Wednesday, October 30, 2013

216. Taylors Falls, MN, Pubic Library

Such variety in one half-day trip! The picturesque building, with its new yellow-and-white paint job, dates to the 1850s. The Taylors Falls Library Association served the town from 1871 to 1919. At first the book collection was housed in rental sites in the town; in 1887 the Association bought the small house where the library is still located. In 1919 the Association was dissolved and the Taylors Falls Public Library began. The building was remodeled in the mid 70s, and recently celebrated 125 years as a public library.

This is definitely the smallest library I've visited so far: two rooms, one behind the other. The first room holds the adult collection, the second has children's books, including many old, old volumes. The room felt cozy, with a nice rug and a few large stuffed animals. When I asked whether the old books circulated, I learned that children rarely come to this library. The exception seems to be a program at the local elementary school that brings kids to the library for story time several times during the summer.

The library is a slice of living history. There are no computers, the librarian has an electric typewriter at her desk, a 12-drawer card catalog is kept up-to-date, and book cards in pockets are used for check-out. But I stress living history. The librarian is dynamic, and three different patrons came or went while I was there. The library does not have its own website, but you can learn more about it at the town site, Better than the website, though, I suggest you stop in. Bring the kids. Look for books you remember from your childhood. Sit and chat for a while.

10/30/2013, car

215. St. Croix Falls Public Library, St. Croix Falls, WI -- MORE

Now for something entirely different: the St. Croix Falls library is in a building that was once a grocery store! The conversion to a library has been artfully done, with many nods to the geological features in the area. The children's space is dominated by a large wooden "table," an irregular hexagon, one side against the wall and chairs along the edges. The table top has a "pit" that echoes the glacial potholes found here, though I doubt that the real potholes have cozy pillows. A large mosaic behind the service desk was a community art project, and reminds one of the St. Croix River. Thick, felted "banners" hanging from the ceiling to improve acoustics are designed to remind one of local rocks. This is all very cool, and it's clear that the staff is knowledgable about their special environment.

Other features of the children's area include book art projects using found objects and mounted on large sticks; these are visible from outside through the large windows and are very intriguing. Convex mirrors are mounted beside a metal section of wall provided with magnetic letters and pictures. A sensory table held dried beans, very small gourds of several types, and some plastic forceps; what a great chance to practice small-motor skills! When I was there, a rather small tiger was "helping" shelve picture books. The tiger turned out to be the child of a volunteer, and I suspect she had been there for a Halloween event earlier in the morning.

Shelving is angled in a way that makes the space seem intriguing, even a bit mysterious--what will I find if I go down here? The teen area has a computer with priority for AR tests and a sign that says "Keep calm and take an AR test." [Keep calm seems to be an important phrase here; I bought a T-shirt that says "Keep calm and carry a library card" that I'm looking forward to wearing to work this weekend.] Some origami projects that looked complicated to me were on various shelves in the teen area. There are also some nearly-round bowls make of papier mache (I think) holding small games and a set of magnetic words.

There are two small study or tutoring rooms each with a nice window to the outside. A broad upholstered bench looked like a nice place for a kid to curl up with a book.  An old upright L.C. Smith typewriter was on top of one shelf. The Friends have a sale shelf where I found a nice little pile of books that I bought for a quarter each, for Halloween treats. (No candy at my house.)

Finally, this is the first library I've found where patrons can check amphibian! They have several of the small critters in cages, thanks to a local "frog man." Two were in-house when I was there, though one was "on reserve" for a nearby branch of the MORE system. Amazing. Nice friendly staff, too, though I truly haven't met any of the other kind in my travels. If they exist, they must hide in the back room when I walk in.

For more about this library, go to  Also take a look at!/scflibrary!

10/30/2013, car

It's hard for a library to fill an entire grocery store; they share the space with a couple of dental practices and the St. Croix River Association.

214. Centuria, Wisconsin Public Library, MORE

I set out on this gray, drizzly day to find a small cluster of libraries about 50 miles from home. My first stop was Centuria, WI, in a downtown storefront. The drizzle couldn't stand up to the bright yellow paint job on this small library! I received a friendly greeting as soon as I entered, explained my project, and wandered around. The children's area is a modest corner, but has a nice selection of books. In fact, I spotted two of interest that I've not seen before, and have requested them from the libraries I use, one from Hennepin County and one from St. Paul. Toward the end of my visit I chanced to look up at the ceiling and noticed that the plastic panel over the lights in the kids area is blue, with white clouds! Panels are available at big-box hardware stores, I was told.

The library has several computers and a scanner and printer. The book collection is small but the librarian tries to keep current with a clever system of dots on the spines. When she began here, patrons would sometimes comment on the lack of current books. So she placed a red dot on the spine of every book or AV material added to the collection that year. The next year it was a blue dot--each year a new color is used. These dots make it easy to shelve the new books together, shows patrons how much is being added, and aids in weeding. I mentioned this system at another library and the person I was speaking to thought it was quite a clever idea. So do I! [And of course, patrons have access to the entire collection of the MORE group of libraries in Wisconsin, and those further away through interlibrary loan.]

Favorite sign: "Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague," attributed to Eleanor Crumblehulme. I thought that name was a joke; it's not. Google her!

Although this library is one of the smallest I've visited, it has a lot to see. Go to and try the video tour; the area that looks like a dining room/kitchen in a private home is really there; it's used for literacy classes and other meetings!

10/30/2013, car

Saturday, October 26, 2013

90a. Rockford Road Branch, Hennepin County Libraries, Crystal, MN--Revisit

I returned to this library because they recently reopened after renovations. The first thing I noticed was the attractive and interesting ceiling, with open rafters made of wood and metal. Of course, when I talked to the librarian, I learned that this was not a change from last year! Some things that have changed include the placement of the service and information desks. I liked the visible workroom, but had the impression that perhaps staff doesn't find this so desirable. I'm probably influenced by the fact that where I work, the circulation workroom isn't even on the same floor. A "right there" workroom looks pretty good to me.

There are many windows, and some look out on a large park-like lawn with mature trees. Very nice. Two "living rooms" are by these windows, and there is a third right in the middle of the library. Teens have their own corner. There is a large alcove, more like a room, really, for reference materials, newspapers, and periodicals, plus a long counter with stools and electrical outlets for laptop users. I counted about two dozen public computers, and I overheard someone on staff telling a patron that there are "about the same number" as there were before the renovation.

The children's area has a science table, which today had two large magnifying lenses and a collection of insects embedded in plastic blocks. A sign suggests that parents explore science together with their children, and says that "When I use a magnifying glass, I am learning to use a science tool." There is also a light table, with neat wooden blocks with colored acrylic panels. There is a fire engine reading spot, similar to the one at Mounds View; this one also has a rack with several firefighter coats and hats for dramatic play. This is an interesting contrast, with one library stressing books about firefighting, the other stressing dramatic play. Both, of course, are worthy goals, and either space could be used for either purpose; it's just a matter of emphasis.

I saw 10 computers in the kids area, as well as couches, large plastic tubs of board books, and a Farmer's Market structure with many plastic fruits and vegatables--more opportunities for creative play. I almost missed the piece de resistance, a floor to ceiling beanstalk complete with Jack and part of the giant up at the top. Children's series books are shelved in baskets placed on the fiction shelves where they belong alphabetically by author's name.

A big activity cube is outside the kids area, near the self-checkout stations. This puzzled me for a moment, then I realized what a help it could be in occupying kids while the adult checked out. The library has a uniformed security officer, which surprised me  because the local police station is next door, just across the parking lot. The lobby displays a transit map and also provides a bin for recycling batteries.

For more about this library, go to

10/26/2013   car

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mounds View Library, Ramsey County, MN -- Revisit

One thing I really like about the Twin Cities / MELSA area is the respect for libraries. I recently saw a letter to the 9/15/2013 Library Journal that read in part, "We have succeeded in saving our three Miami Beach public libraries, but major cuts in days and hours open are on the horizon. ... As I write this, the archives at the main library--in Miami--are being removed..."

The difference here, where I live? I have on my list for this weekend three libraries that have recently been re-opened after refurbishing. I can think offhand of at least two with new buildings under construction, and several others in the planning stages. We who live here need to remember from time to time how very fortunate we are.

With that said, I drove up to Mounds View after my shift this morning, to see what changes have been made there.

My first impression was "it's so light!" This is not at all a sunny, bright day, quite the contrary, but new carpet and paint, light wood ends on the shelves and a faux-stone countertop at the service desk, both replacing bright-red predecessors, have made a world of difference.

 I don't recall seeing the meeting room or the two study rooms during my first visit, summer 2012, though they were surely there. Two sides of the building have large windows. There is a teen corner near these windows, with a modest sign asking that users "Respect yourself, respect others, respect the space." There are also a couple of "living room" areas by other windows. I counted about 10 public computers, and there is a wide counter along one wall for laptop use. I like the wall-mounted storage for Manga and periodicals.

Last year my favorite focal point in the children's area was the fire engine seating area with shelves of books on fire safety and firefighters. That is still there, and I still like it, but now my favorite has to be the rug with a map of the United States!

Congratulations to Mounds View for a make-over that seems to my eyes to be all positive!

No new picture, because I didn't have my camera. But you can head to for more information. That site has a nice map of the area...I do wish it had information about access by public transportation!

10/24/2013, car

Friday, October 11, 2013

213. Carlton Library, Carlton, MN, Arrowhead Region

Carlton wasn't on my list for today's trip, but two things happened to change that. First, the librarian I spoke to in Cloquet said I "really should" visit; second, one library I had planned to visit frustrated me because parking meters took quarters only (and I didn't have any) and when I looked for alternatives I got messed up in the spaghetti pile of one-way streets, and I gave up. So on the way home, I stopped in Carlton. Good choice. I just have to like a library that shares its storefront entry with a barber shop! And there is a wood sculpture just inside the door that looks like a stack of rough-hewn airplane propellers; I really should have asked about that, and can only hope that the librarian or a patron will see this post and leave an enlightening comment.

Kids get the best seats in the house, in the front near the windows. Display space features many three-D wooden puzzles of dinosaurs and such. The book and media collection is modest, but from the library website I learned that part of the video, audio, and large print collections rotate among the Arrowhead branches, and items from the entire Arrowhead Region collection are available on request, of course.

I enjoyed seeing two antique upright typewriters out where kids (or anyone) could give them a try. There was also a paper-tape machine of the sort I saw in the 40s when Dad was a volunteer fireman in NH.

I like seeing spine labels in a larger-than-usual font. And I was surprised and pleased to see that Kill-A-Watt meters are available to borrow.

There is framed art by local residents, including kids, on the wall, and the librarian would like more.

A friendly, welcoming place in this very small town. To learn more, go to

10/10/2013, car

212. Two Harbors Public Library, Two Harbors MN

This library bills itself on its website as "The Little Library by the Big Lake." It's not so little, but it is definitely close to the big lake. And the original part of the building is a Carnegie library from 1909.

There are many ways to ask patrons to use cell phones respectfully, but this is the first library where I've seen a sign "Don't forget to Shhhh your phone!" I also saw "REMINDER! Please pad or rubber band dvds and cds when returning in the book drop to prevent separation and breakage." Good advice.

The newer building houses the teens' and children's areas. There are wide padded window sills in front of large sunny windows, and for the kids, an elaborate wooden train setup on a table; it even has a roundhouse! There is a "picnic table" made of birch, very nice. Apparently there has been some recent rearranging, and I was both pleased and amused to see a sign directing me to the new location for the books on CD. After telling me the new location, it says "Turn right, walk to the aisle, look straight ahead." I wonder if people follow the directions...or turn to staff and ask "Where are the books on CD?" Book and audio sets are shelved in a bin, rather than the usual hanging plastic bags, and a sticker on the cover of each book reminds the patron to "Check for CD."

Up the stairs into the Carnegie building, I found a staff person measuring the space above the mantle of the large fireplace. Holiday decorations coming, perhaps? A browsing area is in the fireplace room. Beyond that there are tall windows all around. A couple of study tables look as if they date to the original building, and a librarian confirmed this hunch. They are now protected with heavy glass tops.

Based on a sign, there seems to have been a recent change in fiction shelving, with all genres now shelved together with stickers designating mysteries, romances, sci fi, and western. Two exceptions I spotted: Star Wars and Danielle Steel seem to have their own special spots.

Back downstairs I saw this sign by the copy machine: "Copies are 10c a page--even for IRS forms." I can imagine the conversation(s) that prompted that sign!

The staff recommended Louise's and a couple of other places for lunch; I chose Louise's, and that was a very good bacon cheeseburger! I resisted the yummy-looking baked goods because I had other plans for dessert. Since I would be eating alone, I bought a book, The Report Card by Andrew Clements, from the library sale shelf. I got a good start on it while eating, and finished it last night. It's a wonderful condemnation, through kids' eyes, of the morass of testing our schools are in now.

For more about this library, go to or

10/10/2013, car

211. Cloquet Public Library, Cloquet, MN, Arrowhead Region

I was surprised to learn that this library was built in the 80s, as it has a very open, up-to-date feel. Even before I entered, I noticed several features. First, a sign out by the street that is topped with translucent colored plastic...flying pages? Unfortunately, they don't show well in the picture I took. There appeared to be three electrical hookups for engine block heaters for staff, but I learned that these no longer function. Sad; that would be a nice perk! A sign announces that the entire property is smoke-free and asks near the door "Please extinguish cigarettes here"--but there didn't appear to be a place for a cigarette butt except in a general trash barrel. I didn't see any on the ground, so Cloquet is doing better with this policy than Minneapolis Central is!

I enjoyed several features of the children's area. First, the carpet is in large blocks with letters and numbers on each; this design segues in the teen and adult areas to carpet with the same color scheme but stripes instead of the alpha/numerics. This is a nice way to set off the space. There are four computers for kids set on a wide shelf, with a kid-sized "office chair" (birch seats and backs, five casters) in front of each one. I've never seen small chairs like this before, and I bet the kids love them. Various toys are available for the youngest patrons, and a sign thanks parents for "helping to keep the children's area picked up." It appeared that Easy Readers are shelved by grade...but after seeing a "Grade 1" sign, I didn't see signs for other grades. There were many books with stickers that indicate AR reading levels. Board books are in the bottom shelves, spine up, with PICTURE BOOK stickers.

There are two large furnished dollhouses on display in plexiglass enclosures; by one of them I spotted a "can you find it" list of items to look for in that house. Nice. There are a lot of special dolls and toys and a collection of carved wooden birds on the top of bookshelves, out of kids' reach. One large windowed corner for browsing is not quite "living room" in style, but looked comfortable.

The reference collection appears to have a strong emphasis on history and genealogy. I spotted small bound volumes of "Kirkollinen Kalenter" dating back to 1903; in 1984 the name changed to Suomi Conference Yearbook, and a quick Google search confirmed my guess that these are Finnish. There are at least four public computers for adults and four small meeting/conference rooms.

A teen area has computers, a couple of tables, and a huge beanbag chair. In addition to the usual media collections, there are spinners of foreign films. J nonfiction is shelved with general nonfiction, a practice I like. I spotted a cart full of books with a sign "Please do not place books on cart; weeding cart." Yes, patrons placing books on a weeding cart would create real problems! Another sign advises patrons that "This corner of the library is not a place for visiting," and enjoins them to refrain from bringing chairs here. They are advised that "To ignore this gentle request" can result in limitations on their right to use the library. It's a nice, quiet corner with sunny windows...and with no sight line from the service desk. The staff person I spoke to said that there "have been issues," which I can well imagine.

That staff person also made sure that I noticed the traditional Finnish native American boat, made of willow branches and willow twine, hanging from the ceiling in the lobby. Thanks, I would have missed it! She also gave me the address for the Carlton library, which came in handy later in the day.

To learn more, go to, where you can take a look at the nifty logo formed of a flying book and a soaring arrow.

10/10/2013, car


210. Moose Lake, Minnesota Public Library, Arrowhead Region

This library shares space with the Moose Lake Community and Civic Center, and it's larger than I thought from the outside. Right inside the door is one of those comfortable "living room" configurations I like to see, with a large window, a lot of plants, and a couple of computers. A nice welcome, right from the start. There was also a cheerful welcome from the staff working this morning. In larger libraries, I often wander around on my own and then approach staff to say hello; usually in these smaller spaces I'm quickly spotted as a newcomer, and greeted. I'm happy either way!

Just beyond the living room is a second large window and the children's area. Priority for the computer there is given to patrons 16 and under. There is a wide, wooden window sill, with a message: "Please do not allow children to walk or run on the window sill." It would be tempting! The corner has a triangular set of three carpeted steps that provide seating for children's programs. A large poster painted on brown paper has a scarecrow and pumpkins; somebody here is artistic! There are book and audio sets and lots of VHS tapes as well as DVDs. A very nice touch in this area: three framed drawings created by author and illustrator Nancy Carlson during a visit some years ago. [Works by local artists and historic photographs are found throughout.]

Beyond the children's section I realized that the space extends back much farther than you can see in the picture below. A reference section is followed by shelves for oversized books, a section for exercise videos (nice to give them their own spot), two computers for word processing (without Internet access), and a special reader for those with low vision (provided by the Lions). Paperback fiction is shelved on spinners. A sign invites patrons to "read a classic" from the Library of American Classics. The walls are lined with nonfiction books, with fiction stacks in the center. In the 900's, I spotted a five-volume History of Minnesota, published in 1935.

The staff, as I mentioned, is very welcoming. One of the women is also great at selling, witnessed by the fact that I left with a large book about classic toys from their sale shelf!

To learn more, go to

10/10/2013, car

Monday, October 7, 2013

Banff Public Library, Alberta, Canada

My sister gets around more than I do, and she has taken up library visiting, too. Here's her report from a recent vacation to Banff:

We visited Banff Public Library on Wednesday. It is a nice, smallish library that was very open and welcoming to vacationers like ourselves. It is located right below the Senior Center and like Whistler's library, is on prime real estate in this resort town.
There were 8 public computers and always at least 6 being used. I noted a children's area, a junior section and a teen section as well as the usual adult services. They have a good section of foreign language books and I noted, French (of course), Spanish, German and several Asian. There may have been others. They also have many music CD's and movies as well. A whole section was on documentaries.
There were a variety of places to sit and read including a periodical area and sofas and chairs scattered about. The day we were there the place was very busy and a local I spoke to says this is always the case.
 There was a sign that said food and drink is allowed in the library! I thought this unusual, is it? It went on to say they reserve the right to ask you not to if you are not being tidy with it, or if it was being consumed in such a manner as to disturb others or damage books etc.
I'm sorry I didn;t get a better picture. We were heading out of town and I almost forgot!
[Thanks, Jean. It looks like a fascinating building, and the address, Bear Street, is cool. Right up there with one I visited on Silent Drive!]
As for the food and drink, I've seen just about every variation. I was roundly scolded at Minneapolis Central for nibbling on M&Ms, but they allow beverages so long as they have lids. Other libraries have coffee shops, food banned near computers, vending machines, you name it. My favorite so far is a specific ban on sunflower seeds. Perhaps we'll get some comments about local practices.

For more about this library, go to or Or both!