Monday, April 29, 2013

Books and Ice Cream

Two days ago, I commented that the library in Woodbury is praiseworthy for being under the same roof as an ice cream shop. Then I realized that there are other libraries that I have visited that, although not under the same roof, are not far from my favorite treat.

St. Francis in Anoka County, where staff directed me across a bridge and up the road a short way, where I found an interesting coffee shop...with ice cream! [Sadly, I've learned that this coffee shop has closed.]

Rice Street branch in St. Paul is across the street from perhaps the best chocolate malted I've ever enjoyed.

The Hudson, WI, library is a few short blocks from a wonderful ice cream and candy shop.

Cold Spring, MN, a branch of Great River Regional Library, has its famous bakery...

Marine on St. Croix has an ice cream shop about a "block" away. I forgot to mention it earlier because it was closed on my recent trip; closed, but preparing to re-open. I had ice cream there last summer.

This blogger, like an army, travels on her stomach. If your library is close to good ice cream (or other treats), add a comment. You're likely to get on my "must visit" or "must re-visit" list!

All of this interest in ice cream can probably be traced to my childhood, when the "Sunday afternoon drive with a stop for ice cream" was a weekly event.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

7a. R. H. Stafford Branch, Washington County Library, Woodbury -- Revisit

I visited this library several times last summer; I heard Alexander McCall-Smith talk here and I got a gamecard for the adult summer reading program. But I spent very little time in the library, and didn't do it justice when I wrote about it. Today I hope to make up for that.

The library itself is part of a large community complex that includes an indoor park and a YMCA. The children's area is to the right as you enter, and is set off by the shelves of J fiction books. There are five carrels with computers for children, each equipped with a wooden "rocking" chair; the chairs don't exactly rock, but they have bases that allow several positions for restless kids. There are large windows to the outside and to the indoor park.

The Collector's Corner reminds me of Rice Street Library in St. Paul. There is a display case of interesting objects and a bulletin board with commercial posters plus pictures and reports by kids. A nearby space has an estimated 500 juvie audio books and 200 DVDs; I like that ratio! There are also book-and-CD sets, book club in a bag sets, and music CDs.

Each of the two AMH book returns has a shelf, about 8" x 30" in front of it; good idea!

I saw at least 22 public computers in the adult area, and large windows to the outside on every wall. There is a meeting room for up to 12 people (must be reserved) but I didn't notice any small study rooms. There is, however, a glassed-in Quiet Study Room with 10 tables.

The fiction shelves are shaped a bit like A-frames and have grayish ends; they are five shelves high.
Non-fiction shelves are straight,with blue, red, or yellow ends. They are seven shelves high, but the top shelves are not used (yet) and the bottom shelves hold over-sized books, lying flat. All non-fiction is shelved together: adult, youth, juvie, DVDs, and Reference. I asked about shelving reference with non-fiction, and learned that reference books seem to get much more use this way, with only a small increase in the number of patrons who try to check them out.

I ended my visit chatting with a librarian whose husband was born in the same small NH town as my Dad.

Well, no, I really ended my visit next door at the ice cream place. This library has the best location!

For more information, go to

4/27/2013, car

153. Lake Elmo Public Library, Lake Elmo, MN

This is the most extraordinary small town library! At the end of 2011, Washington County closed this small branch of its library system. The City of Lake Elmo responded by providing a community-based library run by volunteers. Read my comments, but also take a look at, for the details.

The library sort of unfolds like a treasure box. I entered from the street and was immediately in a comfortable room with a large storefront window, tables and chairs, complimentary coffee, even a basket of bite-sized Milky Way candy bars! A sign let me know that I could eat and drink throughout the library, but asked me to please help keep it clean.

The next room held periodicals, tables, and wooden chairs "from the old Oakdale Town Hall" from the early 1920s. Then I walked through a short hall where I saw a bulletin board with a notice (among others) for the East Metro Writers, a group that meets here twice a week. I loved their idea of a "procrastinator's station" with coffee! (It seemed especially apt, since I really should have been at home working on a paper for a geology class.)

A sign directed me down the hall to an immaculate restroom with a home-style changing table for babies. As I had guessed, and soon learned for sure, just about everything here has been donated, from shelves to furniture to toys and books.

Separate rooms, many with pocket doors to save space, are dedicated to non-fiction, children, genre books, general fiction, media and reference, large print, teens, and a computer lab with three public computers. I thought I had seen the whole place, until a volunteer took me under her wing to ensure that I didn't miss a thing, including the is a good-sized meeting room in the back, a kitchen (with a piano!). Even so, I've probably overlooked something.

The children's area has bins of picture books, a globe (I always like to see globes available), a decent collection of fiction, non-fiction, and series books, DVDs, and a couple of small tables with chairs. A low shelf offered crayons and coloring papers, with a request to "Color a picture for us -- thanks" and "if there is only one paper in the folder, please take it to the desk and ask the volunteer to make more copies."

Local art is on the walls, and there will soon be a collaboration of artists and library to provide a way to sell art without the library having to handle the money transactions. Very smart.

A parking lot is on the "back" of the library, and here you'll also find the bookdrop, a concrete deck ready for its patio furniture, and a mural on the outside wall--see the picture below.

I thoroughly enjoyed talking to today's volunteers. Their energy and enthusiasm were clear when, as we talked about libraries I've visited, they kept "making a note" of ideas that came up. Great place. They're open 34 hours a week; if you're ever in Lake Elmo during their hours, be sure you visit.

I almost forgot to mention a recent fundraiser, a "Twelve Shades of Gray" calendar, featuring photos of volunteers for every month of the year!

For more information, go to

For a detailed story of "the little library that could", Pioneer Press July 21, 2013, go to

4/27/2013, car

152. Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota

Marine Community Library is within Washington County, but is independent. Last summer I posted a picture of the Express library lockers provided by Washington County Library, but the library itself was closed. Today I decided to get a look inside.

Before I headed out, I checked the web page, and I recommend that you have a look. You'll find this on the home page: "The Marine Community Library is as unique as the residents it serves. A new partnership between citizens, Washington County and the City of Marine, the library combines access to books and technology with a comfortable setting and a committed volunteer staff. Come spend time in our community living room!"

"Community living room" seems to express the ambience very well. The library is totally staffed by volunteers, which tells you just how much this community values library services. It is mainly housed in a single, brightly-lighted room that seems to be about 1/3 for kids and 2/3 for adults, in terms of the collection. There is one public computer, and wi-fi is available for laptops. I had a fine time chatting with the volunteer on duty this morning.

Another room in the building has a good-sized bookshelf with a paperback exchange.

Do look at their web page; there is much more to this site than meets the eye.

4/27/2013, car

3a. Ramsey County (RCL), White Bear Lake--Revisit

White Bear Lake library felt different from when I visited last summer--and very different from when I subbed there, 5+ years ago.

To the left as I entered from the street (not the parking lot), is a windowed browsing area with upholstered chairs and plenty of periodicals at hand. I noticed, on the Friends' sale cart, a selection of donated magazines. So far as I've seen, other RCL branches do not accept magazines, which is too bad. It's a good way to reuse them, and every 25 cents is that much more.

The children's area has two computers for kids and an L-shaped window seat. Beneath the seat are plastic bins of thematic play materials. This looks like a very nice way to store a lot of material while keeping it handy. I should have asked whcther having all these bins creates problems at clean-up time! I like the idea of keeping all the "Eyewitness" books together, adjacent to the circulating encyclopdia.

For April, the kids area has a notebook for jokes. I read a few, and they are clearly provided by kids. I believe this is an example of "passive programming"--something intersting to do at the library, without having to wait for the date and time of a more formal program. One joke: "Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven eight nine."

I counted 16 public computers and lots of tables and carrels for one or two people. Teens have their own room. And unique to this site: bound volumes of The White Bear Press dating back to 1911!

For more information, go to

4/27/2013, car

Thursday, April 25, 2013

49a. Burnhaven Library in Burnsville (Dakota County)--Revisit

This library is a nice walk from where I take my car for service, and this was the nicest day for a walk in a loooong time. On this visit I noticed 25 public computers plus 12 more in a computer lab, many in use. A sign states that "Movies on DVD free for 7 days. Look for the yellow 7-day label. Overdue fees are $1.00 per day." I looked for movies without a yellow label and didn't spot any; admittedly, I didn't look very hard.

There are at least 10 study rooms for 1 or 2 people; very nice; where I work, we don't have nearly as many, and we could use them. The teen corner has a nice big window, a diner-type booth, and plenty of books and magazines, but I didn't see any computers specifically for teens. Carrels are tucked into available corners, and some of the windows have comfortable seating. There's at least one computer near the stacks with word processing but no Internet.

The children's area has big windows, three computers for kids, and a couple of round tables with cute chairs. There are about 60 Playaway sets for kids, and about 350 juvie recorded books. That's a lot, compared to other places I've visited. The best thing for kids is the two-level program corner I mentioned in the original post about Burnhaven. This time I asked permission and got a picture; it doesn't do it justice, but it will give you a sense. The wooden "tree" is a nice touch.

4/25/2013,  car and walking

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

81a. St. Paul, Arlington Hills -- Revisit

Once again, the desire for a specific book had me revisiting a library. This one is a Carnegie gem, but the land is being cleared for a new building a few blocks away. The sign near the new building says that a community center will also be located there; these combined-use buildings definitely seem to be the future around here. I was assured that the Carnegie building will be put to use by some community organization; that's good.

I thought this was one of the few Carnegie libraries that had not succumbed to having an addition, but learned from the librarian that it does, in fact, have a small one, added to accommodate an elevator. It also houses an office that I could just peek at, enough to see an impressive collection of puppets.

A sign that was probably posted last summer, but I didn't record it then: "Please keep children and other valuables in sight at all times." I like the explicit sense that children are valuable.

The book I was after, and got, was Rain!, a brand-new title by Linda Ashman. I just read about it on Facebook, in a Children's Literature Network post. The kindergarten class I read to on Fridays is taking an "umbrella walk" every day this week, rain or shine, so I decided this would be a must-read. I am very fortunate in having many, many libraries, in several systems, within fairly easy reach by car or bus. When I really want a specific title, I can usually track it down!

Had to jump back in here with something I noticed about the library website; I assume this is true of all St. Paul branches. When I went to the "Locations and Hours" to refresh my memory of the exact location, I was able to link to Google Maps; very nice. But when I looked up the book I wanted and specified that I was looking for it at this branch, I got a map, driving directions, a link to customized directions from my location, AND (best of all, IMO) a link to the schedules of two bus routes that serve this location. That's service. That's good UX, in the current jargon.

Another addition, 4/24: This branch had a uniformed security person who was chatting with a patron as I entered. After I had roamed around, making notes, and peeked into the back where I found the elevator to the lower level and the office mentioned above, I headed for the service desk to pick up my reserved book--and there was security, seemingly keeping a very close eye on me. When I started chatting with the librarian, he drifted away; I guess he decided I was harmless. Good!

4/23/2013, car

This is the picture from last summer; the trees have not leafed out yet this spring, and there is still some snow on the ground from a 6" dump last night!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Counting Coup

I've been looking back at some of my early posts, and I'm amazed at how little I wrote. But now I realize why: in the summer of 2012, my goal was simply to visit each of the MELSA libraries. My few words, and the picture, were my "evidence" that I had been there, and sometimes little more. Early on, I didn't talk to anyone at a library, and sometimes I forgot to take a notebook. I didn't have the slips of paper that explain what I'm doing and give the blog address. I just rode in, "touched" the library with my presence, and disappeared.

This summer I'll be making many return visits the correct what I consider "defects." I'm looking forward to it! And I'll be visiting new places too, of course.


Monday, April 8, 2013

27a. Anoka County, Northtown branch, Blaine, Revisit

I was back at Northtown today so that they could bail me out of a tight spot. I've had a book on reserve for weeks in Ramsey County; I promised to read it to a class of 3rd and 4th graders this Friday. Ramsey County has one copy, which was due this past Tuesday. St. Paul has none, Hennepin has none. So I looked for the next closest possibility, and that's what had me up in Blaine today, picking up "Fossil Feud" by Meish Goldish.

Once there, I started noticing things I didn't recall from last summer's visit, so I made some notes on the request slip. Worth mentioning again is the enclosed program room for kids with a very effective castle theme. A set of armchairs in a cluster in front of a window wall would be just right for a bevy of elementary school kids, but school was still in session when I was there. A nice "grown up" touch in the kids  area is an illustrated dictionary on a wooden dictionary stand on the broad window sill, just the right height for young wordsmiths.

I like the picture books in bins sorted by topics: Find It, Seasonal, Things That Go, Fire Safety, Featured Author (Berenstain at this time), Fairy Tales, and Favorite Characters. Close to these there is another set of bins for board books. The E books are shelved close by on shelves that seemed a bit high. Perhaps there are step stools that I missed seeing?

There are LOTS of book-and-CD bagged sets.

The teen space is large and inviting.

I didn't spend much time in the adult area. Well, actually, I did, but I spent it talking to a librarian about a poster I'd noticed in the entry. See to see what we were discussing. While standing at the librarian's desk, I admired a 3-1/2 x 8-1/2 inch card with the addresses and phone numbers of all Anoka County branches on one side--and even better, a nice clear graphic description of the phone menu options on the other.

The library is spacious and light, and seemed to be very well staffed with three librarians in the adult area, two in kids, and at least one at the general information desk. How did I miss all of this on my first visit? I think this was my last stop on a hot four- or five-visit day last summer. Mea culpa.

I was going to write that you should go to the Anoka County website and look at the Catalog page to see the Anokat, but I don't see it today. So you should go to their site and ask for it to come back.

4/8/13   car

No picture; put Northtown in the search field to see this library.