Monday, August 26, 2013

Oxboro Library, Bloomington, MN, Hennepin County -- Revisit

I noticed that my 2012 write-up of Oxboro was getting an unusual number of hits, so I took a look and found a note to myself: Too rushed by bus schedule, return next summer. And here it is, approaching the end of "next summer," so back I went. There's a lot to see and like here--and still not clue about why this library was proving so popular in the blog!

Since I drove this time, I entered from the parking lot and saw something that I missed last year: a book depository slot that is labeled "Newspapers only" (except when the book return is not working). The outside book return has a moving conveyor with the usual admonition about keeping fingers out. Inside, there are three separate book return slots: Children and Teens, Media, and Adult. I will think of the "newspapers only" each time I empty a morning bookdrop where I work and have to dig for the newspapers! [OK, sometimes my boss gets there first and gets the papers; I'm not complaining, really.)

In the lobby I see things that intrigue me, including a 4'x8' mural (on a board, not a wall, but the sign says it's a mural...) with the library, a water tower, and a tall tree with the word "Hope" written in many languages on the leaves. A nearby recycling center provides clear information, with photographs, of what goes in each container.

A colorful ladybug exhibit in a glass case and "Welcome" in 33 languages greet the visitor right inside the door. Immediately to the left is the area for school age children, with all of the Eyewitness books in their own shelving area, many with their colorful covers forward. Nearby is a light table with some leading science questions. Bins beneath the table hold X-rays and translucent plastic for experimentation with colors. Easy Readers are displayed in bins and children's fiction is on wall shelves. There is a variety of seating and three computers for kids, each in a carrel. Around the corner is a bright area for the preschool set, with a wall of windows and three more computers on very low tables.

A teen area has four computers, presumably for teens. All were in use, and it looked to me as if only one of the users was a teen. Different libraries handle teen space in very different ways. I didn't see any sign, but perhaps there is a policy that adults can use these computers if no teens are waiting. Another policy I've seen is that adults can use the teen area until school gets out, about 3 pm. The walls display art from Valley View Middle School.

For adults there are two comfortable browsing areas with "living room" seating, windows, and study tables. The two areas are separated by a two-sided fireplace; I learned at the end of my visit that these fireplaces are no longer working. That's too bad, but they still add to the comfortable look and ambience. Some periodicals are displayed on typical slanting shelves; others are in "browsing bins" by category: Crafts, Gardening, Sports, and so forth. These are labeled for browsing; it was not clear whether they circulate.

Nonfiction for children and adults is shelved together. The nonfiction shelves seem particularly attractive, with clusters of books on particular topics making mini-displays in several places. It was a very nice touch to see the free Job Dig newspaper displayed along with the books on job searches. The large print and reference areas have a small stool at the end of each row. These are for sitting, not for reaching high shelves, as the shelves are quite low. A very small touch, perhaps, but surely appreciated by patrons. (It's generally not the young crowd looking for large print books--it's the old-timers, like me, who sometimes like to have a seat handy.)There are two small study rooms and a conference room for tutoring and non-profit meetings. I saw, I think, eight public computers, with the requisite printers, etc.

Many libraries have a World Language section, but Oxboro's is particularly nice. It has its own space with attractive "living room" seating. Most materials are in Spanish, including quite a large collection of children's books. I also spotted books in Somali and Vietnamese, material for English Language learners, and basic education books for adults. Before I left, a librarian told me about a kindergarten readiness program for Spanish-speaking kids and their parents that was held during the summer--what a terrific idea!

For more information, go to

8/26/2013, car (Yes, I know it's on a bus route.)

From the parking lot, you can look right through the lobby and out the other side to a large grassy area, very park-like.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Johnsville Branch ACL -- the Mystery Library

The reason I went to Johnsville today was to inquire about a mystery: Back in July 2012, shortly after I started this project, I visited Johnsville because it's a MELSA library, and I wrote one of my terse early posts. In June of 2013, I re-visited and wrote a longer post. The mystery: That early post, one little paragraph, has attracted over 150 views, putting Johnsville in 5th place in the "how many times is your post visited?" sweepstakes. (No, there isn't a prize.) I hoped someone could tell me what was up.

In a way I feel as if Johnsville has jinxed me. First, I forgot that I'd been there with the same questsion in June. Second, although I reminded myself to check before I headed out this morning, I arrived more than an hour before the branch opened. [Culver's to the rescue.]

Nobody seems to know why that one year-old post is attracting so many hits. If you are interested in this branch, I suggest putting "Johnsville" or "Wally the Walleye" in the blog's search field, so you can read all about it.

For the record, Highland Park in the St. Paul system is in top place for visits, with about 450. There, too, nobody can explain why.

8/16/2013, car

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

195. Rush City, MN, Public Library

Once agiain, my impressions began outside, with a large sign hanging in a window of this storefront setting. It pays to advertise; I love how the sign lists all the services available at the library, just as if it were a Main Street store looking for business.

A book sale was underway on several tables, and I found a number of goodies, including a like-new copy of Bartholomew and the Oobleck, one of the first Seuss books I ever read.

A poster shows a duck and her ducklings, carrying umbrellas and tote bags, with the words "Please protect our books." This reminds me of every time I have to get out the paper towels when patrons come in on a rainy day and don't even seem to notice (or care) that their books became wet between the car and the door.

There were a number of reminders of the summer reading program that will be winding down next week. In one corner a tarp was on the floor with some dirt "paths" and what appeared to be large plastic worms. On a wall was a poster "Vote for your favorite chip"; apparently chips had been made from various vegetables that grow underground: taro, yuca (sic), sweet potato, beet, and parsnip. Yuca won. But I think my favorite was a vocabulary poster of "Cave Words" like spelunker and stalactite, each illustrated with a photograph.

The "back" wall (the wall opposite the entrance) is made of two very wide windows, both covered with sheer white curtains. They are very attractive, and as I told the librarians, I've only seen library window curtains in one other place, Canaan, New Hampshire. (Actually, I told them Hollis; I was wrong, it's Canaan.) One side of this "back" area may have been recently used for a program; there were folding chairs, folded, against the wall, and the area had sort of a "pushed back" look. The other side is the children's area. Two tween girls were giggling and having a grand time here, so I kept my distance. Nothing like an old lady wandering around with a notebook and pencil to squelch tween fun!

A neat piece of passive programming was a fabric bag called the Digger Bag. It was full of various small objects and plastic packing peanuts. The challenge: find and identify objects without looking. The request: Pick up the plastic peanuts that fall on the floor while you hunt.

For more information, go to

After visiting the library, go around the corner to the Rush City Bakery. Everything looked good; I can only vouch for the apple fritter, which was very good.

194. Pine City Minnesota Public Library

This library once shared a building with the City Hall, but it grew and took over the whole space...way to go, Pine City Library! The enjoyment starts outside, with a winding blue/green "river" and a Native American in a canoe; see the pictures below. This stone river has five poems printed in it. [Special connection here: I'm from St. Paul, where we have a six-year-old sidewalk poetry project, and I learned recently that when my neighborhood sidewalk is replaced this week, a poem will be printed in the concrete in front of my house.] Here are two of the Pine City poems, and you can see a third one in a picture below.

Pause Life
You might just be / Passing by, / But stop. / Take a moment / And look around. / What you seek / May be just beneath / Your feet.  Keziah Lakedon

Days flutter past like / the pages of an open / book read by the wind.  Angela Foster

OK, let's head inside. There are eight public computers, a printer/copier, a teen corner with shelves of fiction and a tall table with a couple of chairs. Teens must like these, because they are everywhere.

A Used Book Room houses books for sale and a comfortable chair. The books are orderly, with the shelves clearly labeled. A sign says "Breastfeeding mother welcome." I haven't seen that at any other library. [But I have seen a couple where 'emergency' diapers are available from the librarian!]

A periodical browsing area has a large fireplace with a glass-fronted display case on each side. Over the fireplace is a very large copper nugget found nearby in some past time.

More than 50 volumes of the Great Ideas Synoptecon grace the non-fiction shelves, all in identical bindings, and all classified 808.8, even Adam Smith and Freud.

There are two special wooden wall racks to display quilts, with two attractive quilts displayed. At least outside of the Metro area, almost every library has at least one quilt. [In New Hampshire, it's grandfather clocks, for some reason.]

By the children's area, a door leads to a fenced reading patio with a number of outdoor chairs. A plaque says that "A significant portion of the new library was gifted by Henny Boo Hudson's husband and children" and she was "a lifelong friend of children, books, and libraries."

As a former dollhouse builder, I enjoyed seeing the handmade log cabin with furniture and dolls. Bins of picture books are enhanced by tall wooden figures of a frog, turtle, raccoon, and loon with baby. A "Little Tikes" desk with a computer was donated by 3M. There is a sturdy wooden rocking chair and two tables of different heights, with chairs to match round out the children's area.

Artistic touches abound here, and the last I noted was a series of tiles mounted on the front of the service desk, showing a dragonfly and other figures, with the names in English and a Native language.

For more information, go to

8/13/2013, car


193. Hinckley, MN, Public Library

An eye-catcher in the small lobby is a white board with many 3x3 sticky notes with book titles and a heading New Releases from Your Favorite Authors. That was a nice start to the visit. Right inside the door was a Dig Into Reading display created by someone on staff, showing various underground critters--see picture. I believe the reading program just ended last week.

A picture book corner has bright golden walls with lots of colorful posters and new books displayed face-front. A basket of plastic food and a selection of stuffed animals and animal puppets were standing by, ready for imaginative play. Six periodicals are available for kids: American Girl, Cricket, Mailbox, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ranger Rick, and New Moon--that's a nice variety. Bright plastic sand pails and shovels were hanging from the ceiling. Fall leaves coming soon?

As I moved to the adult area, I spotted some clever posters with reproductions of "great masters" paintings, each with the caption "Master the Art of Reading." A plant-filled window impressed me so much that I had to get a picture of it, see below, and there is a second, similar window. There are at least five public computers, and recorded books on both CD and tape.

As I was leaving, I spotted a flyer for a "Princess Story Hour." If I understand correctly, the readers would be "royalty" from a local festival of some sort. I bet the place will be mobbed with little girls in pink!

For more information, go to

8/13/2013, car

192. Sandstone, MN, Public Library

Everywhere I go, I look for "something I haven't seen before." Here, it was a pair of corner shelves right inside the door that held many identically-bound books, a set of classics. The bottom shelves held what looked like a complete set of the interesting "A Very Short Introduction to..." series that I've seen in other East-Central branches.

Another "nowhere else" surprise was an open window! This was a beautiful day, temperature in the 70s with a light breeze, a perfect day to let a hint of the outside come inside. This window is one of a whole row of windows that brighten a browsing area with comfortable-looking chairs. Audio books are available on both CD and tape, and there is a good-sized large-print collection. Paperbacks are on spinners. I saw at least five public computers, a copier/printer, and a collection of teen books.

The children's area is very bright and cheerful. There is a computer on a low table and a corner with two wide, quarter-round steps up. This could be a focal point for a children's program; it has shelves that hold the series books. Two posters caught my eye, each with a good message: "Practice Random Acts of Reading" and my favorite, "No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted." The latter shows a fire-breathing dragon...using its fire to toast a marshmallow for a rabbit.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I am always on the lookout for ice cream, and when I pulled around the corner to park at the library I ended up right across the street from an Ice Cream sign. Before I left town, I stopped for an excellent cone of maple nut. I also chatted with the proprietor, who told me that her store and the library collaborate on the summer reading program, with kids earning certificates for ice cream cones. Am I surprised that they come across the street for their cones as soon as they can, even at 9 am? No, I am not!

She also suggested I take a look at the unused Sandstone High School a few blocks away. I did, and a pictures is below. I'm sure this once-handsome building was built of local stone.

For more information, go to .

8/13/13, car

Decommissioned high school; not a library picture, just a handsome building--with an asbestos problem.

Monday, August 5, 2013

St. Anthony Park Library, St. Paul, Minnesota--Revisit

This library has been closed for a while for interior remodeling. It re-opened today, and I wanted to see how it has changed.

First, as you can see from the pictures, the exterior has not changed at all. This is a notably handsome Carnegie library; built in 1917, it's one of the youngest Carnegies. Inside, the changes are wonderful.

The feeling of the change is that the space has been opened. Some shelving has been shortened; a cramped circulation and information desk has been moved and opened up, and the office/workroom has moved. There may be more computers; it's a bit hard for me to tell, as I hadn't counted them before. For sure, there are two self-checkout stations, and I'm almost certain there used to be only one. There is a book return that appears to have an automated materials handling conveyor, which I confess made me chuckle; it appears that the path a book takes can't be more than a foot or two long. Maybe I'm missing something here, and someone will add a comment to straighten me out!

The children's space looks about the same, and it is charming. As you can see from the third picture below, this area is round. Shelves follow the walls in places, and radiate in from the exterior walls in other places to create short "stacks." A circular space in the middle for the youngest patrons has a round table and two curved benches, very cozy. There is a program room on the lower level; I did not visit it today, but I went to a magic show there, a summer program a few years ago, and it was packed with eager kids.

A note from a local first grade class tells what they think of this library:

Dear library and librarians, thank you for
* helping us study and learn
* providing us comfort and quiet
* for the good books and movies
* the puppets, story time, and computer
* a place to gather
We love to visit!

This branch is almost directly across the street from a public elementary school, and if you are going down Como Ave. at the right time of the right day, you can see whole classes making the short trek from their school to the library. It is a valued community resource.

For more information, go to

8/5/2013, bus

Saturday, August 3, 2013

191. Tomah Public Library, Tomah, Wisconsin

The handsome Tomah library was built in 1915, thanks to Andrew Carnegie and others. Plaques in the entry say "In memory of Ernest R. Buckley and Andrew Carnegie" and state that the building is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Some years ago the building was enlarged; the original outside brick wall is now an interior wall. The original friezes were designed by Louis Sullivan, a noted Chicago architect. These and other decorative elements were included in the new design, to excellent effect. I think this is one of the more successful renovations of a Carnegie library I have seen. Lest you think that this sounds like a stogey place, please go to the library website at and look for the FAQ list on the right. Scroll down to the question about what is on the other side of the bookdrop and follow the links from there. This place rocks!

Fiction shelves here have labels for some of the most popular authors. Unlike the "flags" that stick out, as at the Oregon, WI, library, here they are printed horizontally and stuck to the front of the shelves. The same practice is used in non-fiction: 641.5 Cooking, for example. Two methods, the same end result: ease of searching for the patron. One shelf had a sign on the top saying Chilton manuals could be checked out for only one week. It's worse than that: there are no Chilton manuals, just empty shelves where they would normally be. Has a manual thief been at work? More likely, the library is following in the footsteps of many others and making repair manuals available on line. If that is the case, it's time to update the sign!

There are several clusters of "living room" seating, one by a fireplace. I found a small window seat tucked into a space that would be to the right of the main door if you looked at the building from outside.

Downstairs, the Friends of the Library have an on-going sale. Here's a twist, however: each book has a paper wrapper, like a belt or obi, around its middle, with a messge like this: "The price of this amazing book is <whatever>. Thanks for supporting the Tomah Public Library." That's a lot of work for volunteers, but it really brings home the reason that you might buy a book from these shelves. The media collection is also downstairs, and patrons are asked to report problems with disks and not to "try and clean or repair" them. There seemed to be an ususually large collection of audio books.

In the children's area, non-fiction shelves are marked as they are for the adult non-fiction, but the labels are topics, not Dewey numbers: Horses...Dogs....Cats...Crafts...and so forth. It might be nice if the labels had both Dewey numbers and descriptions. Graphic novels are present in modest numbers and are on top of a fairly high shelf. A community quilt with squares that appear to have been created by children hangs on the wall. In back of the space, under the newer part of the building, is a "quiet room" with a mural depicting scenes from Peter Pan painted around three walls. The mural starts with an ocean theme and a real (I think) large mounted swordfish, perhaps the fish that bit off Captain Hook's hand? It ends with the little house that the lost boys built for Wendy. It's very interesting, but perhaps not as respectful of Native Americans as one might wish.

A story nook consistsing of three deep steps that seem to be recessed into the wall honors Gary Blashaski, Friend of  Children, and was a gift of "past and present students and teachers of the Miller and Camp Douglas Elementary Schools, 1985."

I spotted a small shelf of We Both Read books; these are books that allow an adult and child to read together, alternating difficult and easy pages. They allow a struggling reader access to content at his or her interest level, wwithout demanding the level of skill that would otherwise be needed. I've used them in tutoring, and the best of them are excellent. Nearby was another small specialized collection, this one of anti-bullying DVDs. A "passive programming" table held various worksheets, including one that teaches how to draw Japanese Hiragna characters! Wooden paint stirring sticks, brightly painted, are available as shelf markers.

I came in by the main door but left by the ramp from the lower level. Beside the ramp was a display of  photos of staff at work. I found this display a bit surprising, but of course this was before I found the videos. (Remember, I mentioned going to the FAQs on the library website?) There was also a display of photos of the Friends of the Library in action, and a list of membership rates: Individual, $5; individual lifetime, $25; and Family lifetime, $35. That has to be one of the best bargains in the whole city.

For more information, go to and click around. seriously, you really want to do this!

8/2/2013, car

190. Fitchburg Public Library, Fitchburg, Wisconsin

This almost-brand-new library opened in June, 2011. Until then, Fitchburg did not have its own library, relying instead on the various libraries in Madison, WI. It's an outstanding building, and I'm glad Meghan pressed me to add it to my trip. Approaching the library for the first time was a little tricky; my gps and I were both a bit confused, which may be why I forgot to take exterior pictures. Go to the library website (link below) and feast your eyes. I did take a couple of pictures inside.

This is a two-story building, which is quite unusual outside of large cities, in my experience. I entered on the lower level and immediately saw a large room for teens, with varied seating and a screen on the wall for computer games. Four computers were entertaining three lively teens when I was there.

On my way to the children's area I saw announcements for programs like Indoor Camping at the library on August 7 and a Scavenger Hunt on the 16th. I noticed that "series books" are on shelves labeled "chapter books." This makes sense to me. Series books sometimes get a bad rap; many of them are not great literature, but they do provide support for youngsters who need the consistent plots and characters as they become more fluent readers. Shelving them as chapter books may elevate them in the eyes of some parents and teachers.

The program room has doors to contain the inevitable noise of a good program. There is a huge whiteboard, and a ceiling-mounted projector.

Picture book shelves are especially attractive, with wooden animal sillouettes on the ends and translucent panels at the top. These panels help to maintain a light feeling visually. There is a long row of bins on wheels for board books and a toy room with a variety of interactive boards mounted on the walls. Three long window seats add to the usual seating possibilities.

In the school-age area, I noticed that "J Fantasy" is shelved separately, a practice I haven't seen before. A corner table holds coloring sheets. The current one invites chidren to "Make your own Elephant and Piggy story." Pages from earlier projects are bound in folders.

The other side of the lower level holds the adult fiction collection. There are upholstered chairs, windows, art on the walls, and plenty of room for the collection to grow. A nearby vending area provides soft drinks, coffee, and snacks. I didn't see signs prohibiting these from the library, and I didn't see another place to consume them, so perhaps they are allowed.

The upper level is mainly for non-fiction, meeting rooms, and administrative offices. There is a quiet reading room with comfortable seating, a long view out large windows, and a fireplace. Some of the chairs have swiveling writing arms; I've used chairs like these at the University, and they are very nice, as they provide space for a notebook, laptop computer, or beverage. There is also a tech center with 20 computers.

The Fitchburg room has a historical mural and local history material. There are four study rooms for one to four people, and a room set aside for "family computing," intended for an "Adult with at least 1 child seven years and under." I can imagine this space being used for work on a school project, or perhaps skyping with a distant relative.

There are two unusual pieces of public art, as you will see below. The picture of the woman and man is made of glass panels with graphics embedded in them. The cow is decorated with a reading theme. On the wall beside the cow are many brief book reports written by adults. This post has just received a comment that the male and female figures are actually security gates! See the comment to read about how they work. They sure beat the rumbling metallic "garage doors" that serve as security gates where I work!

One notable feature of this library is that almost everything, from meeting rooms to shelves, is credited to a donor. This seems to me a very practical way to fund a major project and to build connections to the community--though I realize that some people might find it overly commercial.

For more information, and to see the exterior I forgot to photograph, go to or

8/2/2013, car

189. Verona Wisconsin Public Library

When I started these library visits in the summer of 2012, a librarian in Stillwater, MN, told me that I must visit the library in Verona, Wisconsin. So I made a mental note to plan a trip to this area, and one year later I made it. She was right--this is a must-see library, built in 2006. It also has a perfect, if dated, address for a library: Silent Street.

The lobby has a courtesy phone for short local calls, a very helpful option even in these days of ubiquitous cell phones. There is also a shelf of Friends of the Library books for sale, and a photocopier that can make copies from a flash drive.

Just inside the library are two handsome V-shaped (as seen from above) shelf units used to showcase new books.

Teen Central is set off by lowered ceiling grids and subdued lighting, windows, and varied seating options.

The main part of the library has soaring ceilings with tall windows that look out mostly on trees and prairie. Several seating areas take advantage of this design; they look inviting and comfortable. The building is strongly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright's ideas, with wide eaves, high windows, stained glass on the doors to a browsing room with easy chairs and a fireplace.

In one of the seating areas, a mixed-media fabric art display was highlighted, with some very impressive work. Another display honored the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, an occasion that is not often noted.

A computer lab has 16 computers, and a hand sanitizer dispenser at the door--nice touch. Two study rooms for up to four people and one larger study room require reservations. A local history area has volumes of obituaries and a sign directing patrons to a web site for historic pictures of the area. There are two unusual triangular study tables tucked into a corner. I was amused by a sign on a catalog computer tucked away in the non-fiction section: "Wiggle mouse to wake up computer." It's true, a computer without a screen saver does look off, and it's good to know that you only have to nudge it.

The children's area is entered between two castle towers, and the castle itself dominates the center of the space. Each interior corner of the castle has a cushioned seat for cozy reading. Two of these seats were occupied by parent-child pairs, making the angle for the picture below a challenge. Paper mache figures on shelves and hanging from the ceiling were made by local school children. There are lots of books in Spanish and a few in other languages. A flat light box captured the attention of several children who were studying insects and plants laminated in clear plastic.

The littlest patrons have a small climbing block with a slide, a roads-and-vehicles activity table, and an impressive dragon guarding the bin of board books.

The program room has a large carpeted area, a handsome puppet theater, and a tiled area along one wall with a counter and a couple dozen small stools creating a space for messy projects. It also has a large storage room with enviable work space for the librarian. As you'll see in the picture below, shelf tops are used to place many books with their covers temptingly displayed. One area featured science-related books, something I'm always glad to see. A large poster explained the Five Finger Rule for selecting a "just right" book.

Marge at La Crosse had asked me to say hello to Meghan, and I was happily able to do that. Then Meghan convinced me that I could not leave the area without visiting the new library at nearby Fitchburg. Since it fit into my schedule (just barely), that's where I headed next.

For more information, go to

8/2/2013, car

188. Oregon, Wisconsin, Public Library

This library was established in 1910. A bulletin board in the lobby is dedicated to Village Postings, official notices about Oregon. A meeting room opens from the lobby; the room was made possible by a bequest to the Friends of the Library by Sue Ames, and the room is named for her.

I saw at least nine public computers and two labeled "Office Stations." There are several posters on the ends of shelves that are titled "Look Who's Reading" and have pictures of local figures; I saw the Director of a senior center and the Chief of Police, and there may have been others that I missed. I learned that these posters were part of the library's centennial celebration in 2010.

A genealogy section includes card catalog drawers of obituary files and a marriage index, plus a folder of cemetery locations.

The Teen area has windows, a booth, a couple of funky "butterfly" chairs, magazines, a high table with stools, and some neat graphics. In addition to young adult fiction, there is a small collection of non-fiction of special interest for teens, including some of the "Chicken Soup" books plus titles about growing up, college, and contemporary issues like drugs.

"Flags" sticking out of the fiction collection sometimes guide one to specific popular authors, like Robert Parker and Ruth Rendell, or provide reader guidance, like "If you like <this author> you might also like <these other authors>. A sign says that if you forgot your reading glasses, readers and magnifiers are available for use in the library; just ask. I've seen this offer one or two other places, and it seems very helpful and simple. One long wall has broad window alcoves with what I think of as "living room seating"--comfortable chairs and low tables, a very pleasant place to sit and read.

Areas of the library are clearly labeled with signs at the top of the walls. Here, the Children and Pre-School areas are separately labeled. Almost every library has both areas; this is the first place I recall seeing them marked this way. Juvenile non-fiction books are marked "C" for Child rather than the common "J" for juvenile. I haven't seen this before, and it seems both modern and respectful, since the word juvenile is so often followed by the word delinquent. The non-fiction shelves for children seem pretty high, but stepstools are available and use of the highest shelf allows oversized books to be stored flat on the bottom shelf. Everything is a trade-off when space is at a premium.

A Parenting collection is tucked in a corner with beanbag chairs, a tree mural, and some large nylon "leaves" (I've seen something like them at IKEA) hanging out from the wall. Nearby are some theme-based Parent Share CARE Packs, backpacks full of materials that can be borrowed. There is also a helpful 3-ring binder that shows both a list and a photo of the contents of each backpack. They look very thorough and interesting.

There are several computers for the youngest patrons. One is labeled "Bilingual Early Literacy Station." It was being used by two small children who were moving a "flashlight" around the screen to uncover graphics. I don't think they were learning any language, however, as there was no audio and they were not wearing headphones. There is a small collection of "world language" books for children, mostly Spanish.

Back in the central adult area, I spotted something brand-new to this library: a collection of cake pans for loan. Move over, Osage, Iowa--Oregon, Wisconsin is joining you in the cake pan business! As with the Parent Share backpacks, a notebook includes photos and descriptions of each available pan.

Books ready for shelving are placed on carts near their destination. The carts are labeled "I'm available," and indicate that items on the cart may be borrowed. One thing this accomplishes, according to the librarian I talked to, is that patrons seem to understand that this is not the place to leave books they have decided not to check out.

I learned from the librarian that the signs I admired were part of some remodeling done for the centennial. Another key part of the remodeling was a very handsome wooden Service Desk. It is made of donated wood from local trees, by a local craftsman, and with mosaic tile inlays designed by a library staff person--a wonderful example of a library truly belonging to its community!

For more information, and a really nice display of library pictures, go to Look at the logo on the homepage and at the picture below of the service desk.

8/2/2013, car


Part of the service desk. The picture doesn't do it justice; you really should go see for yourself.

187. Aram Public Library, Delavan, Wisconsin

This library is a split-level, up for adults and down for children, and the lobby greets you with an elevator and the "Friends Permanent Book Sale." A Friends booksale in the lobby is not unusual, but a sign inviting patrons to "Leave donations here by the shelf" is; don't you end up with boxes of 20-year-old textbooks? Or are Delavanians more considerate than that?

Up in the adult area, I noticed a cozy chair by a fireplace, with a gentleman deep in the daily paper, looking as comfy as if he were in his own living room. Near him were two book displays which were interesting neighbors: Frank Lloyd Wright in one display, "Books that Bite" (vampires) in the other. Close by was a display about the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Alliance, which I had never heard of. I took a copy of the card that lists features along the trail and gives the web address of the Alliance. Scuppermong Springs, eh? I may have to look into that.

In the media and periodicals section there are frequent signs reminding patrons that "Unlawful removal of library material is a criminal act" and citing the specific Delavan Municipal Code. When I see signs like this, I always hope that they were posted to address a specific past problem. I recently read a book about library policies, "It Comes with the Territory." One issue it addressed was whether to make such policies public, as Delavan has done, or not. However you feel about that, I don't think I've seen signs specifically about theft, vandalism, etc., in more than 20% of the libraries I've visited.

There is a Teen Corner with neat posters urging one to "READ: Feed your mind." There are summer reading programs for adults and teens, and of course for children. And with that, down the stairs I go. At the foot of the stairs there is a huge display of Indian arrowheads and stone tools. This is the John R. Topping collection. Labels indicate that all or most were collected in this part of Wisconsin; interesting historical information is given about the development and spread of native people in this area.

There is a pay phone (50 cents for local calls). Sadly, there is another sign of trouble: the Friends are offering a financial reward for information about recent bathroom vandalism.

The children's area is another world. The walls are painted in vivid colors; I was told that the children's librarian made the choices, and she did a wizard job of it! Although the space is partially underground, it is well-lighted by windows that start about four feet above the floor and extend to the ceiling. There is a large chalk board, toys are available for the youngest patrons, and an eclectic collection of furniture provides reading and relaxing space for all. The summer reading program here, as in so many other places this year, is Dig Into Reading.This can be interpreted in various ways; here, uniquely, there is a worm composting bin! A sign invites you to ask the librarian to show you; I didn't.

I did talk to the children's librarian for a while, however, and found her to be a pleasant and dynamic as the colors she chose for the walls! In the second picture below you can see a small corner of the white tent erected in front of the library to accommodate the large and lively summer programs that overflow the interior space.

I ended my visit back upstairs, where I chatted with two other librarians, and to support the Friends I bought a T-shirt that says "Novel Destinations." I plan to wear it to work tomorrow, in violation of the "no words on clothing" policy. Hey, it's a library shirt, right?

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8/2/2013, car

Friday, August 2, 2013

186. Matheson Memorial Library, Elkhorn, Wisconsin

I think my gps was playing games with me, because I seemed to be driving for miles in the wilderness, until I was thinking that NO WAY was I headed for a town large enough to support an ice cream place and two bakeries (so I had heard). Suddenly, that's exactly where I was, not just in a large town but the county seat as well. And there was indeed a library. [Of course there was a library. Have I mentioned that there are more public libraries than McD's in the US of A? True.]

I had a good look at three sides of the building before I got inside, since the visibility of the entrance varies with the angle of approach. The lobby is large and houses the entrance to a community meeting room, a baby grand piano, and an overflowing collection box for school supplies. Entering the library proper, I noted a certain something about the lighting. It seemed sort of dim, not in a dark way but in a quiet and calming way. I don't know how they do that, but it's nice.

There are four easy chairs arranged around a table, an immediate invitation to sit and chat quietly or read. And there are other chairs throughout the library that are very eye-catching: they are the objects of a silent auction for "chair-ity." Bids were posted by each chair, and I'll hazard a guess that they will bring in a nice sum when the auction ends on August 9.

A browsing area with easy chairs, a fireplace, and periodicals looks like a welcoming living room.

After reading "We will gladly help you reach materials on the top shelf," I looked around and realized that I didn't see any of the ubiquitous library stepstools. One less thing to trip over or run a book cart into. There are many wooden study tables, and some of the chairs have the quasi rockers that allow a person to "tip" to a couple of different positions. I like them.

In the children's area there are tables and chairs in bright colors and assorted sizes. The local Lego club must be very active, judging by the number of models on display. A boy, maybe 7 years old, was looking at the models, and I asked whether he had made one of them. No, he had only been to one Lego club meeting. But he does like to build with Legos and wishes his mother would bring him more often. We noticed one "model" that was either broken or very haphazard, and my young companion suggested that "Maybe a mom held up a baby and it broke it. Babies are very strong, you know!" [I didn't see any adult with him, and I suppose he shouldn't have been talking to a stranger.]

A hamster cage on the librarian's desk bears the sign "Please do not remove top. Hammie is a looking friend, not a touching friend." Neat way to  explain it! A nearby poster intrigued me: "Who will be the queen of summer reading? Sign up and read for your school." There were three names, with scores beneath them. Elementary school principals?

An upper level in part of the library houses the B.J. Downing Technology Center, a teen area, and the reference and non-fiction collections. The sign by the teen area says "Adults and tweens may look for materials but leave tables and seating for teens." While I was reading the sign, the only kid in the room (a teen) gave me a look that led me to believe that, more than in many other libraries, this really is teen space.

I was at this particular library because the Children's Librarian, Jennifer, responded to an earlier post about libraries and ice cream, telling me that the Elkhorn library has an ice cream place right across the street. Indeed it does. Jennifer wasn't working when I visited, but I took her advice and had a very tasty cone; I recommend the flavor called "candy bar." I walked around the large, pleasant town square while eating it. A very nice visit.

For more information, go to

8/1/2013, car

Yes, there is ice cream in Elkhorn!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

185. Public Library, Dodgeville, Wisconsin

OK, I admit it, this Wisconsin trip was timed to coincide with the big Lands End Warehouse Sale here at their home in Dodgeville. And I found some great bargains, thanks for asking. I also found a very nice public library.

As often happens, I started in the kids' area, where I first spotted a display of Lego club models. A shelf of bilingual books (Spanish/English) was not unusual, but there were also quite a few books in braille, not nearly as common. Large letters on the spines of books indicated the author's last initial; I'm not sure, but it may be that these books are shelved only by these letters, not alphabetically by author and title. Perhaps someone reading this will correct me if I am wrong. Book spines also sport plus signs, and I asked about the significance of + and ++. I must be getting tired, because I can't make sense of my notes about this. I'm pretty sure that picture books have ++ and easy readers have +, but I think there was more to it than that. Again, comments are welcome.

A mural with a dragon and a castle covers one wall and is partly blocked by a bookshelf. I hope this means that the collection has been growing--though it is too bad to have to block a mural. [As an aside...murals in children's libraries are almost always dragons and castles; how about a mural of a science lab? Just sayin'.]

A small table with drop-down shelves (think of an old-style typing table) bore this sign: "Please leave this shelf down. We've had too many injuries to little kids' faces when it is left up. Thank you." Ouch!

Teens have there own space in a back corner, with assorted chairs and tables. A world language section includes both books and some media. A small shelf held "uncatelogued paperbacks." I saw this one other place, in Ontario or Michigan, I think, and the intent was for sharing without the need to check out. I don't know if that was the case here.

I spotted a wooden rocker labeled "Mrs. Brown's Chair" with book titles and cover art laminated to the seat. Story time chair, perhaps?

The central part of the library near the service desk had several displays of solar models. I would like to have paid more attention, but I was running out of steam.

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8/1/2013, car

184. Community Library, Spring Green, Wisconsin

The first impression of this library is outdoors, where a large flower garden was being tended by a volunteer. A second garden, all prairie plants, was along the side of the library toward the door.

Spring Green is the location of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, and this building looks "Wrightish" to my eyes (high windows, wide eaves...). The librarian I spoke to said that it was designed by one of the Taliesin architects, Charles Montooth. There is an archives room with much local information and a section of books related to FLW. There is a large meeting room off the lobby (so it can be used when the library is closed); this room also has a significant historical display. Plaques in the lobby indicate that the library was funded by a Dr. Kempthorne in honor of his wife.

Inside the library, one of the first things to catch my eye was a set of unarticulated life-size human bones (plastic, I'm pretty sure) in the teen area--where else? There are at least six public computers, and a sign asks patrons to "eat and drink only in the lobby." The of audio books on cassette rotate among several libraries; it appears that the books on CD stay put.

I spent most of my time in the children's area. The Dig Into Reading summer reading theme was manifest here by a "beneath the surface" poster and a display of books about underground topics, like paleontology. Little kids can enjoy a Duplo table, a board with magnetic gears (a nice STEM change from the usual magnetic alphabet), and brightly painted wooden chairs. An upholstered chair is in the center of a rug with multicultural children's faces. There is a log cabin dollhouse with a collection of dolls, and a box of dress-up clothes. Spring Green participates in the "1000 Books Before Kindergarten" program, and there were photos of 18 recent graduates (or perhaps current participants, I'm not sure). I like this program.

For more information, go to

8/1/2013, car

183. Public Library, Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin

This town was not on my original list for this trip, but it was suggested by a librarian at Viroqua, and it was on my way. She said that the town was noted for having moved after a flood, and for being a "solar town" back before solar was big. Indeed, when I got there I noticed solar collectors on several roofs. Also, sadly, I noticed that the library had closed 28 minutes earlier.

So I did what I do when that happens--I peeked in the windows. Well, first I started in the lobby, which the library shares with a community center. There are a series of plaques listing library donors, and a painting of The Little Engine that Could that seems to have been used to measure donations in 2010--to the sum of $600,000.

Peeking in, I saw a very attractive wooden service desk; four public computers; some upholstered chairs; and a slightly lower area that appeared to be the kids area. I walked around to the back of the building and tried to peek in some more, without too much success. But I can tell you that they have an absolutely ginormous pine cone on one of the windowsills.

I left one of my "I've visited" cards on the door, and I'll try to time my trip better the next time I drive down this way.

For more information, go to

8/1/2013, car

182. Viroqua, Wisconsin, McIntosh Memorial Library

This began life as a 1904 Carnegie library. Unfortunately, a 1970 remodel was not as graciously done as others I've seen, but the Carnegie features still come through in the windows, wooden shelves, and the fireplace. I learned today that in a week Viroqua will break ground on a new library...a reason for a future trip!

This is the first library where I have noticed convex mirrors mounted high on the walls to allow staff to keep an eye on the place from the service desk. Good idea. Another thing I've never seen before was a series of "lockers" behind the service desk, labeled alphabetically. I learned that these hold DVDs; patrons select a case, bring it up, and get the matching disc. Sounds awkward, but it would keep the DVDs from wandering.

There are at least four public computers and a variety of study tables. A Wisconsin area includes a four-drawer vertical file (Feel free to browse), and way up high I spotted a very old set of 12 card catalog drawers with unusually elaborate knobs for the rods that hold the cards in place.

The children's area is downstairs and is one of the most dynamic I've seen. [No, I can't really explain that. It just felt very energetic.] A group of thematic backpacks was familiar, but Science Kit Discovery Packs for older kids were new to me. They include topics like Early Structures, Rockets (with some additional goodies that don't fit in the packs), and Electricity. They have to be checked out by adults, and they looked like fun. I hope they are used a lot.

Large bright graphics decorate the walls between the windows. Brightly painted shutters are folded back from the windows. I noticed that this area is designated as the tornado shelter, and wonder if the shutters are closed for that purpose. That would make sense.

I spotted a sign that reads "If knowledge is power, libraries are power plants." Good one.

Both upstairs and down I chatted with friendly staff. One of them suggested that I visit Soldiers Grove Library, not far away, and told me a bit about the town. (See the next entry for how that went.)

For more information, go to

8/1/2013, car