask patrons to use cell phones respectfully, but this is the first library where I've seen a sign "Don't forget to Shhhh your phone!" I also saw "REMINDER! Please pad or rubber band dvds and cds when returning in the book drop to prevent separation and breakage." Good advice.

The newer building houses the teens' and children's areas. There are wide padded window sills in front of large sunny windows, and for the kids, an elaborate wooden train setup on a table; it even has a roundhouse! There is a "picnic table" made of birch, very nice. Apparently there has been some recent rearranging, and I was both pleased and amused to see a sign directing me to the new location for the books on CD. After telling me the new location, it says "Turn right, walk to the aisle, look straight ahead." I wonder if people follow the directions...or turn to staff and ask "Where are the books on CD?" Book and audio sets are shelved in a bin, rather than the usual hanging plastic bags, and a sticker on the cover of each book reminds the patron to "Check for CD."

Up the stairs into the Carnegie building, I found a staff person measuring the space above the mantle of the large fireplace. Holiday decorations coming, perhaps? A browsing area is in the fireplace room. Beyond that there are tall windows all around. A couple of study tables look as if they date to the original building, and a librarian confirmed this hunch. They are now protected with heavy glass tops.

Based on a sign, there seems to have been a recent change in fiction shelving, with all genres now shelved together with stickers designating mysteries, romances, sci fi, and western. Two exceptions I spotted: Star Wars and Danielle Steel seem to have their own special spots.

Back downstairs I saw this sign by the copy machine: "Copies are 10c a page--even for IRS forms." I can imagine the conversation(s) that prompted that sign!

The staff recommended Louise's and a couple of other places for lunch; I chose Louise's, and that was a very good bacon cheeseburger! I resisted the yummy-looking baked goods because I had other plans for dessert. Since I would be eating alone, I bought a book, The Report Card by Andrew Clements, from the library sale shelf. I got a good start on it while eating, and finished it last night. It's a wonderful condemnation, through kids' eyes, of the morass of testing our schools are in now.

For more about this library, go to http://www.twoharborspubliclibrary.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Two-Harbors-Public-Library/116508709803.

10/10/2013, car

211. Cloquet Public Library, Cloquet, MN, Arrowhead Region

I was surprised to learn that this library was built in the 80s, as it has a very open, up-to-date feel. Even before I entered, I noticed several features. First, a sign out by the street that is topped with translucent colored plastic...flying pages? Unfortunately, they don't show well in the picture I took. There appeared to be three electrical hookups for engine block heaters for staff, but I learned that these no longer function. Sad; that would be a nice perk! A sign announces that the entire property is smoke-free and asks near the door "Please extinguish cigarettes here"--but there didn't appear to be a place for a cigarette butt except in a general trash barrel. I didn't see any on the ground, so Cloquet is doing better with this policy than Minneapolis Central is!

I enjoyed several features of the children's area. First, the carpet is in large blocks with letters and numbers on each; this design segues in the teen and adult areas to carpet with the same color scheme but stripes instead of the alpha/numerics. This is a nice way to set off the space. There are four computers for kids set on a wide shelf, with a kid-sized "office chair" (birch seats and backs, five casters) in front of each one. I've never seen small chairs like this before, and I bet the kids love them. Various toys are available for the youngest patrons, and a sign thanks parents for "helping to keep the children's area picked up." It appeared that Easy Readers are shelved by grade...but after seeing a "Grade 1" sign, I didn't see signs for other grades. There were many books with stickers that indicate AR reading levels. Board books are in the bottom shelves, spine up, with PICTURE BOOK stickers.

There are two large furnished dollhouses on display in plexiglass enclosures; by one of them I spotted a "can you find it" list of items to look for in that house. Nice. There are a lot of special dolls and toys and a collection of carved wooden birds on the top of bookshelves, out of kids' reach. One large windowed corner for browsing is not quite "living room" in style, but looked comfortable.

The reference collection appears to have a strong emphasis on history and genealogy. I spotted small bound volumes of "Kirkollinen Kalenter" dating back to 1903; in 1984 the name changed to Suomi Conference Yearbook, and a quick Google search confirmed my guess that these are Finnish. There are at least four public computers for adults and four small meeting/conference rooms.

A teen area has computers, a couple of tables, and a huge beanbag chair. In addition to the usual media collections, there are spinners of foreign films. J nonfiction is shelved with general nonfiction, a practice I like. I spotted a cart full of books with a sign "Please do not place books on cart; weeding cart." Yes, patrons placing books on a weeding cart would create real problems! Another sign advises patrons that "This corner of the library is not a place for visiting," and enjoins them to refrain from bringing chairs here. They are advised that "To ignore this gentle request" can result in limitations on their right to use the library. It's a nice, quiet corner with sunny windows...and with no sight line from the service desk. The staff person I spoke to said that there "have been issues," which I can well imagine.

That staff person also made sure that I noticed the traditional Finnish native American boat, made of willow branches and willow twine, hanging from the ceiling in the lobby. Thanks, I would have missed it! She also gave me the address for the Carlton library, which came in handy later in the day.

To learn more, go to http://www.cloquet.lib.mn.us/, where you can take a look at the nifty logo formed of a flying book and a soaring arrow.

10/10/2013, car


210. Moose Lake, Minnesota Public Library, Arrowhead Region

This library shares space with the Moose Lake Community and Civic Center, and it's larger than I thought from the outside. Right inside the door is one of those comfortable "living room" configurations I like to see, with a large window, a lot of plants, and a couple of computers. A nice welcome, right from the start. There was also a cheerful welcome from the staff working this morning. In larger libraries, I often wander around on my own and then approach staff to say hello; usually in these smaller spaces I'm quickly spotted as a newcomer, and greeted. I'm happy either way!

Just beyond the living room is a second large window and the children's area. Priority for the computer there is given to patrons 16 and under. There is a wide, wooden window sill, with a message: "Please do not allow children to walk or run on the window sill." It would be tempting! The corner has a triangular set of three carpeted steps that provide seating for children's programs. A large poster painted on brown paper has a scarecrow and pumpkins; somebody here is artistic! There are book and audio sets and lots of VHS tapes as well as DVDs. A very nice touch in this area: three framed drawings created by author and illustrator Nancy Carlson during a visit some years ago. [Works by local artists and historic photographs are found throughout.]

Beyond the children's section I realized that the space extends back much farther than you can see in the picture below. A reference section is followed by shelves for oversized books, a section for exercise videos (nice to give them their own spot), two computers for word processing (without Internet access), and a special reader for those with low vision (provided by the Lions). Paperback fiction is shelved on spinners. A sign invites patrons to "read a classic" from the Library of American Classics. The walls are lined with nonfiction books, with fiction stacks in the center. In the 900's, I spotted a five-volume History of Minnesota, published in 1935.

The staff, as I mentioned, is very welcoming. One of the women is also great at selling, witnessed by the fact that I left with a large book about classic toys from their sale shelf!

To learn more, go to http://www.moose-lake.lib.mn.us/.

10/10/2013, car

Monday, October 7, 2013

Banff Public Library, Alberta, Canada

My sister gets around more than I do, and she has taken up library visiting, too. Here's her report from a recent vacation to Banff:

We visited Banff Public Library on Wednesday. It is a nice, smallish library that was very open and welcoming to vacationers like ourselves. It is located right below the Senior Center and like Whistler's library, is on prime real estate in this resort town.
There were 8 public computers and always at least 6 being used. I noted a children's area, a junior section and a teen section as well as the usual adult services. They have a good section of foreign language books and I noted, French (of course), Spanish, German and several Asian. There may have been others. They also have many music CD's and movies as well. A whole section was on documentaries.
There were a variety of places to sit and read including a periodical area and sofas and chairs scattered about. The day we were there the place was very busy and a local I spoke to says this is always the case.
 There was a sign that said food and drink is allowed in the library! I thought this unusual, is it? It went on to say they reserve the right to ask you not to if you are not being tidy with it, or if it was being consumed in such a manner as to disturb others or damage books etc.
I'm sorry I didn;t get a better picture. We were heading out of town and I almost forgot!
[Thanks, Jean. It looks like a fascinating building, and the address, Bear Street, is cool. Right up there with one I visited on Silent Drive!]
As for the food and drink, I've seen just about every variation. I was roundly scolded at Minneapolis Central for nibbling on M&Ms, but they allow beverages so long as they have lids. Other libraries have coffee shops, food banned near computers, vending machines, you name it. My favorite so far is a specific ban on sunflower seeds. Perhaps we'll get some comments about local practices.

For more about this library, go to http://www.banfflibrary.ab.ca/ or https://www.facebook.com/banfflibrary. Or both!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

209.. Traverse de Sioux Library Cooperative, Madelia Branch Library, Madelia, MN

Madelia was my fifth stop on a day that started at a conference in Sioux Falls...therefore, I may not do it justice. I hope I'm not too far off the mark.

As at St. James, J means Junior books here. One set of shelves is labeled New Reader Fiction, New Reader Non-fiction and Reader Fiction, Reader Non-fiction. I haven't seen things done quite this way before. It seems to provide good guidance to those who aren't yet ready for Junior books. The children's area has picture books also, of course, and a Little Tykes computer station set up right beside the adult computers.

There are three large windows that you can see in the picture on the library website (and below, when I get the pictures added).

A study room is just right for one or two people, and a large collection of Chilton and Motor auto repair manuals had its own wide desk-height shelf. A computer near the manuals suggests the possiblity of accessing on-line repair information, also. There is a computer designated for games, and another for Rosetta Stone language courses. Patrons must sign up to use these two computers. There are also about eight other computers for general use.

Two items I rarely see: a scanner, and a fax machine, $1.00 a page.

For more information, see http://tdslib.org/madelia-branch-library/.

9/27/2013, car

208.. Watonwan County/St. James Public Library, St. James, MN

Timing is everything! As I drove into town at about 2:30 I noticed people collecting on the sidewalks, adults and kids, all wearing red. It happened that my gps was not being helpful (not its fault, I had told it 5th Street North and what I needed was 5th Street South), so I left the car and walked up to where the action was. Here I met a former school teacher who let me know that I was about to see the high school homecoming parade. I like small town parades, and I wasn't disappointed. The high school band was followed by floats with what must have been most of the sports teams in town, at various levels; the junior high band brought up the rear. They were on their way to the stadium to crown the Homecoming Queen and King; in the evening, they would play New Ulm. (I checked this morning: St. James won, 30 to 14!)

Once the parade had passed, I quickly found the library--where every window was decorated for homecoming. I was impressed that library hours and restroom designations are in Spanish and English. I don't recall seeing that courtesy before, even in small towns with good-sized Spanish populations.

The children's area has two Little Tykes computer stations apparently donated by 3M. Puzzles were set out on a table, ready for small patrons. There is a puppet theater, and stuffed animals are standing by to be reading buddies. Accelerated Reader tests can be accessed through library computers. A focal point on the wall is an American Girls quilt, which I learned was made by a fourth grade class about 10 years ago.

The "J" that I grew up thinking of as "Juvenile" here stands for "Junior" books. A good choice, I think.

There are five "living room" bays by the windows; it appears that one is for teens, two for the Spanish collection, and two general browsing areas. Drawings of local landmarks are on the walls, and I think framed art is also available for loan. There are about 10 public computers.

I couldn't resist asking about "The Family Rowdy Reading Program" that will run September 30 through November 2. A brochure describes the program, and it sounds great. A "family" is at least one adult and one child under 18, and participation is limited to 50 families. A family that registers will have up to $50 of fines (accrued before 9/30) forgiven--that's huge! Families that recommend a book will receive a free book, as will a kid who creates a picture of a favorite book. A family adult must check in once a week, in person or by phone. Seven weekly events include a concert, pizza and bingo night, pumpkin decorating, and several craft activities, including one at which families will create tray favors for Meals on Wheels. Literacy, community service, participation at the library...someone has put a LOT of thought and time into this program.

For more information about this library, go to http://tdslib.org/st-james-public-library/.

9/27/2013, car

St. James Jr. High Band

St. James High School Band

207. Mountain Lake Public Library, Mountain Lake, MN

The first challenge was getting into the library, because of road work and new curbing--but it was totally worth the effort. The lobby has a large display window that featured a Fall Harvest theme, with books from the adult, children's, and picture book collections. A meeting room off the lobby appears to have a very nice small fireplace.

The children's area features an octagonal table with a wooden train set. Picture books are designated E, and easy readers are also E, but they have a large green dot on the spine and are on their own shelves. There are "floor chairs" for young browsers. A few graphic novels were classified 741.5, the same as the Charlie Brown comics.

 A small living room area is near the windows and handy to the periodicals, new fiction and nonfiction, and large print books. There is an awesome collection of westerns! Young adult books are on shelves and spinners near a game table. Reflecting the local community, there is a collection of Mennonite publications. There is also a n area for people doing local genealogy research, and a number of public computers.

And the newspapers are on sticks!

For more information, go to http://www.mountainlakepubliclibrary.org/

206. Windom Public Library, Windom, MN

This is the first library I've visited that occupies a former bank building. It's an interesting and challenging space, that appears to be utilized to the max. The main area is for adults, with a browsing area by each of the front windows, one side for periodicals and newspapers, the other for genre fiction. Bookshelves are functional metal, made attractive with handsome wooden ends.

At the back of the space where the safe once stood is a large display window, currently decorated for Halloween with a large bat cave and many seasonal books. From there I walked through a side door lobby (this is just like the banks in my hometown, back in the day) into the old office area, which now houses the youth department. There is a bright ocean-themed rug on the floor and a colorful curtain at one window. With the yellow walls, the space felt very light and cheerful despite the clouds outside. A tiny area holds teen books and a TV/DVD player mounted high on the wall. The older children's area has, among many other books, large (perhaps complete?) collections of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children, and even Thornton Burgess!

For more information, go to http://www.windom-mn.com/city-facilities/windom-public-library/.

9/29/2013, car

Yes, the library building was once a bank!

Across the street is the handsome Cottonwood County Courthouse.

205. Nobles County Library, Worthington, MN

I entered the kids area to the left from the lobby. Kids have a colorful fabric puppet theater, a cozy couch by the big windows, toys, and many book and media sets. Older children seem to have an especially large non-fiction collection. An open area with tables and chairs made me wonder if perhaps there had recently been a program; there was a "pushed back" look that gave me this idea. Several small children were present when I was there; one who could not have been more than three years old greeted me nicely and showed me the book he had chosen. There was a lively, energetic, unhushed but controlled feeling in this space.

Back issues of periodicals are in boxes with slanted sides; I'm sure these have a specific name, but I can't find them in the Demco catalog. Anyway, what impressed me was a library book pocket glued to the front of each box, with a card indicating the title and year of the publication. This simple method allows boxes to be "relabeled" by simply changing the card. Slick!

New books, papers, and current periodicals are in a "living room" browsing area with windows. The "coffee table" looks like a pile of three enormous books, Canturbury Tales on top.

The Reference collection is in a separate corner with a desk for the librarian by the entrance. Some of the oldest reference books had DDS numbers on the spine that looked as if they might have been done with transfer paper and a woodburning pen, as I used to mark books long ago! [To be clear, these are classic reference books, and it is appropriate that they are "old."] This area of the library also has Spanish books and media, many audio materials for learning English, and a collection of large print books. There's a microfilm reader and files of newspapers back to at least 1892, a real treasure for research. I saw four or five public computers, and of course wi-fi is available.

For more information, go to http://nclibrary.org/.

9/27/2013, car

204. Augustana Mikkelsen Library, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD

I visited this library during a tour sponsored by the Tri-Conference in Sioux Falls, September 2013. The tour was to showcase a recent renovation that served to join a 1954 building with a 1980 addition to make a unified building, and it appears to have been very successful. We were fortunate to have top library staff and the architect present for the tour.

The most visually impressive feature is a glassed-in staircase, brightly lighted and stunning from outside after dark--and we were there after dark for the full impact. There must be an elevator, too, but I didn't spot it.

A tour of an academic library while it is open (and it's open a lot) is a bit strange, because of course the place is full of students trying to concentrate. The second time we passed one young man who was sitting alone, obviously trying to tend to his reading, I felt like whispering "It's OK, we're leaving now!" There is clearly a culture of quiet, quite unlike many public libraries.

All there was to see made the tour a bit overwhelming, but here are some highlights that made it into my notes: Compact shelving for back issues of periodicals. A main level with a very high ceiling and a handsome tall fireplace with an extension to that ceiling. An upper level that is open to the main level, as a balcony. Cork floors and bamboo ceilings in some areas, sound-muffling and environmentally green. Many study rooms and varied seating arrangements, but few carrels; our tour guide says that carrels are neither wanted nor used. Study rooms have screens so that a group of students can look at a laptop display in comfort. A collection of children's literature that I wanted to look at more closely, but I didn't remember to look for it during the time I  could have wandered around. A climate-controlled special collections room. Lots of art on the walls, much of it created by alumni--and presumably alumnae. A large staff area with glass walls that serve to connect staff to the rest of the library visually while minimizing the impact on students of essential work-related sounds. A phone room where students can make and take phone calls without having to leave the building.

Something I would not have noticed if we had not been told: Features on walls that look like chair rails but actually hold power outlets for laptops. Our guide said that these must be pointed out to new students, too.

One member of our group asked at the end of the tour whether anything had not turned out quite as hoped during the renovation. I appreciated that our guide did not try to duck this question. The only area, it seems, that was not quite right at first had to do with lighting. The project was done just as LED lights were coming into use, and some lighting was improved by making this change. Also, some areas have lights that are motion controlled or on timers, and these required some tweaking. That's a very short list for such a large project.

For more about this library, go to http://library.augie.edu/. There is a video tour button in the center of the page.

9/25/2013, car and big yellow school bus

No pictures, sorry. You'll just have to go to the library website!

Friday, September 27, 2013

203. Siouxland Libraries, Prairie West Branch, Sioux Falls, SD

This was a different experience, because I was part of a tour during the Tri-Conference of the South Dakota Library Association (SDLA). So instead of driving up and slipping in to wander around, I was in a group of 35 library folks, here to look at a brand-new library.

We saw the automated materials handling (AMH) equipment in action. It looked quite different from what I've seen in Ramsey County and Minneapolis, even allowing for the fact that it has, I believe, 5 bins, compared to 20 or more at the larger sites I'm familiar with. (I liked hearing that it was made in New Ulm, MN. High tech manufacturing is good.) A couple of differences between here and Ramsey County: DVDs and cases both have RFD tags, and they are coupled in the computer. Therefore, if a case comes in without a DVD, the machine knows that a part is missing. Also, if DVDs are switched in their cases, the machine will signal an exception. Items coming in that have a Request cause a slip to be printed, and a person has to put the slip in the right book. Other than this, it appears that the equipment can run for long periods unattended.

The self-checkout kiosks are white, free-standing, and very space-age looking. They combine the laser card scanner with the RFD reader in one unit. One of the kiosks has a credit card scanner for payments. When check-out was demonstrated, I noticed that each item checked out caused an audible "ding" and the change in status was very conspicuous on the screen; I think this might minimize problems I've seen at home of patrons who do not "wait until the title has turned green" and thus set off the security.

The tour group was allowed a long period to wander around, and for that I took notes as I usually do. I also took a few interior pictures. This new building reminds me of the Roseville, MN remodeled library: very open, very green (colorwise). Decorative touches suggest grass (curviness) and I noticed that meeting spaces are named after prairie grasses and plants. The space is large and open, with a curved wall of windows that seemed to form a 90-degree arc. Picture a large square space with one corner curved.

The most fun amusing, interesting feature of the interior for many of us was the presence of large square floor tiles scattered throughout. I call them "lava lamp tiles" because when you step on them, colors inside squish around and change. They are very, very cool!

The children's area has curvy benches and shelves in a zigzag arrangement; it seems that this might prompt "pause and look" behavior, as opposed to "walk on past." It worked that way for me! There are many hooks on one wall for outerwear.

Over by the curved window wall there is a "living room" area for browsing, but it is not a cozy living room, as I've seen many other places, but instead is rather cool and modern. Comfortable, I'm sure, but I probably have a bit of bias toward "cozy." I spotted some chairs like one I had in a classroom at the U of MN, with a wheeled "snow saucer" sort of base (a place to put your backpack) and a swivel chair with a swivel armrest. I recall from that class that these chairs are very neat, so long as all the wheeling and swiveling goes in the directions you expect; in other words, they take some getting used to. I noticed that all the shelving is white enameled metal, another very "space age" look.

The teen area is in a large "alcove" set slightly apart from the main space. The outstanding feature when I was there was a bookcase of banned books, liberally wrapped with yellow and black CAUTION tape. What could be better to attract a teen to a book?

I spotted at least 18 public computers, plus some for catalog searches only. There is a service desk near the entrance (staffed by a friendly young woman when I was there) and a reference desk further over toward the adult and reference collections. And I noticed that all fiction is shelved together, with stickers on the spine to indicate the genre volumes. I haven't seen that in a long time.

For more information about this library, go to http://www.siouxlandlib.org/contactus/Branches/prairie-west.aspx.

9/25/2013, car to Sioux Falls, big yellow school bus from the conference to the library)

Step on one of these squares, and the colors squish around and change.