Saturday, September 28, 2013

209.. Traverse de Sioux Library Cooperative, Madelia Branch Library, Madelia, MN

Madelia was my fifth stop on a day that started at a conference in Sioux Falls...therefore, I may not do it justice. I hope I'm not too far off the mark.

As at St. James, J means Junior books here. One set of shelves is labeled New Reader Fiction, New Reader Non-fiction and Reader Fiction, Reader Non-fiction. I haven't seen things done quite this way before. It seems to provide good guidance to those who aren't yet ready for Junior books. The children's area has picture books also, of course, and a Little Tykes computer station set up right beside the adult computers.

There are three large windows that you can see in the picture on the library website (and below, when I get the pictures added).

A study room is just right for one or two people, and a large collection of Chilton and Motor auto repair manuals had its own wide desk-height shelf. A computer near the manuals suggests the possiblity of accessing on-line repair information, also. There is a computer designated for games, and another for Rosetta Stone language courses. Patrons must sign up to use these two computers. There are also about eight other computers for general use.

Two items I rarely see: a scanner, and a fax machine, $1.00 a page.

For more information, see

9/27/2013, car

208.. Watonwan County/St. James Public Library, St. James, MN

Timing is everything! As I drove into town at about 2:30 I noticed people collecting on the sidewalks, adults and kids, all wearing red. It happened that my gps was not being helpful (not its fault, I had told it 5th Street North and what I needed was 5th Street South), so I left the car and walked up to where the action was. Here I met a former school teacher who let me know that I was about to see the high school homecoming parade. I like small town parades, and I wasn't disappointed. The high school band was followed by floats with what must have been most of the sports teams in town, at various levels; the junior high band brought up the rear. They were on their way to the stadium to crown the Homecoming Queen and King; in the evening, they would play New Ulm. (I checked this morning: St. James won, 30 to 14!)

Once the parade had passed, I quickly found the library--where every window was decorated for homecoming. I was impressed that library hours and restroom designations are in Spanish and English. I don't recall seeing that courtesy before, even in small towns with good-sized Spanish populations.

The children's area has two Little Tykes computer stations apparently donated by 3M. Puzzles were set out on a table, ready for small patrons. There is a puppet theater, and stuffed animals are standing by to be reading buddies. Accelerated Reader tests can be accessed through library computers. A focal point on the wall is an American Girls quilt, which I learned was made by a fourth grade class about 10 years ago.

The "J" that I grew up thinking of as "Juvenile" here stands for "Junior" books. A good choice, I think.

There are five "living room" bays by the windows; it appears that one is for teens, two for the Spanish collection, and two general browsing areas. Drawings of local landmarks are on the walls, and I think framed art is also available for loan. There are about 10 public computers.

I couldn't resist asking about "The Family Rowdy Reading Program" that will run September 30 through November 2. A brochure describes the program, and it sounds great. A "family" is at least one adult and one child under 18, and participation is limited to 50 families. A family that registers will have up to $50 of fines (accrued before 9/30) forgiven--that's huge! Families that recommend a book will receive a free book, as will a kid who creates a picture of a favorite book. A family adult must check in once a week, in person or by phone. Seven weekly events include a concert, pizza and bingo night, pumpkin decorating, and several craft activities, including one at which families will create tray favors for Meals on Wheels. Literacy, community service, participation at the library...someone has put a LOT of thought and time into this program.

For more information about this library, go to

9/27/2013, car

St. James Jr. High Band

St. James High School Band

207. Mountain Lake Public Library, Mountain Lake, MN

The first challenge was getting into the library, because of road work and new curbing--but it was totally worth the effort. The lobby has a large display window that featured a Fall Harvest theme, with books from the adult, children's, and picture book collections. A meeting room off the lobby appears to have a very nice small fireplace.

The children's area features an octagonal table with a wooden train set. Picture books are designated E, and easy readers are also E, but they have a large green dot on the spine and are on their own shelves. There are "floor chairs" for young browsers. A few graphic novels were classified 741.5, the same as the Charlie Brown comics.

 A small living room area is near the windows and handy to the periodicals, new fiction and nonfiction, and large print books. There is an awesome collection of westerns! Young adult books are on shelves and spinners near a game table. Reflecting the local community, there is a collection of Mennonite publications. There is also a n area for people doing local genealogy research, and a number of public computers.

And the newspapers are on sticks!

For more information, go to

206. Windom Public Library, Windom, MN

This is the first library I've visited that occupies a former bank building. It's an interesting and challenging space, that appears to be utilized to the max. The main area is for adults, with a browsing area by each of the front windows, one side for periodicals and newspapers, the other for genre fiction. Bookshelves are functional metal, made attractive with handsome wooden ends.

At the back of the space where the safe once stood is a large display window, currently decorated for Halloween with a large bat cave and many seasonal books. From there I walked through a side door lobby (this is just like the banks in my hometown, back in the day) into the old office area, which now houses the youth department. There is a bright ocean-themed rug on the floor and a colorful curtain at one window. With the yellow walls, the space felt very light and cheerful despite the clouds outside. A tiny area holds teen books and a TV/DVD player mounted high on the wall. The older children's area has, among many other books, large (perhaps complete?) collections of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children, and even Thornton Burgess!

For more information, go to

9/29/2013, car

Yes, the library building was once a bank!

Across the street is the handsome Cottonwood County Courthouse.

205. Nobles County Library, Worthington, MN

I entered the kids area to the left from the lobby. Kids have a colorful fabric puppet theater, a cozy couch by the big windows, toys, and many book and media sets. Older children seem to have an especially large non-fiction collection. An open area with tables and chairs made me wonder if perhaps there had recently been a program; there was a "pushed back" look that gave me this idea. Several small children were present when I was there; one who could not have been more than three years old greeted me nicely and showed me the book he had chosen. There was a lively, energetic, unhushed but controlled feeling in this space.

Back issues of periodicals are in boxes with slanted sides; I'm sure these have a specific name, but I can't find them in the Demco catalog. Anyway, what impressed me was a library book pocket glued to the front of each box, with a card indicating the title and year of the publication. This simple method allows boxes to be "relabeled" by simply changing the card. Slick!

New books, papers, and current periodicals are in a "living room" browsing area with windows. The "coffee table" looks like a pile of three enormous books, Canturbury Tales on top.

The Reference collection is in a separate corner with a desk for the librarian by the entrance. Some of the oldest reference books had DDS numbers on the spine that looked as if they might have been done with transfer paper and a woodburning pen, as I used to mark books long ago! [To be clear, these are classic reference books, and it is appropriate that they are "old."] This area of the library also has Spanish books and media, many audio materials for learning English, and a collection of large print books. There's a microfilm reader and files of newspapers back to at least 1892, a real treasure for research. I saw four or five public computers, and of course wi-fi is available.

For more information, go to

9/27/2013, car

204. Augustana Mikkelsen Library, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD

I visited this library during a tour sponsored by the Tri-Conference in Sioux Falls, September 2013. The tour was to showcase a recent renovation that served to join a 1954 building with a 1980 addition to make a unified building, and it appears to have been very successful. We were fortunate to have top library staff and the architect present for the tour.

The most visually impressive feature is a glassed-in staircase, brightly lighted and stunning from outside after dark--and we were there after dark for the full impact. There must be an elevator, too, but I didn't spot it.

A tour of an academic library while it is open (and it's open a lot) is a bit strange, because of course the place is full of students trying to concentrate. The second time we passed one young man who was sitting alone, obviously trying to tend to his reading, I felt like whispering "It's OK, we're leaving now!" There is clearly a culture of quiet, quite unlike many public libraries.

All there was to see made the tour a bit overwhelming, but here are some highlights that made it into my notes: Compact shelving for back issues of periodicals. A main level with a very high ceiling and a handsome tall fireplace with an extension to that ceiling. An upper level that is open to the main level, as a balcony. Cork floors and bamboo ceilings in some areas, sound-muffling and environmentally green. Many study rooms and varied seating arrangements, but few carrels; our tour guide says that carrels are neither wanted nor used. Study rooms have screens so that a group of students can look at a laptop display in comfort. A collection of children's literature that I wanted to look at more closely, but I didn't remember to look for it during the time I  could have wandered around. A climate-controlled special collections room. Lots of art on the walls, much of it created by alumni--and presumably alumnae. A large staff area with glass walls that serve to connect staff to the rest of the library visually while minimizing the impact on students of essential work-related sounds. A phone room where students can make and take phone calls without having to leave the building.

Something I would not have noticed if we had not been told: Features on walls that look like chair rails but actually hold power outlets for laptops. Our guide said that these must be pointed out to new students, too.

One member of our group asked at the end of the tour whether anything had not turned out quite as hoped during the renovation. I appreciated that our guide did not try to duck this question. The only area, it seems, that was not quite right at first had to do with lighting. The project was done just as LED lights were coming into use, and some lighting was improved by making this change. Also, some areas have lights that are motion controlled or on timers, and these required some tweaking. That's a very short list for such a large project.

For more about this library, go to There is a video tour button in the center of the page.

9/25/2013, car and big yellow school bus

No pictures, sorry. You'll just have to go to the library website!

Friday, September 27, 2013

203. Siouxland Libraries, Prairie West Branch, Sioux Falls, SD

This was a different experience, because I was part of a tour during the Tri-Conference of the South Dakota Library Association (SDLA). So instead of driving up and slipping in to wander around, I was in a group of 35 library folks, here to look at a brand-new library.

We saw the automated materials handling (AMH) equipment in action. It looked quite different from what I've seen in Ramsey County and Minneapolis, even allowing for the fact that it has, I believe, 5 bins, compared to 20 or more at the larger sites I'm familiar with. (I liked hearing that it was made in New Ulm, MN. High tech manufacturing is good.) A couple of differences between here and Ramsey County: DVDs and cases both have RFD tags, and they are coupled in the computer. Therefore, if a case comes in without a DVD, the machine knows that a part is missing. Also, if DVDs are switched in their cases, the machine will signal an exception. Items coming in that have a Request cause a slip to be printed, and a person has to put the slip in the right book. Other than this, it appears that the equipment can run for long periods unattended.

The self-checkout kiosks are white, free-standing, and very space-age looking. They combine the laser card scanner with the RFD reader in one unit. One of the kiosks has a credit card scanner for payments. When check-out was demonstrated, I noticed that each item checked out caused an audible "ding" and the change in status was very conspicuous on the screen; I think this might minimize problems I've seen at home of patrons who do not "wait until the title has turned green" and thus set off the security.

The tour group was allowed a long period to wander around, and for that I took notes as I usually do. I also took a few interior pictures. This new building reminds me of the Roseville, MN remodeled library: very open, very green (colorwise). Decorative touches suggest grass (curviness) and I noticed that meeting spaces are named after prairie grasses and plants. The space is large and open, with a curved wall of windows that seemed to form a 90-degree arc. Picture a large square space with one corner curved.

The most fun amusing, interesting feature of the interior for many of us was the presence of large square floor tiles scattered throughout. I call them "lava lamp tiles" because when you step on them, colors inside squish around and change. They are very, very cool!

The children's area has curvy benches and shelves in a zigzag arrangement; it seems that this might prompt "pause and look" behavior, as opposed to "walk on past." It worked that way for me! There are many hooks on one wall for outerwear.

Over by the curved window wall there is a "living room" area for browsing, but it is not a cozy living room, as I've seen many other places, but instead is rather cool and modern. Comfortable, I'm sure, but I probably have a bit of bias toward "cozy." I spotted some chairs like one I had in a classroom at the U of MN, with a wheeled "snow saucer" sort of base (a place to put your backpack) and a swivel chair with a swivel armrest. I recall from that class that these chairs are very neat, so long as all the wheeling and swiveling goes in the directions you expect; in other words, they take some getting used to. I noticed that all the shelving is white enameled metal, another very "space age" look.

The teen area is in a large "alcove" set slightly apart from the main space. The outstanding feature when I was there was a bookcase of banned books, liberally wrapped with yellow and black CAUTION tape. What could be better to attract a teen to a book?

I spotted at least 18 public computers, plus some for catalog searches only. There is a service desk near the entrance (staffed by a friendly young woman when I was there) and a reference desk further over toward the adult and reference collections. And I noticed that all fiction is shelved together, with stickers on the spine to indicate the genre volumes. I haven't seen that in a long time.

For more information about this library, go to

9/25/2013, car to Sioux Falls, big yellow school bus from the conference to the library)

Step on one of these squares, and the colors squish around and change.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

202. Meinders Community Library, Pipestone, MN

This is not unique, but it was new to me: a combined school library and public library, in the local high school. The area nearest the entrance is for the public, while the other end is for the school. Each area has its own service/circulation desk and staff.

In the children's area, the walls are painted to suggest castle walls. There are several computers for kids, as well as a CD player and a cassette (!) player with headphones. Big windows were shaded against the sun when I was there. Picture books are in bins, sorted by theme, main character, or author. Kids fiction includes graphic novels. All non-fiction, J and adult, is shelved together.

An adult browsing area is "living room" style with tall windows. A large card catalog was brought from an earlier building. It is not used at this time, though it still holds the old cards, but I like it for the continuity of history. If card catalogs intrigue you, take a look at the entry for the library at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. I also found a library that is using old catalog drawers to house (old) music cassettes, an intriguing blending of old technologies.

The school library area has a large reference section, as you would expect where kids will be working on reports and homework. An interesting graphic on the wall above the shelves includes gears and some large shapes that suggest freight train cars; the words with this graphic are "Beneath the Surface," which could have a lot of connotations. There is a computer lab, and eight study tables, each seating eight kids--that looks as if it would accommodate two classes at a time. When I was there, two tables were occupied by kids who seemed to be engrossed in their tasks.

Although this is the Plum Creek district, I didn't see anything special about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Did I miss it? Perhaps someone will add a comment about that. [I DID hear about this, but not in the form of a comment. Plum Creek district is very large, and this library is in a part of the district that is not connected to the Wilders. I overgeneralized!]

I had a wonderful time chatting with staff. A sign on the staff office door (public side of the library) assured me that this is a velociraptor-free zone. Whew! Then they pointed out that it isn't, really, as there is a sculpture with two v-raptors on top of a low bookshelf.

For more about this library, go to

9/25/13, car

201. Marshall-Lyon County Library, Marshall, MN

As a fan of public transportation, I was happy to see this sign as I entered: The MAT bus now stops at the library. First, I was pleased that Marshall has public transportation; second, of course, I was glad that the library is on its route.

There is a magazine exchange in the lobby, and a courtesy phone. This two-year-old building has a small separate room for a Friends bookstore. Material was sorted and shelved; I got two books and two recorded books on cassette (for listening in the car) for a total of $1.00! (They were on sale, these are not their regular prices!) A large red wagon outside the bookstore is used for donations, and there is a polite sign indicating what is not wanted--like old textbooks.

There is a technology classroom with 10 computers and a ceiling-mounted projector. Nearby, I enjoyed a collection of small posters with quotations about libraries and books, most of which were new to me.

Shelves from the old library were reused when this bulding was constructed, but they were spiced up with wooden ends with an incised design suggesting a branch with leaves. These are very attractive and the idea of "reuse with upgrade" appeals to my inner recycler. I noticed that part of the stacks are parallel to the wall while others are oriented like a fan, or spokes; this gives good sightlines from the service desk.

A window wall in the browsing area looks out at the middle school across the way, and a rack with dozens of bicycles; it is good to know that there are still places where bikes can take the place of buses or Mom's car, at least in good weather. A jigsaw puzzle was underway on one table. Newspapers are stapled together, a practice I've seen before but I don't know where; I do know it was a long time ago. A sign asks patrons to please leave them stapled together.

A handsome fireplace has this quotation from Winston Churchill: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life from what we give." This is apt, since the bookshelves beside the fireplace have many identically-bound books with donor names on the spines, along with a designation of the level of support: Philanthropist, Founder, Benefactor, Author, Patron, Sponsor, Reader. There is plenty of room for more of these recognitions. Classic titles are shelved adjacent to the fireplace; as a frequent shelver, I appreciated the fact that these have "Fireplace" on the spine as a reminder of where they should be shelved.

Public art includes etched glass panels mounted in front of the windows. Each one has a pattern of vertical and horizontal lines backing a drawing of a landmark from somewhere in the town or county. They are very attractive and unusual.

The Teen area has computers, four booths, soft chairs, and plenty of books. There are three study rooms nearby, and I also spotted what looks to me like a very modern microfilm and -fiche reader.

The chldren's area is a large room separated from the rest of the library by glass walls. I learned that this is intended to be the adult media space, as soon as an addition can be built. For now, it has an area for the youngest patrons and their parents, with books, toys, and a collection of parenting books. Plenty of picture books, and fiction and non-fiction for school-age chidlren. There is a delightful antique school bench and desk with a sloping top. Two computers are reserved for children age three through grade four, and two others for kids in grades three through six. For the latter two, a sign advises that the child must have his or her own library card and there is a one-hour limit.

I also had a chance to see the large staff workroom with several offices along the side. I can only hope that when the library where I work is remodeled, we get a workspace nearly as nice.

To learn more and see an interior picture, go to

9/25/2013, car

Great bike racks!

200. Redwood Falls Public Library, Redwood Falls, MN

Each library I've visited has something I have seen nowhere else. There are several "new" things here, and the first is a sign, "No sunflower seeds in the library." There is also a near-full-size Orca hanging from the ceiling in the kids area, and large cutouts of animals on a ledge over the exit. See the picture (when I get it posted) of the animals. I was told that they were made by a local artist for prom decorations! There is also a paper chain looped from the ceiling that begins over the Children's Librarian's desk and extends down to the Teen area--so far. Each link bears a patron's name, adults as well as kids, and the goal is to "see how far it will go." And then there is the artificial evergreen tree by the circulation desk. It must be at least 12 feet high and is decorated seasonally. Today, it was decked in a fall theme with lots of orange.

The children's area has a large window bay with a cushioned seat running the whole length. A science table is set up for the study of insects, especially cicadas. A "writing center" is designed like an adult office desk, with cubbyholes that hold writing and art supplies. The walls are decorated with nursery rhyme murals that line the window bay and continue around behind the librarian's desk. A sign reads "In order to promote responsible behavior, please have your child put materials they have been using away and straighten the area. We appreciate your cooperation. The Library Staff." I like this sign, and think every children's area should have some variation.

Teen Territory looks like a real living room, with a big window bay, chairs and sofa, a coffee table (with "coffee table" books); there are also a couple of study rooms and three "diner booths."

For the adults, a large curved window area at the corner of the building offers a pleasant place for browsing. There is some Spanish material and a collection of Native American books and art. There are two study rooms nearby, and a third reserved for genealogy work. A row of spinners holding paperback fiction separates the browsing area from the stacks. Star Trek and Star Wars books have their own shelves, as do Minnesota authors. There are about a dozen public computers. A sign reminds us to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.

On one table, a jigsaw puzzle was in progress, and there are many more puzzles, each in a hanging plastic bag, available for loan. Art may be borrowed, as can a revolving collection of cake pans shared with other libraries in the Plum Creek region. Cake pans seem to be the "in" thing these days--and I once thought they were only in Osage, IA!

For more information, go to

9/25/2013, car


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

199. Hector Public Library, Hector, MN

Today I drove to Sioux Falls, SD, for a library conference, just for the fun of it. On the way, I visited four libraries, and my first stop was in little Hector, MN, where a sign gave the population as 1100 plus change.

Usually I wander around a library and take notes before I talk to anyone, but here there was just Jill, the librarian, and me, in a fairly small patrons yet. So we talked quite a bit. The lobby has  a set of wooden plaques with metal tags for each donor to the library; I believe $100 gets you a tag with your name. Here's the cool part: Once you have a tag, you get an annual call asking if you would like to add a star this year! Many people and businesses have multiple stars, showing sustained support of their library.

Inside, there is a very nice "living room" area by the windows, for browsers, and a parallel children's area that includes a dollhouse and other appealing materials. There are many, many plastic storage boxes with themed contents. Jill admitted that she "went a bit overboard" with these, but since they are used by day care, preschool programs, and families, it sounds to me like a worthwhile investment.

Toward the back are the "stacks" -- well, there are parallel shelves of books. These include a substantial collection of Large Print books; Jill says that a patron donates a lot of LP books every month, how cool is that? There is also a new Teen collection. Near this area I spotted a framed list of the names of the Friends Charter Members from 1987. The Friends are still active today, and provided the computers, four I think, that are available for the public.

A table right in the middle of the action holds craft supplies for the 15 or so kids who come in after school to wait for their parents to pick them up. This is a wonderful service for parents, but one that could easily be abused. A sign makes it clear that "The Library is Not Responsible for Unattended Children."

By the way, Jill and her husband are photographers. She showed me a set of pictures she made recently of the businesses in Hector, with the proprietors (except two who were unwilling) standing in the doorways. It's a neat way to capture a slice of town history. See the pictures at

For more about the library, go to or!/pages/Hector-Public-Library/139347582778832.

9/25/2013, car

Monday, September 23, 2013

Libraries Are...Everywhere?

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a voluteer in the Friends of the Hennepin County Library bookstore and we got onto the subject of libraries in other countries; she follows this blog, and she wondered whether other countries have libraries as we do. Link that conversation with an article on American exceptionalsim that a friend posted on Facebook today. Then try Googling "public libraries in ___" and name the country of your choice. We are not alone--there are wonderful libraries just about anywhere you look. Even this one:

Check that link...there are pictures.

Friday, September 20, 2013

There is no frigate like a book: Libraries and Boats

I haven't yet found a library with a frigate, though I'm sure there is one somewhere. Until I find it, take a look back at my posts for La Crosse, Wisconsin (river boat) and Escanaba, Michigan (sail boat). Then go to!/Durham.NH.Public.Library. Scroll down to mid-July (the 19th, I think) and see their gundalow. Durham has a fantastic new library building that I hope to visit in December.

Any tips for other libraries with boats?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

4a. Washington County Wildwood Branch Library, Mahtomedi, MN -- Re-Visit

I've wanted to come back to this library, I think because I remembered the large, rounded, windowed areas and wanted to see them again. They are still there, and just as fine as I recalled.

The first circular area, to the left of the entrance, is for children. Picture book bins radiate through the space...think of spokes, with the window as the rim of a wheel. After the J fiction area, a long, straight window seat faces the teen fiction shelves; several tables and a collection of table games are nearby.

Continuing around the library, there are windows everywhere. Most windows have a table and chair and a nice relaxing view to the greenery outside. Looking around the non-fiction area, I was surprised to see Reference books shelved with their circulating cousins. "R" on the spine and a "Library Use Only" label mark their special status. I can't think of another library where I have seen these shelved together, but perhaps I haven't looked in the right place. Something to watch for, going forward.

I spotted some interesting books in a series called Women's Adventures in Science, labeled "J". I discovered when I got home that Ramsey County does not have this series (must speak to someone about this, they look good); Hennepin County has them, but they are designated as adult books, or at least not J. They looked like "high J" to me; I will get hold of a couple and read them to see what I think. I've recently had a little chat with some folks about books labeled J that I think are for older readers, now here I find the opposite case. [Yes, I am probably a bit of a thorn in the side of a few people, on this subject and others.]

For more information, go to

9/12/13, car

Bayport Public Library, Bayport, MN -- Re-visit

This library is in a building that once (twice, actually) was a restaurant of some note; if you visit, be sure to see the framed menu near the library office; I'll take the sirloin steak dinner for $2.00!

I made this revisit in part because a co-worker tried to convince me that this is a small space, just the front of the building. No, my memory was correct on this one. The library uses the entire first floor, and has meeting rooms on the second. (An elevator is available.)

Even before entering I noted special touches, including flower gardens, a statue of a girl reading, and small patios with tables and chairs to either side of the entrance. Inside, the room to the left is the Mary Stout Reading Room, intended for quiet reading and housing the newspapers and periodicals. There is living room seating with a handsome fireplace. Old books are used as decorative elements throughout the room. A small adjoining room provides kitchen facilities, and it is easy to imagine a book club meeting here, with cookies and tea!

My favorite space is the less formal "log room" at the rear. It has a huge fireplace--the mantel is higher than my head, and I'm not short! There are study carrells and a study room with a two-hour limit. A note pointed out that the computer in this room is intended for special uses, like resume writing, major school projects, or proctored tests; the other public computers should be used for other purposes. It's good to spell that out, in my opinion. A glass-front bookshelf (we had one like it when I was a kid) holds what looks like a complete set of Agatha Christie mysteries.

A teen corner actually housed a teen when I was there, and he gave me a "hey, this is for teens" look when I peered around the corner. I moved on to the children's area, which has a long bay window with cushioned window seats and picture book bins. A prominent sign says that "Small children must be supervised at all times." I admired the sign and the librarian admitted that it doesn't always work as one would wish. I figure, however, that it must be nice to have it there to point to when it is needed.

A corner in the back houses the media collection and has a large window and a number of upholstered chairs. The staff office and service desk are in the middle of the building.

For more information, go to

9/12/2013, car

5a Washington County, Valley Branch Library, Lakeland, MN -- Re-visit

This library impressed me even more this year than last year. As you enter, the children's area is on the left, a long, uncluttered area bookended by broad, carpeted window sills/seats on one end and a cozy couch on the other. The window sill holds display books as well as some games and toys, and the floor area is set off by a large "Arctic Ocean" rug with the message "Chillin' with a good book." (Given the nature of Minnesota winters, I can't help but wonder if there is another rug for "warming up with a good book" during the cold months.) I like the poster that says, with a nod to Numeroff,

"If you give kids good books...
they'll want to read them
again and again."

After the J Fiction shelves, the back of the space holds an adult browsing area with what I call a "living room" setup. Teens have a small corner for themselves, with a modest collection of fiction, including some graphic novels and manga, and a table and chairs.

I saw four public computers, not counting catalog computers. A shelf near the service desk holds free literature of local interest, and a set of increasingly-rare phone books. The storefront window on the "adult side" held a display that must be effective--because I noted one of the titles and have just put a request in at one of my local libraries!

To learn more about this branch, go to

9/12/2013, car


Washington County, Oakdale Minnesota -- Revisit

It was impossible to miss the fact that something major was going on involving the parking lot and the grounds. The answer was provided on a bulletin board in the lobby: it's a stormwater management project, an admirable thing to do. It's too bad that the parking lot had to be redone for this purpose, but the result should be quite handsome.

Six tables in the middle of the library were standing ready for the homework crowd, and they started to arrive while I was there. In the meantime, a man and a young girl had a chess game set up on one table. Ten public computers were mostly busy, with some adults and some kids. In the children's area, a middle-school boy was working out some ideas with a board and gears designed for younger children but serving his needs at that point.

A very large poster, perhaps 4' x 8', made of paper and felt, graced the children's area with the message "Dive Into School." The children's area is brightened by a large bow window with a long padded window seat. A small bookshelf held J and YT series books. This reminded me that last summer it was at a Washington County library that I had a discussion about the YT designation. I like it, since so many Y or YA books seem very grown up. [OK, I went back to the comment about YT; last August, someone from Oakdale told me that it was a designation no longer used. Really?]

All non-fiction is shelved together here. I like this approach in general, but today I saw a couple of books that seemed to be borderline E or J; that is, they were appropriately marked J, but they seemed quite young. That made me wonder whether younger kids are sometimes missing the non-fiction they would enjoy. This libary appears to have the sort of staff that would deal skillfully with such a situation--so long as the child's need was known.

Meetings can be held in a quiet study room that seemed well-designed to use a long, triangular space; a conference room for up to 10 people, and a meeting room off the lobby for up to 90.

This is one of the quietest libraries I've been in!

For more information about this library, go to

9/12/2013, car

I'll go back for a new picture next spring, when the grass is in.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

198. Viking Library System, Douglas County Library, Alexandria, MN

I got here a little late for comfort, a scant half hour before closing. Therefore, I may have missed some features. If I did, I hope someone will add a comment with the missing information. Please!

The first thing I spotted was the Friends bookstore in a room off the lobby. The space seemed somewhat like a living room or library browsing area, very comfortable. In addition to books for sale, there was a table of magazines that I think were free or for swapping. There were also a couple of carrells, perfect for someone looking for an out-of-the-way corner for studying.

After a display of new books and a lot of recorded books, I entered the library proper. I walked parallel to a hallway that is actually outside the library. This is designed in an interesting way: the hallway has windows to the outside and to the library, so the library gets some natural light. [The library is part of a series of municipal buildings, imposing outside and perhaps a bit disorienting inside, until you are accustomed to them.] My route took me to the reference collection and a reference desk, with a couple of study rooms for one or two people. Nearby is a light, spacious area for browsing and quiet study.

The shelves are marked by high, arched wooden ends, lending a very dignified look. There are many carrells placed throughout the library. The teen area has tall tables, all the rage in teen areas these days, it seems; the stools have seats resembling tractor seats. A nearby bin marked Comic Books, holds books like Calvin and Hobbes and a number of graphic novels.

Something new to me: a spinner of "upper backs" which appeared to be taller paperbacks; not trade paperbacks, but regular ones about a half inch to an inch taller than the usual size. Just enough larger to keep them from fitting easily on the regular spinners!

Books in the children's area are marked with a large J on the spine. I assume this stands for Juvenile, which is standard. Others had S, D, or T--these I did not decode. There is a large desk/workspace in one corner, with a sign that read "THE LIBRARIAN IS OUT." Nearby is an office for the youth librarian. Here as in other Viking System libraries there are backpacks to check out; these appear to hold seven books and a reading guide. There are two computers for kids, and a nice two-sided padded bench.

Lights were going off as I prepared to leave, but two library staff kindly took time to chat with me about the library and this blog. Part of the fun of this project is meeting staff, and even when I don't mention them in a specific post, you may be sure that I have had pleasant contacts.

My only regret is that I was so tired at this point, I completely forget to look for the famous Runestone. It was a topic in a U of MN course I took last spring, and I really wanted to see it. I'll need another trip, I guess!

To learn more, go to

8/31/13, car

197. Viking Library System, Thorson Memorial Library, Elbow Lake, MN

This library, especially the computer lab, seems to be full of authentic historic woodwork for cabinets, desks, banisters, you  name it. I learned that the woodwork is all done by a young manual arts instructor from the local school, who wants to maintain the authenticity of the building. Local craftspeople contibuting their talents to local libraries is a fairly common theme in my travels. I think of the bookshelves in Canaan, NH, for example, and the handsome wood inlay service desk at the Oregon, WI, library some to mind.

The librarian I talked to said that this was the first or second library/building built under a program that preceded the WPA in the 1930s. It includes a lower level meeting room that is reserved through the town offices.

There is a strong sense of people working together at this library, and perhaps it's true of the whole town. That computer lab [The Bill and Melinda Gates Computer Lab, I learned on line] also serves as a showroom for pottery made by a talented vet. A fifth grade class makes origami bookmarks to sell to support the library; another group makes magnets for the same purpose. The library sells T-shirts with logos from a variety of local sites. The Hilda Haraldson Conference Room has a sign that says "Breastfeeding welcome here," and "If you prefer a private space, please ask."

Computer use policies are more strict than at many libraries I've visited. Anyone with overdue or lost items or any accumulated fines may not use the computers. The books for sale by the Friends of the Library are priced higher than at other libraries; not unreasonably high, but higher than most.

The children's area has Ready to Learn themed kits in backpacks. Among those I spotted are Winter, Smell, and Science Fun. There is a computer for children and a collection of puppets waiting by a puppet theater. I was surprised to see that picture books are on full-height shelves (top shelf is about six feet up)--but I was delighted to see that picture books are called "Everyone Books." The only other place I've seen them identified this way was at a public school in St. Paul where I volunteer. It bothers me to see picture books called "Easy"--some of them are easy, but many of them are difficult in concept and vocabulary. Think of Van Allsburg's Queen of the Falls, for example, or Mrs. Marlowe's Mice by Frank Asch.

There is a balcony above the computer lab, with a fireplace and reading chairs. I didn't go up, but it looked very nice. While I was visiting, a mother brought in her two daughters to pick up their prizes for the summer reading program. We chatted a bit, and she told me that the lower level of the library is used for a farmer's market during the fall and winter. This library truly has something for everyone!

For more information, go to

8/31/13, car

This cabin is part of a historical museum behind the library.

196. Viking Library System, Fergus Falls Public Library

A visitor to the Fergus Falls Public Library is greeted by large, round planters maintained by the Fergus Falls Garden Club. The book drop bear the notice "No Donations"--I hope that works for them, since one book drop problem in my experience is the non-library book that might be a donation, or might be a patron error. The lobby has a courtesy phone--and a phone book! Just inside the door a sign invites patrons to "Try our new self-checkout." I hope the implementation is going well.

A case of stuffed birds, the backyard kind, not exotics, looked as if it may have come to this building from an earlier library. Nearby, padded benches are near a display of new books; what a nice idea, to have a place to "perch" for a few moments and browse the possibilities.

The children's area has a bright wall of windows, a low table with wooden trains and other toys, and a "kitchen" where a young girl was very absorbed in her play. A mural on brown paper, with grass and flowers at the top, had dark tunnels painted on...or were they cut from black paper? I don't recall. I expect that this is left from the "Dig Into Reading" summer program and is on its way out. There are tables and chairs in two sizes, a nice touch. A collection of themed storytime kits in blue tote bags bear tags saying that they are in memory of Heidi Helland, a wonderful memorial. The kits are also credited to the Lions Club, Friends of the Library, Walmart, the West Central Initiative, a family and a day care center; this is a wonderful show of community support for children and the library.

In the area for older kids there are two computers. One was out of order when I visited, and I chuckled to see the sign that read "We blame Voldemort." It's in this area that I first noticed sticky notes on the top of bookshelf sections, each note with a couple of dates. My hunch, checked with a librarian, was correct: these indicate shelf reading dates. Shelf reading is done by volunteers, including members of the Friends. I expressed concern about people's ability to read shelves accurately and the librarian suggested an online training program from Stanford. I haven't found exactly what she described, but online training is definitely available; google "library shelf reading training" for possibilities.

Teen books, carrels, and seating are in the middle of the library. A poster headed "If you liked The Hunger Games" suggests lots of similar books.

A browsing area with periodicals and newspapers is located by broad windows. A gentle sign asks that patrons "Please make copies of what you need...other people may want to look at the same article later."

The walls here are full of framed art prints, and more print rest on the floor in a couple of places. Up to three prints may be borrowed at a time. I haven't seen a library lending art (so far as I know) since the early days of the Arden Hills library in Ramsey County.

Biographies are shelved together under 920 and 921, a policy I happen to like. Genre fiction (westerns, mysteries) are shelved next to general fiction; romance novels are only paperback, and they are on spinners near the front of the library. I didn't spot any sci-fi, but it must be here somewhere. Signs on the shelf ends suggest that patrons try and for reading suggestions. I spotted large print books, movie, TV, and non-fiction DVDs, and a few graphic novels. A suggestion box next to the graphic novels asked what books patrons would like to see added, a nice touch.

There are at least six public computers plus two express computers (10 minute limit). There are three study rooms.

For more info, go to or!/FFFOL.

8/31/13, car

125a. Great River Regional: Eagle Bend Revisit

When I came through Eagle Bend last year, the library was closed. I wrote what I could based on looking in the window, reading posters, and walking around town a bit. Today, it was open and it was a treat. Like every "storefront" library I've seen, the interior felt much larger than I expected. In this case, the spacious feeling is enhanced by the presence of a historical museum on the left side, with many interesting artifacts. In a way, I was glad the museum area was closed--I would have been sorely tempted to linger there!

The children's area has a playhouse, a large stuffed dragon (sleeping under a shelf), lots of audio-and-book kits. Bins hold picture books with their spines up, a practice I haven't seen before. There are modest collections of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, and of course patrons have ready access by request to the entire Great River Regional collection.

A sign on the wall says "Let your mind take flight," a good motto for a library. Beside that sign are a series of large drawings of famous people--by a local artist, perhaps? I should have asked. A corner by the front window has magazines to check out, as well as a magazine swap area. There are five public computers, and several of them were being enjoyed by young patrons when I was there.

Eagle Bend participates in "1000 Books Before Kindergarten," a program that I think is wonderful. Dozens of preschoolers have their names in a display on paper "scoops of ice cream"--more names than I would have expected for this small town. Kids who complete the program get a book and a stuffed animal (the Pout-Pout Fish); the program is partially supported by Kohl's Cares for Kids; thanks, Kohl's!

For more information about Eagle Bend, go to or

8/31/13, car