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 http://fitchburgcitylibrary.com/ or http://www.city.fitchburg.wi.us/departments/library/index.php.