Saturday, April 27, 2013

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


  1. Rosemary and I loved visiting with you today -- what a nice flattering review! -- Of course we love our library and agree with all assessments!

    One minor thing -- our catalog does not come up with a WWW in front of it ARgh!
    you need to have it be

    Thanks so much!!

    Judy Gibson

    1. I'll fix that at once, Judy. Thanks for letting me know!

    2. Judy, please contact me at And thanks for the good press you've given my blog--Lake Elmo has had 45 hits already!

  2. Ellen, fantastic blog you have here! You have a wonderful way with words. Keep up the fantastic work! You too all you Lake Elmo volunteers! Such an amazing journey your town has undertaken!


    Jessica M Jacobs


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