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

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