Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Patience and Fortitude!

In my visits to libraries around Minnesota and (slightly) beyond, I have seen relatively new buildings, like Elk River and the three visited in East Central Minnesota. I've seen renovated and remodeled buildings, like Roseville in Ramsey County. Old buildings, like St. Bonifacius in Hennepin County. Huge buildings like Minneapolis Central and Ridgedale. Carnegie buildings enlarged to (try and) meet current needs, like Little Falls and Minneapolis' Sumner, Franklin, and Hosmer. But the scale of the issues facing the central library in New York City, described in the article, boggle the mind. Patience and Fortitude, indeed.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

145. ECRL--Wyoming, MN

The tone of this library was set before I even set foot in the door, when a departing patron gave me a big smile and hello as I approached. That's a first! The two staff I talked to (for a long time) were equally friendly. Yay, Wyoming!

I saw a couple of posters in the lobby that interested me. One made sense of a sign I saw earlier in the day; from January through to summer, different reading mascots, like Clifford and Llama Llama, are going to be visiting the ECRL libraries. In the summer, a new ECRL mascot will be introduced. Cool--I should try to be there for that.

The other poster was about World Book Night (, which this year will be on April 23. I haven't been to that website yet, but I shall get there. I'd never heard of this event before.

This is another in the trio of long rectagular libraries I visited today, but in this case the entrance is on a short side. And as soon as I entered the door, I was enchanted by the "Reading Railroad"--see the picture below. This curved train was created, I learned, by a local Eagle Scout; on the other side is a curved counter with three computers for kids. It's a very attractive and inviting way to set off the kids' area. [I also learned that Eagle Scouts were responsble for the flagpole and some benches.]

The walls are enlivened by large book-cover posters and painted quotations. The fireplace was on, and a few large plants added to the "living room" feeling of the adult browsing area. There are at least two small study rooms, and a large meeting room. And very, very nice staff. Not that the staff at other libraries aren't nice; I'm always nervous when I say things about staff, that folks from other libraries will think I didn't like them or something. Not at all. But we had a long, wide-ranging conversation here, and I enjoyed it a lot.

1/17/13, car

I was strongly encouraged to return in the summer to see the rain gardens in bloom, and so I did. Pictures have been added below.

8/13/2013, car


144. ECRL North Branch

Before I even got past the lobby, I saw three signs that I like. First, "Library personnel are not authorized to give tax advice." For sure! Second, "Please turn off cell phones before entering the library." I wonder if anyone sees that, or complies? At any rate, it's direct, not like "please use cell phones responsibly". And the third, in the photo below, is one I wish could be posted where I work.

This library is a wide rectangle, like Chisago Lakes, but laid out with the fireplace straight ahead, on the long wall, which seemed very inviting. The visual impact was muted somewhat by having a computer and low-vision adaptive equipment in the foreground, but they are important, too. I saw a display of "Very Short, Very Stimulating, Introductions" from Oxford University Press. There must have been several dozen small paperbacks on all sorts of topics. I've never seen these before, and they intrigued me. I must see if they are available in MELSA, my home district.

The windows provided a natural view; there are houses, but they are quite far away. Single-person study tables are ranged along the windows. One corner has a large study table and a variety of comfortable-looking seating.

The tops of the shelves in the children's area are decorated with a variety of old books combined in different ways with small stuffed animals; these are very clever and attractive. Two spaces in the kids' area are defined by shelves, and each holds a table and four chairs. There is a long alcove with a low counter and three computers for kids to use.

A teen area has a couple of floor chairs and some upholstered chairs with armrests designed for writing or holding a laptop. There are six computers for adults in a row across from the information/circulation desk.

At this site, I discovered that there are four spacious unisex restrooms in the lobby, bright and clean with blue and gold tiles. I'll take a guess that the other libraries visited today have the same facilities. As one who visits libraries frequently, I applaud the presence of clean restrooms everywhere I go!


143. ECRL Chisago Lakes

There are huge windows on three sides of the building, mainly looking out on what appears to be a natural area. (It's a bit hard to judge in the snow!) By the kids' area there is an array of bird feeders outside the window. Several tables were standing ready with crayons and coloring sheets; I meant to ask whether this is SOP or if a group was expected, but I forgot. There's seating for adults and kids and a collection of stuffed animals, including a large stuffed dinosaur that seems to be part of the seating.

The opposite end of the large rectangular space has a handsome fireplace, a "living room" seating arrangement, and a sink; refreshments? Along the long window wall are five wooden study tables, each seating four, interspersed with comfortable reading chairs. There's a Minnesota Collection, and I saw a framed pronouncement recognizing the 50th anniversary of the East Central Regional Library. I learned at another stop that the anniversary was several years ago--and that ECRL was the first region to form in Minnesota. Now, the whole state is divided into regions that encompass several counties each.

All three libraries I visited today were built at the same time, about 8 years ago, and designed by the same architect. That is easy to see--but each has its own personality!

1/17/13  car

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wave of the Future?

Here's a library I haven't visited, though I'd like to. In my experience, libraries these days are hybrids, offering most of what this article describes alongside traditional print services.

So, readers of the blog, what do you think of this trend? I'd really like to know.

Sorry the url below doesn't seem to work as a link; you'll have to copy and paste.

Monday, January 7, 2013

142. SELCO--Red Wing, MN

The first thing I noticed was a storytime alcove that can be closed off from the rest of the library with folding walls. It has a single step down that creates a focus on the storyteller's chair and a long row of low seating for little kids. Very nice. Another part of the children's area has a large aquarium (a donation "in memory of"), a bright rug, a rocker, soft seating, and a window wall. Colorful fabric panels shade one section of windows.

I had to step back from the kids area to see the bright murals high on three sides of the wall; a staff person told me that they were provided through a grant. They're very attractive and lively.

This library has more children's periodicals than I've noticed  anywhere else; I counted 25 titles! Just about every children's magazine I've ever heard of is represented.

Art prints displayed on the library walls can be checked out for 60 days.

A lobby (not the way I entered) has restrooms, a city bus stop, and a public pay telephone. These are all indications that the library is, or means to be, the heart of the town.

Some other random noticings: There is a fantastic model of the HMS Victory on display. The youth section has "diner" seating. Signs marking parts of the non-fiction collection stick out over the aisles almost like street signs; this is hard to describe, and I haven't seen anything like it before. There is a reading garden with a couple of adirondack chairs. There is a dedicated computer for downloading e-books, a shiny copper roof that looks new, and a walker with a basket for patrons who need it.

The circulation and reference desks are combined in the center of the library. A staff member told me that they believe in cross-training and blurring the lines between categories of staff. Nice.

1/7/2013   car

141. MORE -- Ellsworth, WI

This is a small library, in a small town. To the left of the entrance is a sunny room for periodical and reference browsing. A sign said that patrons must use their own library card in order to use the computer; they are available for 30 minutes, with a 30-minute extension if nobody is waiting. Maximum in one day, 60 minutes.

When I spotted a sign that said "Ask librarian for help to reach books on the top shelves," I had to walk over to the shelves. The top one is well over six feet high!

A large table in front of a sunny window held plants and a collection of wooden puzzles and games.

Like River Falls, Ellsworth has a LEGO club; I didn't see any models, but there were pictures on the window of the librarian's office. A picture book area has a neat dollhouse / treehouse (Melissa and Doug style), other toys, and toy-and-book and puppet-and-book bags to check out. A sign in this area says "Reading together 20 minutes a day is the most important gift you can give your child." So true, and it's so important to keep reminding parents of this.

The library has a collection bin for lightly used children's winter wear. There are regular story hours of several types, and there will be a book signing on Wednesday the 9th. (Oops, didn't write the author's name in my notebook!)

I invariably find that the smaller libraries have programming that is just as dynamic and valuable as their larger cousins. Ellesworth is a good example.

1/7/2013  car

140. MORE - River Falls, WI

This is quite a large library, and seems fairly new. An alcove inside the front door is dedicated to local history; it seems to have a lot of material, compared to other libraries with similar collections. Right outside it were some books for sale, and some free periodicals--thanks for the two issues of Library Journal, I'll pass them along when I've read them.

The computer room is a long, narrow space with windows facing the children's area. I think there are about 12 computers here for adults. It looks like a nice arrangement.

Heading for the children's area, I first noticed a large column, about 3' in diameter, painted with numbers (both numerals and words in several languages) and animals, all the way to the ceiling. That drew my eyes up to a bright band of colors around the wall just below the ceiling, and a vaulted ceiling also painted in bright colors. Very nice! There are five computers for kids, and paperback series books are shelved in revolving racks. Some large plastic bins are labeled "China," "Food," and "Gardening I." I didn't peek.

The highlight of the children's space, for me, was a large windowed alcove lined with upholstered benches and "guarded" by two impressively large fabric dragons. I'm sure these colorful creatures are more effective at drawing kids in that at keeping them out. Signs indicated that the library hosts LEGO Fun on Thursdays for grades K-5. There were display cases with LEGO projects; I was sorry to see, based on the names, that they all seemed to be done by boys. No girls build with LEGOs in River Falls?

The Marita Hallquist Children's Program Room is a separate space with doors, handy when children's programs get loud--and they always do. Today, shortly after opening, it was hosting an adult craft program.

I particularly liked the signage; I could stand in the middle of the library and easily read large signs near the ceiling indicating where to find FICTION, LARGE PRINT, CIRCULATION, etc. Standing in the center like that, I felt that the library was very large and open; walking around, however, it seemed to be made up of many separate spaces.

The teen area features a photomural of a river with a falls (coincidence? I doubt it) and lots of foliage, plus a large live plant. There are upholstered chairs, windows, and a notice about a teen book club.

There is a large adult reading/browsing area with a curved wall of windows, more large plants, and good seating. A lot of the chairs and carrels have a classic oak look that would not be out of place in a Carnegie library. The metal bookshelves are softened by wooden ends, again with a classic look.

On my way out I saw some notices on a computer in the lobby. Here I learned that one can check out laptops for use in the library, recycle batteries and printer cartridges, try out a variety of e-readers, and print from anywhere at the library--then come in to pick up your print job. Nice service.

Not a library thing, but a town thing (and I've seen it a few other places): safety-orange flags available at intersections, so pedestrians can help themselves cross safely. Nice idea!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Not Quite Chicago

My plan had been to visit the Chicago Central library between trains; there is a scheduled four- or five-hour stop between the Lakeshore Limited and the Empire Builder. Alas, AMTRAK and the snowy weather in New York and Ohio had another idea, and I barely had time to find the gate for the Empire Builder; no time to walk even the few blocks it would have taken. Maybe next year.

On the way out of Chicago, the train stopped briefly right across from a new-looking library. I have no idea where we were at the time, in some suburb I'm sure, but it was a handsome modern building with a curved glass wall surrounding a bright atrium. If anyone knows what I was seeing, let me know--I'd like to visit!

I realized FAR too late--like just recently--that I could have a) pulled out my GPS, which I did have with me, and noted the lat and long of the stop, and b) taken a picture through the train window. Any bright ideas about how to have bright ideas in the moment, not weeks later?

139. Boston Central Public Library--Briefly!

Well, I've been putting of writing this one because the cord that goes from the camera to the computer is hiding again. But what the heck--I've once more grabbed a placeholder from the web. I made my brief visit between a bus ride from Concord, NH to Boston, and my train ride from Boston to St. Paul.

It's no surprise that this building is huge and gorgeous. I entered what I think was the main front door, and had to get directions to the children's room. (No sign in this lobby, and it later became apparent that I "should" have entered by a different door.) It wasn't obvious from the outside that the building surrounds a handsome central courtyard. On my way through the courtyard from the center of one side to the far-right corner, I passed a pretty fancy cafe; I gather that events can be held in the courtyard and catered on site.

I got glimpses of large rooms with many public computers, shelves and shelves of books on the ground floor (where I was), a mezzanine level, and at least one floor more. Finally, I reached the Margaret and H. A. Rey Children's Room.  The room is not terribly large, but perhaps that perception is colored by the many large, fancy strollers parked seemingly everywhere. There are two window walls, shielded by tall concrete panels from the public sidewalk immediately outside .

In addition to the usual collection of E and J books, I  thought that one clever use of space (and old equipment) was storing "big" books in a map/atlas cabinet with sliding shelves. There was also a horizontal file holding posters. Three stuffed bears in graduated sizes were wearing "Read Your Way to Fenway--Boston Public Library" T-shirts, probably reminders of a past summer reading program. Space was so limited in the children's room that holiday books and all the J media were shelved in space outside that area, but still close by.

And then I had to dash back to South Station to catch my train! I must visit again.

12/27/2112  bus, walking

Add a bit of snow, some ice, and a half-dozen or so evergreen wreaths...