Friday, May 31, 2013

163. Amherst, NH, Public Library

Once again I see the "street sign" signage that I saw in Batavia. There are rows of non-fiction shelves on the main floor and a mezzanine level with additional stacks for fiction; stacks on more than one level are unusual in small libraries like this, in my experience. A first-floor browsing area opens onto a modest rustic reading garden, unoccupied on this very hot day. The browsing area offers many newspapers and more than a hundred periodical titles.

A display table included books and many oaktag signs with famous first lines in literature. It appeared that the goal was to figure out which book the line was taken from; opening the book would afford immediate reinforcement of the correct answer--or not.

A sign by the service desk offered "information and research." I can't recall seeing a sign in any other library offering specifically to help with research, yet that was once a large part of a librarian's job.

The children's area is on the lower level. The entrance to this area houses a Parent Resource Collection, with thanks to the Friends of the Library 2004. Inside the area are the usual pre-school toys, a wooden train set, a tabletop puppet theater, and many picture books in bins. Not so usual is the fact the Wii games are available for loan; I've only seen a handful of libraries outside of Ramsey County, MN, that offer these games.

Beginning chapter books are labeled "E-J," an interesting designation. A computer designated for children has a sign pointing out that the computer is already loaded with games, no more can or will be added, the library staff is not able to help children play the games, and adults are expected to be on hand to help children. A similar sign is posted with the children's DVDs, pointing out that most are rated G but a few are PG, and parents are expected to help their children make choices. A modest number of Playaway video systems are available, but if I were a parent I would be scared off by the label that says the replacement cost is $99; replacement of a charger is $14.95!

Two posters explain the five-finger rule for determing that a book is at a just-right level. A display of new non-fiction books seems to anticipate the new national curriculum that is coming at us. A sign says that you could go to a zoo, explore a museum,..or curl up with a good non-fiction book from your library. Indeed you could.

For more information, go to

5/31/2013, car, with Jean

162. Hollis Social Library, Hollis, NH

The original part of this library is a white colonial building on a classic New England village green. The modern addition is unobtrusive at the back, or as unobtrusive as an entry with a ramp can be.

This is the second library I've seen, both on this trip, that uses large, legible labels on book spines.

There are lots of large windows, a couple of two-person study rooms, and a Victorian-looking glass case full of stuffed birds. A modest meeting room is inside the main entrance. There are a handful of computers for adult use, none specifically for kids.

This library is located next to a park and near both middle and high schools. Perhaps this is why it's the only library I've seen that lends flying discs, with a sign that says "Borrow a frisbee and play in the park." They also have a telescope that can be borrowed for a week at a time. In the teen area, the librarian has created "teen book bundles" -- three thematically-related books with a label suggesting the theme: Why the hate? and Shakespearean Twists are two themes. A sign says "Say you're going on vacation..." It's a neat concept, but I wonder how popular these bundles really are. Another unusual feature of the young adult area is a collection of Shonen Jump magazines with a sign announcing to kids that they are free to take them home and return them "if you want."

The children's area is in the new part of the building, and a colorful mural spreads across the top of large windows. Large letters, perhaps 3/4", on the spines of the picture books make it easy to find the author's last name. There are book and media bags and a parent-teacher area.

For more information, go to

5/31/2013, car, with Jean

161. Nashua, NH, :Public Library

This is the "new" Nashua library, built sometime in the 70s. To see what preceded it, put "where I got my start" in the search field. My mother worked as a reference librarian in both the old and new libraries; My sister and I were pages in the old one. I never knew the new library well, as I had moved away before it opened.

The reference area is now marked by a large red-on-white REFERENCE sign hanging from the ceiling. Nearby are large print books; world language books in French, Spanish, Portugese, German, Hindi, Lithuanian, Russian, and many in Chinese; and about a dozen public computers. The reference collection is quite large, and includes a card catalog (really) that appears to be an index to the Nashua Telegraph newspaper, pre-computer times. The non-fiction collection is next to this area, and I noticed that oversized books are shelved flat on the bottom shelf. A cute poster with a very large and very small dog, asked, "Where are the oversized (Q) books?" and then explained.

A north-facing window wall has clusters of study carrells and a sign advising patrons "Do not leave valuables unattended." That's good advice in any setting; seeing it here suggest past and perhaps current problems.

Moving along the outside walls, I found an alcove that at first glance seemed to hold full shelving carts. Closer inspection showed it to be a staging area for books heading for a local nursing home. A wall display labeled "Freedom Shrine" included framed replicas of many historic documents. The Hunt Room is dedicated to genealogy and Nashua history. A clipping file with many drawers is outside the Hunt Room. I opened a drawer at random, pulled out a folder, and was looking at an old clipping about the Nashua Boys Band, which was begun many years ago by my grandfather. (Not quite the way the article tells it, but I researched this for my own article some years ago.)

Back in the lobby I saw a display called Readbox: Seen the movie? Read the book. Book rentals $0.00. There was also a display for International Towel Day, May 25. "Grab your towel and don't panic." Near this was a box for donated towels. And there were flyers for an adult summer reading program, with raffle entries awarded for reading books and attending events. I've seen only one other library that has a summer program for adults, with prizes.

The children's room is a totally separate space with glass doors. There is a wonderful puppet theater that looks like a cabin or cottage; see the pictures. There are a significant number of world language books for kids, and a cabinet displays a former mayor's elephant figures, made of everything from china to plush.

Picture books are labeled J and are in bins. Easy Readers are on two shelves, grades 1 and 2, and grade 3. Beyond that are shelves labeled "Juvenile Older Fiction" for the upper elementary grades. I've never seen books divided or labeled quite that way. Recorded books are shelved alongside the paper versions, another first for me and one I think makes sense. I think they must have all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books! There are four computers for little kids, six for the bigger kids.

The lower level of the library houses a theater, restrooms, an art exhibit, and the Music, Art, Media department. Many of the '700' books are here, plus all of the DVDs and CDs. Signs by the CDs say "Copying music? You're breaking a Federal Law. Stop it. Now. Really." There is a grand piano in the middle of the space. It looks as if this lower level is being reconfigured in some way, but I'm not familiar enough with the "old" way to figure out what they are up to.

For more information, go to

5/31/2013, car, with Jean

The window curtains open to create the puppet theater stage.

160. Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, NY

This library has special significance because my Aunt Ruth McEvoy was the Director here from 1963 to 1971. I visited it once, probably in the late 60s, and would not have recognized it!

This is only the second library where I have seen overhead signs on brackets, sort of like street signs, sticking out over aisles in the "stacks." I like them. Cards on the shelf ends give guidance beyond merely labeling with the range of Dewey Decimals on that shelf. One example: a circle with the words "hello, bonjour, hola," and beneath that "Language" and "400-499."

There is a coffee shop with soda and pastries, right in the main part of the library; I wonder what Aunt Ruth would think of that?

The older part of the library has a fireplace; split wood in an adjacent rack suggests that it may actually be used at times. This area holds rockers, easy chairs, large print books, and the periodical collection. Current issues of periodicals are in stiff plastic holders that slide into diagonal grooves on recessed shelves. That's a system I haven't seen before, and it's very neat and classy.

In the DVD section, I noticed that the library hosts a movie and discussion evening once a month from January through October.

My memory said that there was a main floor and an upper level. Now, I learned, the upper level is the attic, and my aunt's office was probably there. The children's area is and was on a lower level, but my aunt probably saw no need to show it to twenty-something me!

Although the children's area is below ground level, it is brightened by a very large window that looks out on a garden with sculptures representing classic children's books. Colored dots on their spines guide one to concept books: colors, numbers, alphabet, shapes, and also early readers. I like the "pond" rug in this area. Signs suggest that "If you don't see the book you're looking for, please ask." A sign on a basket on the floor says "Looking at a book and don't want it? Let us return it to the shelf for you." I noticed a stack of plastic shelf markers (place holders) on the librarian's desk with a suggestion that one "try one of our new shelf markers," but I gathered that these were not being used widely or correctly--yet.

The children's librarian has a sign at her desk "Bother me! I'm here to help you." So I bothered her, and she was delightful. We talked about the blog, about libraries we've visited, about children's programming. While I was there, a group from the Y preschool program visited, and when I was leaving, a parochial school class, perhaps middle school age, was coming in. This indicates how central the library is to the city.

As nice as it was talking to the children's librarian, I think the finest moment came just before I left. I was talking to a librarian on the main floor about Aunt Ruth. The librarian reminded me that Ruth wrote a History of Batavia; she commented on the wonderful index and said she refers to it almost daily. Yay, Aunt Ruth; I always did like her.

For more information, go to


The entrance I remember

The newer accessible entrance

159. Simcoe Branch of Norfolk Public Library, Ontario, Canada

With this post the blog is truly international. (Whistler, BC, is in here, but my sister made that visit.)

Simcoe is a Depository Library for government documents. One of the first things I spotted was a sign at the librarian's desk, "Ask me! Happy to help. Your library, online, all the time." Nice. There is a Coffee Corner with tables and chairs that looked very inviting.

The part of the building where I entered houses fiction. Another part, perhaps an addition as it was set off by a brick wall with arched doorways, housed non-fiction of all levels. There are a lot of public computers and a corner for reference, audio, and media. I noticed that requested books on hold are paper-wrapped for privacy.

Flyers advertised the official launch of the Teens Write for Fun! contest.

Upstairs and to the left is an area for "young adults and youth." This area holds young adult books and also what I think of as "J" fiction; I think that here this may mean "upper elementary" or middle school. An interesting feature is a series of small, low-walled cubicles formed of glass bricks, each with a table and two chairs. Tutoring? Socializing? They look nice, in any case. Sadly, there is a sign that reads "Because of vandalism this area is being monitored." This is certainly not the only place where I have seen such signs (see Waite Park, MN, for example), but they are always a bit disheartening.

A Literacy Room holds big old oak tables and chairs. Books are available in French, Spanish, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Dutch. There is also a mental health and wellness collection.

Moving through the literacy room, I passed jigsaw puzzles in boxes, the Canadiana Room, and a book sale. Books sales, whether a separate room or a single cart, are ubiquitous these days.

To the right at the top of the stairs is Kidzone. In this area are two half-round tables, the kind schools use for small group work. These have been placed facing a window that overlooks the main level of the library. Picture books are on low shelves with sloping tops, good for opening and reading large books.

For more information, go to

5/29/2013, car

158. Moore Library in Lexington, Michigan

With this visit to Lexington, I've completed my sub-project of visiting the four libraries described in "Main Street Public Libraries." This is a smallish brick building a block off Main Street. In something like the manner of Lake Elmo, MN, it rambles on from room to room, and in this case includes a second floor. Old ceiling fixtures and stained-glass windows contrast with a display of new books. Books of local interest are featured in both the adult and children's areas. In addition to everything one would expect to see, the collection includes a fair number of Playaway sets for kids.

There are at least three public computers, plus one for kids. A youth corner by a window includes an easy chair and YA fiction and non-fiction. There are many posters from "Geek the Library"--see for examples.

On the way upstairs I passed the "dragon stained glass," but unfortunately my picture did not come out well. I also saw a set of framed, old, photographs of "Women active in cultural and social activities of the village." I'm sure that if I looked in the Lexington chapter of "Main Street Public Libraries" I would find these women mentioned. Upstairs I found a knitting club busy at work and chat, the paperback collection, and a small room with an antique table supporting a very modern computer for genealogical research.

For more information, go to

Lexington goes on the list of "libraries near ice cream"--I had a generous cone of a flavor called (I think) "chunky cake." It was buttercream ice cream with chunks of intense chocolate. Very good!

 5/29/2013, car

157. Escanaba, Michigan

Immediately on entering this library I spotted a new book display, carts with two baskets (like the ones I prefer but see too seldom in grocery stores), a machine applique picture of Escanaba based on photos, a large flat file for maps, and a display of models by the local LEGO club (which includes girls as well as boys, I was glad to see). The overall sense was "this is a dynamic place"!

Books are shelved on nifty shelves that I find it hard to describe. They are wood, and taper from the bottom to the top. Each shelf is topped with lighting enclosed in wood, so the shelves are very well lighted, making books easy to browse. Adding to the visual assistance, the author initials and Dewey numbers are larger than I've seen anywhere else; labels on older items are in what looks like a 3/8" font; newer ones are perhaps 1/4". Both searching and shelving would be aided by the lighting and labels here. Kudos!

The large type collection includes non-fiction, including cookbooks, and reference. It's a large collection; in fact, it's overflowing from the designated shelves to a couple of rows on a broad windowsill!

The browsing area has two-story-high windows looking at--well, it depends on your angle. It was a gray, drizzly day when I visited, but if you look from the right place, you can see a sliver of Lake Michigan. On a sunny day, it might be more than a sliver. A huge jigsaw puzzle was underway near the browsing area, and there is a good-sized "quiet reading room" that also houses the Friends of the Library book sale. Another quiet reading room/meeting room is also nearby.

A large area for genealogical research has the usual resources plus a long table and very good lighting. [Somebody here is very aware of the need for people to have good light for reading!] One item I haven't seen elsewhere is a "guest book" made of 3x5 cards bound with rings that invites people to leave name, address, email, and "families you are searching" so that searchers can find each other. Local historians, I believe, also check these cards and help to find information.

A youth area has metal-and-fabric chairs that look welcoming for teens but would be difficult for elders--one way to keep the elders out of the teen area!

Getting around to the kids' area, there is a wall that alternates tall windows with colorful posters. A window wall sports a large rope "spider web" (with fake spiders) and a broad window seat with storage for toys underneath. A sign says: "Parents, please be responsible to put away toys." Picture books on shelves with casters are arranged to form "parentheses" around a long table with a sloping top and bench on each side. Really nice.

The big feature of the children's area is the S.S. I Can Read sailboat, see picture below.

When I told the librarian about my project, she showed me one wonderful feature I would have missed on my own: a program room, completely closed off from the rest of the library. It has five carpeted risers at one end, tables for crafts at the other end. In some ways it reminded me of the program room in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The librarian also gave me a tour of the library, giving me a chance to comment on the shelves and the lighting, and showed me the workroom, which reminded me of "home."

Just before leaving, I spotted a bulletin board titled "Do We Know Dewey?" with a lot of information about the Dewey Decimal System.

For more information, go to

5/28/2013, car

156. Norway, Michigan

The first thing I noticed at this library was the staff greeting patrons as they arrived, giving the sense of a very personal, friendly place. This was borne out when I chatted with the librarian toward the end of my visit.

The second thing I noticed was a 3-D bulletin board display featuring a castle and some princesses. A sign says "For display only, not for play"--and in front of the bulletin board, two chairs were just asking to have kids climb up The librarian agreed that it was risky creating the display, but said the kids have been quite respectful. Apparently princesses get moved from place to place, but the castle (which sticks out quite a bit) has survived unscathed. I hope that is still true!

The shelves are all wood, a feature that I feel gives warmth to a library.  I spotted at least three public computers, a microfilm reader, a lot of teen fiction, and collections of movies on both VHS and DVD.

The kids' area features a rug with a large US map, a TV/DVD player, a couple of tables, beanbag chairs, and coloring sheets. A nice collection of books, too, of course.

A browsing area by a big window houses periodicals, newspapers, and the reference collection. A new bulletin board with an underrwater theme is in development--no doubt complete by now, since I'm a bit behind on these entries!

For more information, go to

5/28/2013, car

155. Iron Mountain, Michigan

There is a rare pay phone in the lobby, along with some Friends of the Library books for sale and a wheelchair. Just inside is a display of rocks, minerals, and fossils. Later in my visit a librarian asked whether I had seen the "geology area." I'm sorry to say, I missed it, but I expect that it was thorough, in this mining community.

There is a computer lab with 10 public computers, one reserved for teens; that's a nice respectful gesture for youth. There is also a Teen Zone. A central browsing area provides seating near the periodicals and an extensive collection of large-print books.

Rare these days, there are nice long shelves that actually look and feel like library "stacks." I like this! Books on the bottom shelf are shelved "spine up," a great aid for searching and shelving. A basket at the end of one row bears the sign, "Please put materials you don't need here." A separate room houses the local history and genealogy collections.

In the children's area, the upper walls are painted in bright colors and decorated with sillouettes of active children. A large window wall faces a courtyard, bringing a taste of the outdoors inside. Toys are available, and kids can "check out a train" to play with at the library. The centerpiece is a handsome lake boat, which I was told the custodian built--see pictures below. The boat was so impressive, I almost missed the padded bathtub--and a padded bathtub is very, very cool.

For more information, go to

5/28/2013, car

154. Rhinelander, Wisconsin

This library is the third I've visited that is studied in "Main Street Public Libraries" from U of Iowa Press.

The first thing I noticed was the rack of music CDs in identical but color-coded cases, very tidy-looking. Beyond the CDs, fiction shelves zigzag along the wall, with non-fiction shelves filling the center of the space. There are very clear alpha signs along the fiction shelves, and tables and chairs are placed throughout. The non-fiction shelves are very high--the top shelf is well over my head--and I saw at least one short stepladder as well as regular library kickstools. Oversized books are shelved flat on the bottom shelf. It's funny: I recently saw this shelving practice for what I thought was the first time and here it is again. Now I wonder whether I just didn't notice until recently, and will henceforth see it everywhere! In any case, I like the idea. Oversized or "q" books simply don't like to stand up, and this keeps books with their thematic fellows.

From the town name, it's clear that this community was settled by Germans, and that is reflected in a large local history and genealogy section, which includes about 75 volumes titled "Germans to America". There is also some very attractive Geman folk art high on the walls above the bookshelves.

The children's area is down a flight of stairs that is quite easy to spot--once you know where to look! I needed help from staff in order to find it. It was worth the search, starting with the unusual Welcome to the Children's Department sign made of appliqued pieces of neckties! Although the space is underground, it is well-lighted and doesn't feel at all gloomy. Although it is much larger, it reminds me of Columbia Heights in Minnesota.

Fiction lines the walls, with non-fiction shelves filling in, as in the adult area upstairs. I liked the ring-bound sets of cards called "Brain Insights," full of ideas for parents to develop early literacy. The Dewey Decimal labels on each shelf instead of simply on the ends are helpful for kids, I think. The collection includes shelves labeled "Rhinelander District Library Early Childhood Collection," with books for parents, teachers, and caretakers.

The children's area has a lot of VHS titles, CDs, and audio books. VHS cases are labeled "Use AV drop," CDs say "Return inside." I'll hazard a guess that this reflects a policy change over time, not a deliberate plan to treat the two media differently. DVDs also say "Return inside," and a plaintive "Please, only ADULTS should handle disks." I mentioned that one to the librarian who seemed to agree that it represents wishful thinking!

There is a bright-yellow cardboard tractor, nearly life-size, in the preschool area, along with an alphabet rug and a cluster of kid-sized upholstered chairs and a couch. A couple of aquariums are close enough to the librarian's desk for easy supervision.

Finally, I noticed that the picture books that in many places are marked "E" for "easy" or "everyone," here are marked "J"--E is used for Easy Readers. I think I like this practice. One of my concerns is that kids after about grade 2 are unwilling to check out or read books perceived to be "picture books," thinking they are for littler kids. Take a look at "Queen of the Falls" or "Mrs. Marlowe's Mice" for examples of "picture books" that are not for little kids.

To learn more, go to

5/28/2013, car

Rhinelander Library is guarded by one of the "fierce"local Hodags.

Yes, the welcome sign is made of neckties!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Greetings to all who have found their way here. I am traveling and visiting libraries, and it was my intention to post every evening about the libraries visited that day. And I said that to all the friendly library staff I talked to so far. Ah, the best laid plans...

First day out, I visited Rhinelander, WI; Iron Mountain, MI; Norway, MI; and Escanaba, MI. Then I stopped at a little motel, so little that when I told the check-in clerk that I had a reservation, her response was "Oh, you must be Ellen!" Not just little, but ... NO WI-FI! How did I manage not to check on that? Therefore, no blog entries.

Today my old and trusted GPS decided to retire. It spent an hour "recalculating" in an effort to make me go west rather than east, and finally just gave up altogether, throwing me back to a reliance on old technology, namely "road atlas" and "I'll try asking that guy." Today I visited the library in Lexington, MI and Simcoe, Ontario. Tonight I have wi-fi, as you see...but I left my notebook in the car and I simply don't have the energy to go and get it.

So it may be Friday afternoon before I catch up with entries for these six and the two I plan to visit on Thursday. Please come back!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Little Free Libraries, St. Paul, MN

I've been meaning to add these to the blog for some time now, and today was just right for a walk to take pictures. Both of these Little Free Libraries are within a mile of my house, and within a few blocks of the neighborhood school. They are in front yards in a residential neighborhood. There is a third (that I am aware of) in a small corner park on Como Ave. in Minneapolis. In fact, I think Minneapolis is going crazy with little free libraries!

I took a copy of May Sarton's "Fur Person," which I swapped for an oldish edition of Heidi at the first stop. I meant to leave "Heidi" at the second stop, but didn't see anything I preferred, so Heidi came home with me.

I just spent some time looking around at, and I see that it's quite an operation.

Spotted another one from the #3 bus, a bit smaller, just south of Como Lake. Seemed to be sponsored by a Girl Scout troop; good for them!

5/27/12, walking

Thursday, May 23, 2013

6a. WCL, Park Grove branch in Cottage Grove, re-visit

This was one of my early stops last summer, and I wrote nothing about it. Today, I'm determined to make up for that. My determination is spurred by a friendly librarian who chatted with me at some length and made sure I didn't miss certain details.

First, props to the library for staying open while a new concrete sidewalk was poured at the front door; the side door entrance through the meeting room worked just fine, and once in the lobby, there was no difference. Well, except for the yellow hazard ribbon criss-crossing the inside of the front door!

Shelves in the lobby hold a good selection of books for sale by the Friends of the Library. Beside this is a window that looks into the children's area, creating a very nice "teaser" for little ones coming in. There was a display labeled "Be a library artist! Challenge: Draw a person, place, or thing from a book you have read." Many were displayed. I like these activities that I have learned to call "passive programming."

There was a lot of art on the walls from students at a local school, paintings by first and second graders and some very nice copper work by fourth graders. One very creative piece appeared to be a "fish print" overlayed with clear plastic with an underwater scene done in markers. Neat! The librarian said that the art teacher is responsible for these displays, and changes them periodically. It's nice to showcase student work and brighten the walls at the same time.

Another display exhorted kids (and families) to "Get outside this month! Explore your world" with a number of related books showcased. The outside is not far away, with windows on three sides of the building, all looking out on trees and grass.

I was pleased to see a shelf labeled "young teen fiction," then disappointed to learn that this category is no longer used. Trying to decide where to draw lines between J, the defunct YT, and YA seems increasingly difficult as content and themes push downwards. And in non-fiction, I think the line between J and E can sometimes seem haphazard. [Consider Mrs. Marlowe's Mice, for example. A picture book, yes; an Easy picture book? Hardly.]

Seating and tables for adults line the windowed walls, and one corner is for browsing, with many periodicals. (The library also offers periodicals online through Zineo.) I counted 20 public computers plus 8 more in a "quiet room" lab. A magnifying reader and a reader for microfilm and fiche are invaluable for those patrons who need them, and I was glad to see them here. The "community jigsaw puzzle" was also nice to see; I find these quite often in smaller, rural libraries, but seldom in a library of this size.

The teen area could use some sprucing up, and I understand this is in the works. I did like the "Teens Only" sign. The librarian I spoke with tipped me off to a plan for a bit of passive programming for teens: With the help of teen volunteers, discarded books are being cut into separate sentences; the sentences will be displayed with the challenge to "guess what book these sentences came from." (That's what I think I heard; if I've mangled the idea, please leave a clarifying comment.)

All non-fiction, J, Y, and A, is shelved together. I like the way the bottom shelf is being used for oversized books, with only eight or nine inches between that bottom shelf and the next one up. This approach allows the large books to lie flat, which they strive to do anyway, and keeps them with their kin. The top shelf, well over six feet up, is rarely used.

In addition to "book club in a bag" sets for kids and adults, there are "Parenting Kits," kept near the 600s. These are similar zippered bags which contain books for both adults and children, and include topics like divorce, communication, and discipline.

Altogether, a very nice facility. Very quiet when I was there, but as I left it seemed that a nearby school had just dismissed, and a gaggle of gradeschoolers approached as I drove out of the parking lot.

For more information, go to
And if you want to see this library in action, head here:

5/23/13, car