Tuesday, December 31, 2013

221. Manchester City Library, Manchester, NH

I grew up only 20 or so miles from Manchester, NH, so it seems strange in retrospect that I had never been to this library. The omission was rectified on Friday, Dec. 27, because my sister and I headed for the airport very early, leaving time for one more library visit.

The building is impressive, filling a city block. Manchester being the largest city in NH, it is appropriate that it has the largest library. The building was given by Frank Carpenter in memory of his wife, and it will celebrate its centennial in 2014.

The lobby has a helpful sign that tells what is on each floor and "what you can do" there. There is also a collection box for a local food shelf; I haven't mentioned them, but I saw these in most of the libraries I visited on this trip. Beyond the lobby is a handsome central rotunda, with a circulation desk. To the left are YA books, followed by adult fiction and non-fiction. There are classic "stacks"--I did not determine whether they are open to the public. The stacks that clearly are open are massive, 8 shelves high, with the lowest mere inches above the floor and the highest about seven feet up. Thoughtful signs remind patrons that if they have difficulty with things that are too high--OR TOO LOW--they are welcome to ask for help. Occasional empty shelves or with books that do not match the shelf designations are explained by signs that say "Shifting project in progress."

Tall windows surround the room. Each has a warm air duct and a pew-like window seat.

A sign on a centrally located table asks patrons to "Please remember that this is a public building. Please keep all valuables, especially children, close by." I like this, especially the idea that children are valuable.

The upper floor houses the New Hampshire room, genealogy resources, art, music, and a conference room. We did not go up to that level, but I'm willing to bet
 that there is a grandfather clock up there! Perhaps someone from Manchester will read this and let me know if my hunch is correct.

The lower level has a large room for children's programs and a modest auditorium with raked seating. The rest of the area houses the children's collection. Although this space is partially underground, it is brightened by large windows. A long shelf held near-life-size reindeer and trees made of corrugated cardboard (by the children's librarian, I was told). The space was very quiet when I got there, but before I left a couple of small children burst in, clearly at ease and happy to visit the library.

Almost forgot to mention a teen program that intrigued me: "Ages 12 - 18 are invited to learn and play and enjoy new card, strategy and board games.  Semi-professional gaming geeks will be on hand to mentor new players in an array of classic and modern games." What caught my eye is the presence of "semi-professional gaming geeks"--that should pull in some participants!

For more information about the Manchester library, visit http://www.manchester.lib.nh.us/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/manchesterlibrary.

12/27/2013, bus, plane, car (and headed back to the airport)

If you look carefully, you can see part of "Carpenter Memorial Library."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

220. Weare Public Library, Weare, NH

The Weare Public Library is clearly in New Hampshire, as it has the requisite grandfather clock! It also has a fireplace, seemingly unused, with a "living room" browsing area. A teen area includes a subscription to Teen Ink, a publication I rarely see. This library clearly caters to a youthful audience, providing a table for after school snacks: "Food may be eaten at this table on school days only between 2:15 and 3:30. Please be seated and use the wastebasket...." From discussion with staff, I gather that the table is a constructive "If you can't lick them, join them" solution to what could become a problem.

A display near the adult collection holds the current NYT bestseller list, with books available at the library highlighted in yellow, those available for download in pink. That's a nice touch. I know that there is a "Knit Night" club, but when I went to the library website to look for other programs, the monthly calendar was still on November, 2013. Oops!

The children's area is downstairs, where the space is divided into a number of alcoves. I spotted at least one set of shelves on wheels, suggesting that it may be possible to rearrange the space for programs. Each alcove had something special, including a large puffy fabric turtle, ideal for the tiny tots to sit or lie on. My favorite was the one with a display on the wall titled "Dewey know where to go?" with Dewey hundreds paired with pictures representing the topics. Very nice and inviting way to introduce nonfiction searching to young patrons.

Another sign said "Hoping to make it easier for you," and pointed out that orange dots on the spines indicate easy chapter books. Two computers are available for kids, and the Friends support a program of museum passes, which is very nice.

For more about this library, go to http://wearepl.wordpress.com/.

12/26/2013    bus, plane, car

219. Tucker Free Library, Henniker, NH

This handsome building was erected in 1903 and has been serving as a library since then. A large room to the left of the entrance houses historical material that belongs to the library, including many historic photographs and old books, a great fireplace, and an amazing dollhouse, built by sixth graders in 1913-14. This school year is therefore the centennial year for the dollhouse, and library staff are trying to learn more about its history. It's a very long shot, but if anyone reading this has any tips, please contact the Tucker Free Library. Seriously!

On the other side of the entrance hall is a quiet room with books and public computers. Directly ahead is the circulation desk and the adult fiction and nonfiction stacks. The circulation desk looks totally at home in the library, although it is very new; it was built by a local craftsman, who did an excellent job of both design and execution.

The children's area is down a flight of stairs at the rear of the building; there is also a more direct entrance from a rear parking lot. The walls here are mostly brick, warmed by light from many windows, bright colors, and cheerful, friendly staff. A large room holds picture books for the youngest patrons, shelved topically. Down another five steps is a similar room for school-age children including teens. Standard metal shelving has been brightened by strips of color on the front-facing edges, bright purple, green, and yellow. Signs invite reading: "It's vacation. Pick a book you want to read." "Cool new reads. Brand new young adult books." There is a flat-screen TV and an X-Box for gamers.

Staff upstairs and down were pleasant, informative, and fun to chat with. Their pride in the library is clear. Congratulations to the Tucker Free Library as they enter their 110th year of serving Henniker residents!

For more about this library, have a look at http://tuckerfreelibrary.org/.

12/26/2013   bus, plane, car

218. Hopkinton Town Library, Contoocook, NH

It's a great treat to be going through a small NH town (with someone else driving in the snow), turn a corner, and find an amazingly handsome library. I was surprised to see the 1998 date in the lobby; this library could have been built yesterday. As soon as we walked in, my sister (the driver) went directly to the inviting granite fireplace she saw straight ahead. I turned left and immediately found one of the "living room" areas I like so much. This one had windows, new books for browsing, and a craft display.

Continuing, I came to the kids' area with three tall windows, each with a cushioned window seat. There were also a wooden train table, a shelf of parenting books, a purple wooden rocker with a Peter Rabbit motif, and a sort of cubby corner with a slightly raised floor; it might be used as a tiny stage, a hiding place, or ... ? Whatever imagination can conjure. The librarian's desk and office plus kitchen and restrooms are nearby. Programming includes a day in early December when parents were invited to drop off kids ages 5 and up, with their dinner, to play "Bingo for Books" and watch a movie while their parents shopped locally. Neat idea! There is also a winter Story Walk based on Jan Brett's Three Snow Bears; the walk is located at a nearby playground.

There is a long table with a lendable telescope and a variety of games. A long screened porch is lined with Adirondack chairs, perfect for reading in more clement weather. I learned that a mirror image of this porch is on the other side of the library, but did not see it.

One thing had puzzled me: every NH library, it seems, has a grandfather clock. A staff person showed me the "History Room" and there it was. See picture below. [The picture of the clock will be delayed until I am able to rotate it 90 degrees!] This room is full of murals painted by local residents, showing a variety of local scenes. There is a lot of talent here!

One of my favorite features was the prevalence of READ posters featuring local individuals and groups: cheerleaders, a firefighter, families, the knitting club! These posters, in full color, are created by high school students as part of a graphic arts class--what a great idea.

For more information, have a look at http://hopkintontownlibrary.org/.

12/26/2013 bus, plane, car

A fireplace in the Granite State, the perfect place to sit on a snowy day.

Monday, December 23, 2013

217. Durham Town Library, Durham NH -- Revisit?

Is this a revisit or not? Well, I posted about the Durham library last June, after peering in the windows and looking at signs at their "temporary" (about 15 years) location in a small strip mall. This week I made my first visit to their new quarters, a stunning small building in this university town. Nestled into fraternity row, the new facility is comprised of an old house and an attached new building.

There's something new to see at every library, right? Here, it was outside: bike racks (no big deal) housed under a portico called the Bike Porch (very clever and thoughtful idea). Entering the lobby, the library proper is to the left. To the right, stairs and an elevator take you up one level to the main floor of the old house. A small room houses the Friends bookshop and a long room houses the self-service Cafe. Beyond the cafe and to the left is the original living room of the old house, now holding a long conference table and a fireplace.

Another level up is a large program room that can be divided. When I was there, a showing of Polar Express was just ending, with pajama-clad kids clambering down the stairs. The area outside the program room provides an art gallery for local talent, of which there is plenty.

OK, back downstairs and into the library. Initially I bypassed the adult area, on my way to see the piece de resistance, the life-sized reproduction of a boat known as a gundelow. [You'll have to go to their website to see this boat; see the link below.] Behind the gundelow is a large program room for the children's area, partially carpeted for story time, partially tiled for crafts. The boat and program room make this a real sister to the main library in LaCrosse, WI.

A flyer about programs includes the usual suspects, including a summer program, but also a few surprises: a University of New Hampshire "reading buddy" program, a middle school book club called "Bookeaters," a high school club called "Libros Lovers," a writing/blog group, and a reading patch program that rewards reading during the school year. [Note: The middle school group should check out www.unshelved.com and look for the Bibliovore T-shirts.]

The teen area is a separate room, with a door, right beside the youth services office and desk; this gives it a nice set-apart feel, but is close enough for good supervision. There are computers, games, and a large flat-screen TV. I learned that the library is within walking distance of the middle school, and is very lively with young people when school gets out. [I was there on the Saturday before Christmas; not a kid in sight!]

Each new section of the library has large alcoves with tall windows and comfortable seating. There is one such area for adults as you enter the library (with a seasonal reading porch outside), one in the children's area, one in the pre-school area, and so forth. the teen area, and the "back" of the adult area. Each has its own personality. The windows look out on buildings in a couple of cases, but also onto a lawn and wooded area. One view includes sculptures of a woman who was a major benefactor, her husband, and swans, famous in Durham.

Re-reading this, it seems that adults have been neglected. Not so...they have a couple of comfortable reading areas, computers, and collections of fiction and nonfiction. Staff is very friendly and helpful.

For more information, go to http://www.durhampubliclibrary.org/durham/ or their page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Durham.NH.Public.Library.

12/21/13, bus, plane, car

Sorry, I didn't have a camera with me; there are plenty of pictures on the websites mentioned above, and I strongly suggest that you have a look!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Updated: Adventures of a Librarian: Siskiyou County, CA -- 1937

This report came to me long ago from a friend who has connections with the author. I've misplaced the original, but I recently discovered the text on a floppy (yes, a floppy) disk. I read this to a mixed-age group at a bookstore 10 years ago, and I will read it to third graders soon, each time challenging them to create pictures in their minds. As you read, try to remember that this is a report; at least, that was the intention. The location is the far northern area of California; I'm looking for a period map to add. In the meantime, enjoy. And visualize!

I read the report to the kids today (12/10/13). Despite having a guest (substitute) teacher, and two restless days of indoor recess because of cold and snow (as in the report), they stayed with it, paying good attention. The hardest part seemed to be understanding that I had read them a real report, by a real person. One girl asked "Where can I get the book?"


No doubt you have received the two circulation reports, Dec. & Jan. sent you last week, but as the mail has been held up by snow in the mountains, it may be that the letter has been delayed.  I mailed the reports on January 29, and also two boxes of books (28 books), which left Cecilville at the same time (Feb. 1)  I put the books in two boxes so that they would have a better chance of going through, but snow began to fall again on the evening of Jan 31 and it stormed here very hard on Feb. 1, so probably the books did not get any further on their way than Snowden, which is the changing place from stage to mules on this side of the Etna mountain.

I waited a long time in Etna before starting for Sawyer's Bar.  The stage was not running, and it seemed as if I could not bring myself to the point of starting out on muleback at 6 A.M. with the temperature considerably below zero.  It is simply impossible to keep ones feet warm, and it takes four or five hours to make the trip to Snowden at best, and longer if snow conditions are bad. 

By waiting, I managed to get from Etna to Sawyers Bar by stage.  It was the only day that the stage did go through and then only because the contractors had a big load of freight they wanted to take over the mountain.

[For an idea of this trip, go to MapQuest and ask for directions from Etna to Sawyer's Bar to Snowden. Be sure to mentally adjust anything resembling today's Rte. 5 to be the smallest yellow line on the map!]
We left the post office at six, and crawled up the mountain to the rest cabin on the mountain, where we had to wait for the bulldozer, and then when the man did come we had to wait while he built a fire under it to thaw out the frozen grease.  The waiting was not so bad as the stage driver built a fire and we, there was another passenger, warmed up thoroughly.  It was interesting too, for the stage driver is quite a talker and a lover of horses, and he entertained us with the history of Arabian horses in this country; the origin of Pintos and tales of race horses which he named, and how they pep 'em up with dope and what-not, and so on, and then the passenger, who was a mining engineer told of his experiences with mules in Mexico.  All very interesting.

Then the bulldozer started up the mountain and we crawled along behind and finally went ahead.  It was hard going.  The road had been opened on Saturday (this was Monday) but the wind and squally weather Saturday night had filled the road with drifts, so it was slow.  Near the top it was worse.  We could see the other stage parked up there and two men coming down from the top tramping the snow down with their feet to make it easier for our stage to dig in and climb.  The wind was blowing a gale and although it was not storming, clouds of top-snow swirled over the summit and thin streams of snow shot over in places, something like water from a small nozzle on a hose, helping to build up the comb and filling the road faster than the bulldozer could scrape it out.

That machine came up behind us, dragging a coupe, for cars can not get up, when the stage, with its greater power, can.  On this side the road was not so full of drifts and several cars were lined up waiting to go over.  We had to change stages.  It was only about 60 feet between the two trucks but that was far enough.  The stinging wind-driven snow cut on ones face and the wind nearly tore ones hat and coat from them.

Before starting on the stage Monday morning, I had a sort of adventure.  The husband of one of my friends had driven across the mountain Saturday night and wanted to return Sunday to be at his work on Monday.  I started with him Sunday afternoon about 5 P.M.  The road was barely open on Saturday and it was squally Saturday night and while Sunday turned out to be a fine day, the wind blew hard on top, so it was uncertain whether he would make it or not.  We did not, but it was not the snow that blocked us.

It was a beautiful afternoon but oh, so cold at 5 P.M.  I went prepared; experience has taught me how to keep the heat in.  First a long unionsuit, then bloomers and a snug woolen slip-over sweater; two pairs of stocking, overalls; a second woolen sweater high in the neck; a woolen skirt; a pair of men's heavy woolen socks; a pair of gum boots with the overall legs tied down around the ankles; a leather coat; a tweed coat; a muffler around neck and head; a felt hat; gloves; but when I brought out an extra large thick and heavy blanket, my friends had to laugh.

It was a little difficult to climb into the car, but I sat on the blanket and brought it up over my feet and legs and as soon as we were out of town drew it up over my head and shoulders; at least I intended to be warm!

We crawled along.  It soon was dark.  The temperature went down and one could see it getting colder because the snow began to glisten in the car-light and tiny icicles formed on the edges of the drifts where the sun had thawed the snow a little in the afternoon.

At every turn the driver had to maneuver his way, backing and filling and crushing down the snow so that his wheels had traction.  At every steep place I thought we could not make it, because the road was icy under a powder of snow, but we kept going until we were within about a mile of the top.  Our progress was slow, but we went ahead steadily.

Then we came to a turn in the road, and out of the darkness ahead, two men came running and waving us back.  It was not a holdup!  Their car, out of sight around the bend was on fire!  They had seen our lights and were waving us back for fear of an explosion.  The men and my driver walked back around the bend, and of course I had to see too, so climbed out of the car and followed behind them.

It was an eerie sight!  The still dark woods mantled in snow, the snowy road, the three black figures ahead, silhouetted against the glowing back window of the car (the fire was still in the interior of the car) no light except the glow in the car and star-light. There was no wind; everything was so still except for the squeak, squeak of the frozen snow underfoot and a faint hissing sound from the fire.  Weird is a good word to describe the picture.  We seemed so far away and detached from the world.  We looked on; the trees looked on; nothing could be done.  The fire had started under the floor and had a good start; there was no way to extinguish it.

I went back to our car; the men stayed and watched the fire; it did not show from where I sat, but presently a pale glow lighted the tops of the trees around the bend, but there was no sound.  The thing I will always remember was the profound silence; it was like sitting out alone in nowhere.

When the men came back the three squeezed into the seat with me, a seat built for two in the days when two were meant.  They had low shoes on their feet and thin socks, so their feet were soaking.  One of them said he did not know that feet could get so cold.  They had started out without even a shovel and were helpless when the fire started as their car was wedged in a snow drift.  The owner had been demonstrating the car to his friend, a possible purchase.  It was a new Super-Charger Grahame Page.  He had intended to show how his car would take the top with ease, but that was one sale that was not consummated and of course the other man will never buy a Super-Charger Grahame-Page now.
 [I'm not certain of the date, but that ill-fated Graham-Page may have looked something like this:


At Sawyers, there was no mule for me to ride the next day, so I had to lay over, and of course it stormed.  14 inches of new snow fell and piled up on that already on the ground.  But there was more or less excitement; cars came "around the Horn" and owners knocked at the Hotel at all hours.  About 2 A.M. a resounding knock at the door wakened everyone, a male voice pleaded, "Please Betty, please Betty." Betty appeared to be cross but finally softened and told the wayfarer to go around and take an upstairs room.

In the morning it turned out that people from the White Bear had gone out the day the mountain opened but had had to come around by way of the Klamath.  They were still marooned in Sawyers when I left.

That day more excitement; the road dropped out from under the front end of a car passing the Hotel.  Soon all the men (or so it seemed) and all the dogs and most of the women in Sawyers came to see and give advice.  The car was finally hauled out onto the road again, and the Constabule put a flare over the hole as it was evening.  No harm was done, the crowd and the Constabule went home (it is always constabule in small towns).  Just another old drift had caved in.

I left Sawyers riding the best mule in Siskiyou.  A good mule helps but it is not everything.  Anyway, I put on the sweaters and the socks and the coats and the boots and did not forget the blanket!  It went over my knees and dangled below my feet.  It not only kept knees and feet warmer, but shed snow.  The trees were bowed with snow.  The branches met over the trail, great masses tumbled down; the mules went down to the bottom and broke trail.  My feet dragged in snow nearly all the way to Cecilville, but my good old blanket acted as a buffer and kept the snow off of my boots and out of my stirrups.

I did not melt snow with my feet all that day as did the two packers.  The coldest thing on earth are feet wedged into stirrups by snow.  It packs tight and makes a ball of ice under the sole, not only cold, but difficult to balance on.

I took us from 7 A.M. to nearly 4 P.M. to wallow through with only two short stops at Black Bear and King Solomon.  At King Solomon an Angel in a cook’s cap served us coffee and hot food to stimulate our stomachs so that we could finish the trip alive.  Never until we take such trips do we realize how many muscles we have that we do not use and every one of them protested against the constant slipping and jerking especially toward the end of those weary miles.

And then -- no car at Cecilville!  Road closed!  Saddle changed to horse, old horse!  mount! ride! or rather just sit and endure, until home in sight at last.  Good old home, just like Heaven.  Next day?  I can not write about it yet.

But then, I started to tell you about the circulation reports and my letter has brought me to Heaven, which is really quite some distance from Cecilville, I am forced to believe.  But the book reports -- they are good. This surprising winter has made our branch extremely popular.  People snow-bound, nothing to do but read.  Mr. Ball kept quite a good record, too.  Between times he shoveled snow and looked after the stock.  He loaned books and books and magazines.  The men at the mine are marooned, can not work.  The books have been a Godsend to them, as well as to the East Fork people who live here all the time, one a boy who came from Chicago to visit his father.  He thought of mining as a great game, but has seen nothing of it so far.  Poor lonesome kid, 17 yrs.

Shall I mail this immaterial letter to the Librarian?  I should have sent a nice understandable report about this branch, and here it is an irrelevant three-page letter, but you know so much happens in the mountains; it is not like town where everything is so hum-drum and all of a sameness, that is because everyone follows his little routine there, and here we see or do everything.

I loaned some books yesterday, but before that at 4 A.M. we found a new calf in the snow, nearly frozen; would have been dead by daylight.  We dragged it to shelter of a sort, and brought the good old blanket mentioned already and wrapped the new baby in it.  We heated stovelids to put under it and rubbed it vigorously and kept it warm until daylight, then got a man from the mine to carry it to the kitchen where we finally got it onto its feet and now it is a fine husky fellow out with his Mama.  It is quite an experience, not exactly pleasant, but could never have happened if I had been a branch librarian or custodian in a town; so many things happen in the mountains.

Oh yes, the books!  The boxes contained two recalls besides the others, I also want to ask for an extension on the State book for Mr. Dukes.  Owing to the unfavorable weather and poor traveling conditions the book was not delivered promptly; no way to do so. I hesitated about returning it before Mr. Dukes had it, but finally decided to send it to him and ask for more time.  It did not appear to be such a popular book, that a little more time would matter, but I remembered your plea for "no overtime" on State books.

Between us all, this branch is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable, and with that I must close or write another page!

Sincerely yours,

Lottie Ball