Saturday, May 31, 2014

223a. Cokato, MN, Great River Regional Library System

The last time I was here, renovations were imminent, with some furniture marked for sale and other signs of upcoming changes. I did not take any interior pictures then, nor did I now, but I can tell you that the effect of the changes was immediately apparent. The space is light and open, more spacious than before. The librarian told me that although certain bulky shelves are gone, they have been more than made up for by tall bookcases between the windows.

The children's area is set off from the rest of the library by a long, low bookcase and three large, colorful graphics mounted in Plexiglas and hanging form the ceiling. A new table for this area will arrive soon.

The center of the library space holds a study table with attractive upholstered chairs; it looks very inviting.

One of the biggest differences when I visited this time was the presence of children, about 20 of them. They were the third graders from the nearby school, with their teacher. A couple of weeks before school closes, the school's media center/library (which I've heard is very good) closes for inventory and other end-of-year rituals, so the third graders come to the public library for a couple of visits. This allows the library staff to ensure that each child has a library card and the kids are aware of the summer possibilities at the library. Nice plan! I hope the third grade teacher sees this, because I should have told him that I thought his class was very well-behaved.

Nice work, Cokato...I'd say that your changes are very well done!

To learn more about the Cokato library, go to or

5/30/2014, car

240 Bird Island, MN, Public Library, Pioneerland Region

I have some history with Bird Island, related to harvesting floorboards from a parochial school that was being demolished in the 90s, for use as a karate dojo floor in New Brighton. I've been looking forward to visiting there again. I think I recognized the restaurant where Sensei and I had lunch, but I could not spot the site of the school.

But of course, that's not why I was there. I was there to visit the library and coincidentally, to congratulate Shirley on her retirement from the position of Library Director. Yes, I walked in on a party--that's a first.

On with the visit. The entrance holds a magazine exchange. I spotted at least four Internet computers. Not only are there historic photos on the walls, but this is one of the few places where I've seen law books: Minnesota Rules, 2009; Minnesota Legal Manual, 2011-2012; and Minnesota Statues, 2004.

The kids' area in the back has three computers. I like the poster that says "Penworthy Bear says... pick the perfect book for you." A good message there, for patrons of all ages. There is an interesting round table with six indents. If I had a prize, I would award it to the person who thought of mounting sections of eave gutters to the wall for displaying picture books. They are beige outside, painted a nice blue inside. Brilliant! There is a separate room beyond the children's area where kids or teens can hang out.

I didn't see much of the adult area, as I think that's where the party was. I did get to chat with one of the guests, who seemed disappointed that I was not a reporter covering the event. Sorry about that. And I had a brief, pleasant conversation with Shirley, the retiree. I got her permission to take the picture, shown below, of the pleasant browsing area. I learned that the building used to house a doctor's office/clinic; the browsing area was the waiting room.

For more about this library, have a look at or

5/30/2014, car


I understand that this is a popular place to relax with the morning paper!


239. Glencoe Minnesota Library, Pioneerland region

Start with a large high school building, a nice one that is on the Registry of Historic Places. Move the students and all to a different building, and offer the entire second floor to the public library. Welcome to the Glencoe, MN, public library! It's primarily a very long space with a wall of tall classroom windows.

I happened to enter at the children's area end of the space. I spotted a large dinosaur stenciled on the wall; a clock with Read Read Read on the face; a huge dreamcatcher; a child-scale two-sided reading table with a sloped top (I've only seen a few of these in my travels, and I like them.); lots of books, including series books in spinners. Just a whole lot of nice details. There's an nice safe enclosure for the littlest patrons, with board books, a very large teddy bear, and some activity boards on the wall, and nearby several chairs for supervising adults. There are also a small three-step stage (or tiered seating?) and a wooden train set on a low table.

A large "alcove" on the side away from the windows provides an area for teens. A large picture of a finger and lips forms the iconic op-art "shushing librarian" as a reminder. There's a wall of fiction, a diner booth, and some other seating. Adjacent to this space is a small room designated for Wii. I learned from the librarian that the kids were challenged to do a certain amount of reading in order to "earn" the creation of this room. Neat idea!

As is so often the case in libraries, there are historic photographs and special old books in locked cases. Glencoe has something that goes beyond this. Down a side hall one of the old classrooms is being prepared to be the book sale room. In this room, the old chalkboards are still on the wall. The wooden floor is being rehabbed and old desks are standing by. This room will be preserved as an example of a classroom from the 1930s. A decade before I started school, but I think I'll have to return and see it later.

And lest you think that it's all about the past, there is a Tech Center with 14 computers.

About this time I got into an extended conversation with the librarian...and thus I slighted the adult area of the library. I was having too much fun, and then I needed to head to my next visit! It did appear that there is a windowed reading area in one corner.

For more about this library, go to

5/30/2014  car

The large door is the main entrance to the first floor of offices.
The library is on the second floor, and the smaller door
leads to a small "elevator lobby" for accessibility.

This is a side view. Go to the library site (link above)
for a more impressive picture of the building!

Minnesota libraries frequently are graced with quilts,
and Glencoe's is a gorgeous one!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

81b. Arlington Hills Community Center & Library, St. Paul, MN

So let's say you've outgrown your Carnegie library on the east side of St. Paul, and it has some structural problems that mean simply enlarging it won't work. What to do? Build a fantastic new community center a few blocks away, and house the branch library there.

Now let's say your hobby is visiting libraries, and you've been following the progress of this one for months, and it finally opens; you want to write it up for the blog, of course. Does that mean you should hop on a bus and get there for the Grand Opening Celebration? Well, yes and no. Yes, if you want to feel the vibrant energy that an event like this engenders. Yes if you want to be surrounded by excited people of many different hear marimbas inside and drumming outside.... No if you want to see the library in action as a library and perhaps have a chance to talk to someone on staff; everyone was incredibly busy, of course!

I'll share what I can, and I'll visit again after a few weeks and see how things are going.

In the children's area, the fun starts with the folding doors that will help contain children--and noise-- when needed; the doors are finished with a chalkboard surface, and people were writing all sorts of messages on them. There is a complete play kitchen that was being explored in detail by two toddler boys. A free-standing three-panel structure has a different activity on each surface, with ideas to help parents and caregivers prompt children. I especially liked the idea to "Add a word," building from (for example) Holes, Round holes, Six round holes, Six round eye holes... and so forth.

The adult area has eight Internet computers ready to go, and there is room for four more. Both the adult area and the media area, which flank the service desk, have comfortable seating by full-length windows. Near one of these areas, I spotted a box labeled "Curiosity: You can't buy it." The box turned out to hold the notebook and swaps of a Geocaching box.

It looks as if the collection is completely new, shining, and very appealing.

The one person I was able to talk to was a member of the Friends of the St. Paul library, and I bought one of their new T-shirts as my contribution to the celebration.

For more information, go to and You'll also want to visit these sites for pictures. I had my camera with me, but I try to keep people out of my pictures, and that was impossible today. I'll make a return visit in a few weeks and update this post.

5/22/2014, bus/walk

No building pictures, but here's my new T-shirt.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

238. Royalton, MN --Great River Regional Libraries

I've often been close to this library without even knowing it; it's just one block off Rte. 10, where it shares quarters with Town Council chambers, a museum, and the police department.

My favorite things in the children's area were the framed art by first graders, each showing a child's face and a speech balloon: "Walk" "Be kind" "Raise your hand" and "Shhhhhh"  These look like a bygone classroom's "rule for our class," done in a very nice way.

Reading shelves is not my favorite activity as a library page, so when I see a sign that says "Relax, leave the shelving to us. Thank you." I want to cheer. I know patrons mean well when they return books to shelves, but it's just not that easy!

The collection of non-fiction looked pretty decent, but I wondered why the World Book encyclopedia was on such a high shelf.

There is a glass-fronted bookcase very much like one in my childhood home, where each shelf has a horizontally-hinged glass door that can be lifted for access. [I wonder whatever became of the one I remember. Hmmm.]

My favorite feature, and I was so happy to see it even in such a small branch, is a "living room" near a floor-to-ceiling window. I got permission to take a picture of it, which you can see below. I've decided to start getting photos of these "living rooms" when I find them. My motivation: the library where I work will be remodeled in 2015, and I hope, hope, hope that we will get our own "living room." If the right people are looking at the blog, perhaps there is hope.

And another favorite was when I told the staff person that my hobby is visiting libraries and she asked "Are you the blogger?"

For more about this branch library, go to

5/14/2014, car

123a. Little Falls, MN revisit -- Great River Regional Library

I first visited this Carnegie library in 2012. Today it was on my route between libraries, so I decided to stop in again. (Yes, I have a soft spot for Carnegie libraries.) This time, I spotted a few things I missed before. I also got permission to take some interior pictures.

The library has been enlarged, but the classic Carnegie features remain. Two levels up from the main entrance is the teen area; I didn't go up there on this trip, because I could hear that teens were there, and I like to give teens their space. On the first level up, I spotted a couple of features I missed the first time,  a pair of rooms that would have been on the "back wall" of the original and now look down on the lobby. One appears to be a study room. The other is curtained and has a Staff Only sign...break room, perhaps?

One level down from the lobby, in the basement of the original, the children's area is very bright and cheerful. The lighting seems especially bright in the preschool area, which is nice. I noticed this time that puppets can be checked out, and there is a large poster (maybe 5 feet square) with pictures of insects and wonderful words like "nibble, gobble, gnaw" for adults to enjoy with kids.

For more about this branch, take a look at my original post (search for "123") or go to

5/14/2014, car

The first two pictures were taken one level up from the lobby, in the original Carnegie building.

This pleasant "living room" is in the "new" part of the library on the main floor.

I like this book-themed bike rack.
There will be one more picture, but I have to rotate it before I post it.

237. Pierz, Minnesota -- Great River Regional Library

Another storefront library. An interesting location: A bar to the left has sidewalk tables that I learned are sometimes used by people with laptops, using the library's wi-fi. And patrons of the garage on the other side can use the library's cute, small reading room to the left of the entrance, as a convenient place to wait and read during an oil change. The library itself was once a movie theatre, and there is a picture on the wall behind the service desk as "evidence" of this former life.

The kids' area feels rather like a long alcove. There is a TV/VCR available, but the focal point is a large plastic barn, a child-sized playhouse with cushions and chairs inside. I learned that this is a favored reading spot, and that some kids also open a window on the side and play that it is a drive-up restaurant; very creative!

A large area to the back has some long tables pushed together on one side; there was room for them to be separated, giving flexibility for various kinds of events and meetings. To the right is a teen area with a couch, books (of course), and a TV monitor for game play. I liked the posters on the wall here, with literary terms defined and illustrated: conflict, protagonist, setting, theme, plot.

Beyond the teen area there are some paperbacks with a sign "Do you need a book for cabin, boat, or beach? $1.00 for a bag of books." I also spotted a shelf of westerns. It was nice to see a sign "Did you like Louis L'Amour? Try..." and it listed five authors, including Tony Hillerman, with titles that would appeal to Western readers. Nice reader's advisory.

Books with colorful jackets stood on display on top of just about every shelf, which added to the brightness of this small branch. The librarian on duty (she told me that she has a new title, but a failed to write it down) showed me one of the neatest things I've seen in my travels: a photo album with pictures taken at library programs going back to 1971! This was not hidden away, but right out where patrons can peruse it. Imagine the fun of taking your kids to the library and showing them a picture of you in a summer reading program from 30 or 40 years ago! I was glad to hear that pictures are still being added.

For more about the Pierz library, go to

The siding is a new addition. There used to be a bright mural, but the weather did it in. A shame to lose the mural, but the inside makes up for it, in my opinion, and it was captured for the photo album, of course. See the tables to the left? You can sit there on a nice day and use the library's wi-fi.

236. Foley, Minnesota -- Great River Regional Library

Like many other small-town libraries, Foley's library shares a building with other municipal services. Entering from the street, you walk down a long corridor with windows to the library on your left and artwork on the walls to the right. It's a nice "arrival zone."

Inside, to the right is an area for little kids, with toys, picture books, and easy readers. To the left are two catalog computers and five for Internet access. Nearby is a small table with four chairs; I can see this being useful for a parent wanting to use a computer but needing to keep a small child nearby. Nice touch. There is also a box for donations of "gently used" books, DVDs, and CDs, to be sold to support the library. Having the box would serve as a reminder to patrons that these items are wanted; another nice touch.

Four carrels along the wall hold games and puzzles. In addition to the windows that look out to the corridor, there are large windows facing the street. Near these windows is a nice "living room" area for browsers.

The "stacks" shelving is very tall; the top of the shelves must be at least 8 feet high...have fun dusting that! Fortunately the top and bottom shelves are not used.

This is where I saw the first notices about the upcoming summer reading program, which I was pleased to see is science-based. Tiny kids through those in grade 6 with "Experiment with Reading," and grades 6 through 12 will "Read--Think--React." I look forward to seeing how this program evolves.

For more about this library, look at

5/14/2014, car

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Brooklyn, NY -- a Family Connection

I just received an email from the Brooklyn, NY, Public Library, talking about the centennial of its Brownsville Branch. This happens to be a branch that was totally devoted to children's materials, and the pictures with the article will make clear why it was needed.

The family connection? My Aunt Ruth McEvoy worked for the Brooklyn Public Library, in children's services, in the middle of the last century. The pictures below are from one of her old photo albums, and at least one of the pictures shows the Brownsville branch.


This is the Brownsville Branch, from the article!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Another Library Visitor

I've just finished reading and admiring a brand-new (2014) book, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson. Dawson has traveled across the country photographing libraries, large and small, most active but some closed. To my surprise and pleasure, I spotted about five that I also have visited and documented here.

Dawson's approach relates to libraries per se and their role in society. His chapter titles give you a glimpse:
  • The American Public Library
  • Economics
  • Civic Memory and Identity
  • Urban and Rural Libraries
  • Art and Architecture
  • Evolving Libraries
  • Literature and Learning
My approach is perhaps quirkier; I'm always searching for a sign, program, or feature that I've never found before, and then I like to share what I have found: a poem reminding patrons to leave books for the staff to reshelve, in Goffstown, NH; a 10,000-year-old bison skeleton in Becker, MN; a river boat in Lacrosse, WI.

Dawson's book includes essays from the likes of Bill Moyers, Barbara Kingsolver, and Ann Patchett. My blog, except for the comments, is just me.

I do recommend this book to anyone who is intrigued by the endless variety of libraries in the United States. For a review of the book, go here: