Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Future of Libraries...Great Article

If you are interested in this blog, and in libraries in general, you will probably enjoy this article. It's fairly long, but at least scroll through, look at the pictures, read the captions. I found it encouraging and realistic.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

69a. Walker Library, Hennepin County MN NEW BUILDING

The Uptown area of Minneapolis, near 29th and Hennepin, has been home to a public library for a  long time. You can put "Walker" in the search field to see one example, the old underground (mostly) facility. You can look at the picture here for an earlier building. The word LIBRARY is on the frieze, but isn't visible in this picture.

And you can read on to learn about the newest library at this busy location (Uptown! Bus Transit Hub!). I visited the older (not oldest) building in summer 2012, shortly before it closed. Today I was happy to visit on the occasion of the grand opening of the new building. What a change! There are windows on three sides of the space. When you enter, you immediately see a row of brightly-colored tables and chairs along the east windows, which look out onto Hennepin Avenue. There are 24 public computers here, and nearby are the non-fiction stacks, where children's non-fiction books are shelved with the general collection. I consider this a nice practice, since an adult looking for information on a specific topic may find a book for a younger audience more accessible, or perhaps better-illustrated, than an "adult" book. Whether kids find it helpful, well, I'd have to ask some. The shelving here is shorter than in many stacks, five shelves high with the top of the shelving units under six feet, a good accessibility feature that also allows light to penetrate the building.

Traveling clockwise around the interior, I came to the Teen area by the south windows which look out on Lagoon. More bright colors here, interesting chairs and tables, six more computers, and a passel of teens.

The children's area is on the west side. This side does not have a full window wall, but it is bright and cheery; in fact, it has some of the most colorful walls I've seen! two steps or a ramp take you up to an area with a window seat and shelves of children's fiction. Fairy tales have their own shelves. There are many picture books plus a long low divider with four computers for kids on one side, bins for children's media and board books on the other.

There is a large program room to one side with a sink and cabinets (think crafts, snacks) and a glass wall that can be slid away like a pocket door...or closed to contain a noisy program. Two features of the children's area are a light table with a construction set made of translucent colored plastic and the Uptown Spring Café, a center for creative play involving toy food and serving implements. I overheard someone say "This is more kids than we have seen in a long time," and I recalled that there were no children in the old building on the day I visited, although it was during the summer.

Past the service desk and self-checkout stations, the north side has another window wall. In this area I found a set of empty shelves waiting to be filled with requested items, the adult fiction stacks, media, and world languages. The languages I saw were Spanish, French, and Arabic; I may have missed some. Easy chairs by these windows provide comfortable places to sit and read. Periodicals are shelved in a way new to me, in clear plastic boxes with a slot on the front for the current issue. I saw these in what I would call "standard" size (New Yorker, etc.) but didn't look to see how they handle larger and smaller format periodicals.

There are a number of meetings rooms of various sizes, of course.

For more information, go to

4/26/14, bus

The entrance to the new library, Hennepin and 28th.

A view from Lagoon; the Teen area is inside the first windows.

If you look carefully, you can see the large metal letters L I B R A R Y that once graced the ground above the subterranean library. They now march along the retaining wall by the driveway behind the library.


Friday, April 25, 2014

235. Rockford, MN, Public Library, Great River Regional Libraries

I do like small-town libraries, and perhaps part of the reason is little touches like floral centerpieces on the study tables! No, the flowers aren't real (I don't think), but they add a comfortable touch. Just beyond the two study tables was a small browsing area, with the basics: a couch and a window (see below).

There seemed to be a good selection of "Fiction for Children" and "Juvenile Non-Fiction" and series books on labeled shelves. The youngest patrons have a large wooden train set on a low table, and their accompanying adults have a rocker for watching or reading to the young engineers. Most of the library is carpeted, but the area for the little ones is tile, with a number of bright rugs. Very practical! There are  lots of picture books, a nice bright blue child-sized picnic table, and bright posters on the walls. Nearby there are coloring sheets and crayons.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a modest collection of "Easy books in languages other than English," with small numbers in French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Japanese, and German, plus one each in Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese.

The Young Adult area had a poster about Book Jacket Poetry, suggesting that young people create an example and share it on Facebook. Nearby is an attractive community mosaic created in a Workshop in 2012.

The Rockford Area History Society has provided a "make and take" activity, with biodegradable rice pots, dirt, and lettuce seeds.

For more about the Rockford library, go to

4/24/14, car

This is inside the big window you see in the first picture.

234. Delano, MN Great River Regional Library System

In the lobby, a granite plaque is "Dedicated to all who donated energy and resources to this community project. Delano Public Library, May 2004." So, happy 10th anniversary next month!

If you've been reading the blog, you know that I like "living room" reading areas, and Delano's Char Iten Reading Room is a very nice example...see picture below. Comfy seating and a nice view make me want to sit down and read for a while, instead of keeping on with my visit.

Beyond the reading room is the children's area. Here, the special feature is a mural that wraps around the entire space up at the ceiling. This mural was designed and painted by a Girl Scout as part of her Gold Award project. It shows characters and scenes from many children's classics. In order to avoid copyright problems, she painted each of them from memory. The characters can be recognized, but they have not been copied. She also raised $1000 for books, from classic bake sales and proposals she wrote to various organizations. I'd say that hers was a Gold Award well earned!

The "wall" separating the children's area from the rest of the library is a long s-curve of bookshelves, with computer carrels for adults on the other side. This struck me as a very clever use of space, and the curve creates visual interest.

A couple of "passive programming" activities were blank cards to decorate for "Mother's Day, a birthday, or just to say Hello" and a clever "bookworm" to make from a strip of felt and a few pop can tabs.

All of this is wonderful, but I think my favorite feature here, and perhaps my favorite Teen area yet, is The Vault. This is a corner room with a study table, upholstered chairs, books and magazines, a bulletin board and the safe of this former bank! I understand that some parents have hinted that the vault door has some interesting possibilities!

I had a great time chatting with the head librarian, who mentioned several ways that this is truly a community library, including the fact that patrons help with IT from time to time, or may look up from a computer or book to help out with another patron's question.

For more about the Delano Public Library, go to

4/24/2014, car

The Char Iten Reading Room...make yourself at home!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


When I started working as a page at the Nashua, NH, public library back in the 50s, one of my first tasks was to pull the covers off weeded books. This was my introduction to the concept of weeding a library collection. At the time, I was a high school kid and very active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship. And I had in the stack of books to be destroyed a two-volume history of the Methodist church. I was devastated. If they library no longer wanted/needed these books, couldn't I have them, please? No. That would be totally against library policy.

I ripped the covers off, of course. In 1955, a regular job (two hours a day, 3 to 5, five days a week, 50 cents an hour) was a real prize for a teen. Especially a teen who didn't NOT want to babysit!

But I've never forgotten.

A while back there was a story about a Library Director in a large public library (I've lost the reference) who directed staff to severely weed the collection. This was done while the Head Librarian was on vacation, and raised a lot of flak among patrons and staff.

And now the University of New Hampshire is in on the act, as in the article below. I sympathize with the library, but also with the faculty. There is no easy answer.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

233. REVISED Becker MN Public Library , Great River Regional Libraries

[NOTE: The revision is that pictures have been added; see below.]

This library is located within a community center building and very close to the public school. Of the libraries I've visited, this one is probably the most kid-centered. There is a modest collection of adult fiction and non-fiction, and of course patrons have ready access to all of the Great River Regional Libraries resources. But still, Becker is ready for the kids to arrive, with  early literacy, school age, and teen areas spread out along the windows.

I have said that every library I visit has something I've never seen before in a library. In this case, that "something" is a prehistoric bison skeleton named Samuel. This skeleton, I believe, was discovered on land nearby and assembled by the husband of a former librarian. (Please, if my notes are inaccurate, add a comment and set the record straight.)

The connection between the library and the school was affirmed by several displays of children's art work, including ceramics and graphics in several media. Also meeting the needs of the after-school crowd, one table is designated as an OK place to eat a snack. The only other place I've seen this accommodation was in Weare, NH.

I enjoyed seeing a rack of paperback "honor books," which can be read and returned without checking them out. I've seen this once before, I think in Ontario last summer.

Very friendly staff here, and I bought a nice stack of paperback kids' books for next Halloween from the sale rack by the door.

The batteries in my camera quit just as I arrived here. For more about this library, go to And I promise I will go back and get a picture of the bison one of these days.

4/12/2014   car  with NJ

Library to the left, community center to the right.


Every library needs a focal a 10,000-year-old bison skeleton!

232. REVISED Monticello MN Public Library, Great River Regional Libraries

It was obvious before I walked in that Monticello once had a Carnegie library. Why so easy to spot? Designers took architectural details in stone from the old building and used them to create a backdrop for a bench with a sculpture of a child reading. The parts that are used include the cornerstone with the date 1909. It's very classy.

What seemed obvious to me turned out to be otherwise. Checking the book Carnegie Libraries of Minnesota, I saw that Monticello did not have a Carnegie library. I returned to Monticello on April 24 and talked to five staff people. It turns out that there was an older building, and pieces of that building were used to create the stone sculpture in front of the library. The year, 1909, a common year for Carnegie libraries, was coincidence. The statue of the boy reading was created by a local artist.

Now, as you can see in the first picture, there is an attractive modern building that was once a bank.  Inside, it is teens front and center, with a nice area by the windows. I liked the signs in this area, especially "Sit. Read. Relax. Good dog." and "Read What You Like." Just beyond the teen area are books on cassettes and VHS movies, as well as books on CD and DVD movies.

Another sign, one that I didn't notice until my second visit, says "Parents: Do not allow kids to push the handicap button unless needed. We are trying to conserve energy and heat." I discussed this with staff and learned that there is another reason, one that troubles me at the library where I work, too. When little kids, those who are too young or small to open the door without electronic assistance, learn to use the handicap button, they become able to leave the building without supervision...straight into the parking lot. Also, if a kid stands and studies cause and effect by banging on the button, it can be broken, requiring expensive repairs and inconveniencing patrons who rely on it. Therefore: Let's see this sign posted in a lot more places!

OK, off the soapbox, back to the library.

There are two areas designated for quiet study. One is long and narrow, with 3 tables. The other is larger and reserved for individual quiet study. If you are studying with a buddy, you are asked to use the other area. This seems to be a smart use of space. Between the two areas is a comfortable-looking "living room" area for browsing with four large chairs; I think they are recliners! I spotted separate shelving areas for biographies, cookbooks, and western fiction.

A cluster of at least four public computers were all in use; a sign above them says "Please use Print Preview before printing." I saw that at another library not long ago, and it's a very good reminder.

The children's area is decorated with a larger-than-life "Miss Frizzle" on the wall, exhorting us to "go fly a kite." This figure is dressed in fabric and it's clear someone put a lot of work and care into it.

The Friends of the Library were having a book sale today. We were there shortly after opening, and the sale was mobbed! Too crowded for browsing, so I settled for admiring the poster displayed outside the sale room, showing the many ways that the Friends support the library. I suspect that pictures of people actually doing various projects is probably a more effective recruiting tool than a simple list of "ways you can help."

For more about this library go to

4/12/2014   car   with NJ

The features that made me think there had once been a Carnegie library in town.
Larger-than-life Miss Frizzle overseeing the children's area.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Safe Haven Library, Ban Tha Song Yang, Thailand

Every library should provide a safe haven...this one, perhaps, more than most. I found it in the book Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter: Scaling Back in the 21st Century, by Lloyd Kahn. The best I can do is direct you to their website:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

231. St. Peter Library, St. Peter, Minnesota

I entered directly from the parking lot, but there is also an entrance through the attached community center. There is a magazine and paperback exchange, but if you have items to donate, "Please visit the circulation desk." A sign by the courtesy phone asks you to limit calls to 2 minutes.

The children's area has a window wall that overlooks a park and playground. There is a "playpen" made of plastic panels to confine the smallest crawlers. The only other place I've seen something like that was a very small library in a suburb west of Minneapolis. It seems to me a useful solution to a wiggly child with an adult who would like to select books--in the immediate area, of course!

Two "Little Tykes" computers have seats wide enough for two children each. Parents are asked to "Please supervise your child at the computer. Feel free to pull up a chair." Four regular computers are available for school age kids and there is a restroom in the children's area, always a good idea.

I was distracted from my look-around by two amusing signs outside the children's librarian's office:

"Everything in moderation. Except awesome. You can never have too much awesome."


"I'm going to stand outside, so if anyone asks, I'm outstanding."

I'm sorry I didn't meet the person who posted those signs.

One thing I totally meant to ask about, and forgot: The children's area has "Junior Fiction" shelves, and "Juvenile Non-Fiction." I wonder why the distinction between Junior and Juvenile. Perhaps someone reading this will comment and let me know.

The window wall extends beyond the children's area into teen territory, where there are the largest beanbag chairs/couches I have ever seen. No teens, however, just a mom reading to a toddler on one of the beanbags.

At some point I noticed the large stone columns throughout the library and had the sense to look up, fortunately. I would hate to have missed the wooden beams overhead with their blue ironwork. Gorgeous! The library was built, I believe, in 1998, after a devastating tornado tore through St. Peter.

This was my sixth stop of the day, so I haven't done the adult area justice. The window wall continues here. There is a nice "living room" area by a handsome fireplace. There is a grandfather clock, which I mentioned to a staffer. She told me that the loud chiming of that clock is very effective at reminding patrons of closing time! The adult area also has a large, soothing fish tank. Finally, I spotted a clever display titled "Red" any good books lately? The books on the shelves below all had red covers, of course.

For more about this library, go to

4/1/2014, car

230. New Ulm Public Library, New Ulm, MN

I entered at what appears to be a middle level, where I found a large mural of a prairie scene, a magazine exchange, a courtesy phone, at least 10 computers, the service desk, and...something jackets to check out!

Heading upstairs first, I found that the YA area is in the process of being moved. What I think is the new area is near a window wall and has some sofas and chairs that are comfy enough for a teen-age napper, judging from the teenage boy who appeared to be napping in a chair. Also on this level are the non-fiction collection and a couple of catalog computers. There are lots of study carrels around the perimeter.

The Friends of the Library have an attractive membership tree, a quilted tree with members' names added on paper "leaves." Nice idea.

On the lower level I saw a poster about a "Mono-Mouse-RM Magnifier" available through a trial program; this was near the Large-Type collection. I googled this, and got only ads, so I'll leave it to you to follow my footsteps, if you are interested.

The fiction collection and at least 24 Book Club in a Bag sets are on this level. The window wall faces the street, but there is a nice "living room" area plus various tables and chairs for browsers.

The children's area is in the other side of the building, reminiscent of the layout in Albert Lea. "Do not leave young children in the children's room without supervision. Library staff are NOT day care providers. If caregiver or parent cannot be found, the police department will be called. Children's safety is our primary concern." This sign is important, I think, because the children's area is so separate from the rest of the library. If a parent left a kid here and went off to do some research on a computer, say, there could be real problems.

A computer for kids to use is near the entrance. Beside it on a table are two iPads as well. There is no outside view, but many large, high windows make the space light and bright. I noticed that novelty and pop-up books may be enjoyed at the library but do not circulate. I expect that extends their lives significantly! There are many bins and low shelves of picture books.

The other end of the kids' space holds Junior fiction and non-fiction, lots of VHS and DVD movies, and notebooks with Accelerated Reader lists for two elementary schools. I'm not an AR fan, but if the schools are using that program, it's good that the library is participating in this way.

For more information, go to

4/1/2014, car

229. Truman Branch Library, Martin County Library System, Minnesota

Just inside the door of this small library is the children's area. There is an IBM "Little Tykes" computer here, and the wall is brightened by castle and princess cutouts. I like the curved-front bookcases in a nice bright green.

There are two public computers, and a sign asks that you use hand sanitizer before and after using them.

A sign I enjoyed says "Please ask if you have any fines to pay!! Sometimes I forget to mention it! This also helps the library system with our costs! Thank you!!"

The children's area is labeled the Junior area. There is a good collection of books, plus games. "Please put games away nicely if you get them out." It was impressive that even such a small space has clearly separate areas for "juniors" and tiny tots.

I may have missed these in other libraries, but this is the first place I recall seeing a collection of local high school yearbooks. The librarian told me that they are very popular, especially with people who come back to town for visits.

The librarian explained that the Truman Library is part of the Traverse de Sioux region, and gets a rotating selection of books each month to keep the collection fresh. And speaking of fresh, when she came to Truman she wanted to spruce the place up. So she painted the walls, added the above-mentioned castle and princess decorations, and (she didn't say, but I'm willing to bet) added the large labels for the Young Adult, Non Fiction, Audio, and Junior areas. The results are very effective.

For more about the Martin County Library System, which is part of the Traverse de Sioux region (the library doesn't seem to have its own web page), go to

4/1/2014, car

The Truman Library is next door to the fire station,
so it is well protected by a firefighter and an EMT.

228. Mapleton Public Library, Mapleton, MN

I didn't know that Mapleton is the Curling Capital of Southern Minnesota! I also didn't know that I was going to find a Carnegie library here.

Unlike many Carnegie libraries, this one, built in 1910, has not been enlarged. The only change I'm aware of is that a false ceiling was added in the 60's and removed in time for the centennial in 2010, exposing the original very attractive coved ceiling. The building features the tall windows so common to these libraries, making it very light and pleasant inside.

Being the only visitor to a small library is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it is nice to be greeted by the librarian, to chat and learn some of the history from her. On the other hand, it's difficult to poke around. I mean, I could have, but...well, for one thing, the library consists of two spaces, for kids and adults, with a circulation desk between them. Not much to poke into!

The children's area features a large, sturdy dollhouse, built by the librarian's husband, which I was told gets lots of use. There is also a life-sized cutout of the Wimpy Kid character; why have I not seen this anywhere else?

Probably because we were chatting, my notes are rather pathetic. You can learn more by going to{F5DA1AFA-6C5C-47A0-8D4A-9E26E5ABA0EB}.

4/1/2014, car

227. Delavan, MN

This library was the purpose of today's trip. I learned from the Small and Rural Libraries Round Table on Facebook that this tiny town, population about 200, had just opened its own library. The library is open only on Tuesdays, and I usually volunteer at a local school on Tuesdays, so Spring Break for the St. Paul schools gave me my chance. And it was an interesting experience.

The library, in a former bank building, was easy to find. I had been told that it would be open from 10 to 2, and I got there at about 11:15. The door was unlocked, so I went in. The place had an empty feel, and I saw a notice on a bulletin board with different hours. Hmmm. Since it was open, I decided to give myself a tour. The big feature, of course, is an enormous stainless steel door to a safe. There is a glassed-in corner office, a conference room, and a small children's room in the rear. I enjoyed this room for a few minutes, noting the attractive collection of books, a round table with four chairs, and the Put Me in the Zoo book with a matching spotted stuffed animal.

Then I went to the conference room, where a man was working on a laptop, and asked whether the library was open or not. Well, the librarian was not there, but she lets him stay and use the Wi-Fi. I'm glad she does, because he was a very  helpful guide. I learned that the corner office belongs to the Town Clerk, and the conference room is used for Town Council meetings. The big safe is used for storage of special materials. The American Legion uses the tables in the front for their morning coffee hour, and the small safe in the rear is used to store their ceremonial rifles. When the branch bank closed last Fall, the bank deeded the building to the town, and now they are clearly finding many ways to use it.

And the library? Well, in addition to the children's area, there are two public computers, a small collection of books, and a librarian's desk in the center of the space.

Some people say libraries are, or soon will be, unnecessary. Small  town libraries like this give me confidence that they will be with us for a long time.

If the Delavan librarian reads this, I'm sorry I missed you. Perhaps you will comment with information about whether Delavan shares books with other nearby libraries, and so forth. Please?

For pictures from the grand opening, go here:

4/1/2014, car

The sign is hard to read here; it says Delavan City Center Library.
That's my new car in the foreground!

226. Albert Lea Public Library, MN

Thanks to my GPS, I parked at what I learned was the rear of the library. Because of that, the place sort of sneaked up on me. Entering at what turned out to be an upper level, I found the lobby of the city hall and the library, with a number of tables for two spaced around. A left turn into the library surprised me with a long window wall looking out over a still-frozen lake that I'm sure will be lovely in a month! The next thing I spotted was a Guest Book, inviting people to indicate their presence and make comments...which I did. First time I've seen a Guest Book in a library!

After a bit of exploration, I realized that this level houses the adult browsing and fiction area and an area designated for teens, which share the window wall. I liked the availability of wheeled wooden carts throughout this area with this sign: "Changed your mind? Let us re-shelve your books. Place unwanted items here. Thank you."

An interesting display was headed "Choose Civility: The Power of Words. Freeborn County, MN. Read and find out how the characters 'choose civility'." The books appeared to related in various ways to bullying. I have read or heard somewhere about a "choose civility" program or emphasis; this is the first time I've seen it presented in this way. Nice.

There is a large collection of Playaway audio books "Made possible with funds provided by ALPL Foundation Book Store." There was also a large collection of regular audio books on CD. But I still hadn't seen any non-fiction or children's material. I went back to the lobby and down two flights of stairs (lined with very nice children's art from the '2009 Art Zone Project) and found the bookstore. After a quick look, I headed up to what I now knew was the "middle level." As I entered this part of the library, I chuckled to see a sign sharing library statistics from 2013, and pointing out that "ALPL circulated 150% more items/hour than Austin." A bit of neighborly rivalry!

One side of this level is called "The Information Library," a nice way to designate non-fiction, especially as it has its own space. There is a long window wall, matching the one in the fiction area on the upper level. I saw at least eight public computers, study tables, and a respectable non-fiction collection, including the J items.

Across the way (beneath City Hall, I believe) is the children's area. I was told that this space is quite new, and I like the way the library is divided. The children's area can be completely closed off from the Information Library, allowing for lively (i.e. noisy) programs. One side of this space has, of course, a wall of windows looking out at the lake; the other side has a very handsome mural painted by someone whose roots are in Albert Lea. I'm sorry I didn't get the artist's name, but I did take a picture. See below...but be aware that one photo can in no way do this art justice. If you visit, ask someone to show you the clever trompe l'oeil that is worked into the mural.

In keeping with the "civility" material on the upper level, the kids have a wall with pictures of children and descriptions of what they have done to merit placement in the "Kids for Kindness" display. Examples: "I say please and thanks to the lunch ladies at school." "I held the door for my Mom when her hands were full."

This area includes a puppet theater on wheels (nice idea), wood bins with Duplo, Lincoln Logs, etc., padded benches along the window wall, a bright rug for the tiny tots area, and a coat closet with hooks and a bench.

For more information about this library, go to or

4/1/2014, car

The photo can't begin to do the mural justice!