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 http://alplonline.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Albert-Lea-Public-Library/109033015805163.
The photo can't begin to do the mural justice!