Sunday, September 1, 2013

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.


  1. Hello Ellen,

    What a pleasure to meet you. I am so glad you had the opportunity to stop by Thorson Memorial Library in Elbow Lake. I wish I had been here to meet you and learn about your wonderful quest to visit and write about libraries. You did a fabulous job capturing the essence of our library.

    Thank you and good luck~
    Gail Hedstrom

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Gail. You have a very special library there.


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