Saturday, June 28, 2014

248. Cornell Public Library, Cornell, WI

There are many reasons to visit a specific library: follow up on an intriguing article or picture, complete a regional group, drive down the road and see a universal library sign.... How about "want to visit a shoe outlet and a certain 'boutiquelet' with a big sale in Wisconsin, look at the map, discover a small town library between the two sales;" yes, that will suffice.

The town of Cornell celebrated its centennial last year and the public library published a booklet about the library as part of the celebration. The booklet is clearly written and illustrated with old photographs, a very nice piece of work.

 The brick building has some interesting architectural details, like the crenelated roofline on the front. Inside, as in so many libraries, there is a clear interest in local history, with a floor-to-ceiling old wooden "history cabinet," an antique wheelchair holding teddy bears, and many old photographs that give a broad look at town life, from a children's playground parade to a visit from Senator Kennedy.

All is not old, however. There are four public Internet computers, and wifi is available for those with their own laptops. Although the library is unaffiliated with any regional consortium, it offers free interlibrary loan service, faxing, and test proctoring. The latter two are too often not available in larger libraries, so finding them here is commendable. And they are open about 30 hours a week!

Young patrons will find a cozy corner with a bright rug, enough books to get them started on a life of literacy, and a whole menagerie of stuffed animals. There is a summer reading program and a LEGO club.

Adults will find plenty of media and books. Perhaps reflecting its roots in the Presbyterian Sunday School, there is a large collection of books marked "IN" for inspirational.

Leaving the library, we realized we were hungry. That's when we discovered that Cornell is on a popular bike trail, which apparently provides enough business to support a very nice deli and ice cream shop, with friendly staff and excellent food. We left replete, taking with us a slab of "chocolate fudge cheese." Sorry, you'll just have to visit Cornell yourself to learn about that--but it's good!

For more about this library, visit their website at or look for them on Facebook.

6/27/2014,  car, with NJ

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

247. Kimball Library, Great River Regional

As is often the case in small towns, this library shares space with the City Hall. Here,both city hall and library share a historic building, with a long, narrow space for the library and an adjacent somewhat wider space for civic functions--and overflow library programs. It appears that it was originally one large space, and since there are traces of a stage at one end, I'll hazard a guess that it started life as a music hall or theater.

Despite the length of the room, the first thing that caught my eye when I entered was a mural on the far wall, a nicely painted scene of parkland with trees. (See below.) The front of the stage, where it is visible, is painted to look like a white fence. There are several other places where the wall is painted, including a shallow column that juts out from the wall. The "column" is made to look like a tree, and the clock hanging on it made me think of the entrance to a large bird's home.

Picture books here are labeled "Everybody Books," which I always like to see. There is an old wooden school desk/chair unit.

I spotted one, perhaps two, public computers.

I enjoyed talking to the librarian about my upcoming trip to Glacier Park, by way of libraries in North Dakota, Canada, and Montana. I went out to the car and got my "travel notebook" so I could tell her about specific stops, because she once lived in Montana. She strongly recommended visiting a library that is on my "maybe" list, and so I shall try.

OK, what was most special about this visit is that I believe I have now visited ALL 32 of the library branches in the Great River Regional Library. All different, all interesting, all providing information and literacy for their communities. I hope your patrons know what a wonderful resource they have.

For more about this library, go to You should go there especially to see the long shot of the building; the details are great, especially the upstairs windows.


I quickly learned that the library door is
the one over to the right of the picture.

This mural really opens up the back wall.

A display of science items--perhaps prizes for the SRP? I forgot to ask.

246. Belgrade, Minnesota: Great River Regional Library

This is actually and formally the Myrtle Mabee library, named for the woman who founded the Belgrade Reader's Club, date not given. The bequest was made by a relative in 1951. A tall, glass-fronted bookcase holds many very old books--perhaps from Myrtle's time?

The science theme is evident here from the first step in the door, where a bulletin board invites you to "Experiment with Nature and Reading," and members of the summer reading program have their names posted on butterfly cutouts.

The adults get the space farthest from the door, with four public computers and a large "alcove" space lined with periodicals, newspapers, and fiction. Kids get the light, bright space near the windows where once again I saw double-decker picture book bins. I'm starting to believe that I must have overlooked this sort of book display; it just isn't possible that I'd see it for the first time in Albany, and then one place after another since them. Here, I remembered to ask about the accessibility of the books in the lower bins. As I guessed, it's not problem for the small patrons who want these books, no problem for shelvers, and a bit of a hassle for request hunters. So it goes.

A sign by the desk points out that "It is important that you have your library card with you when checking out library materials." True...but I notice that in small-town libraries where the staff knows just about every patron, there are workarounds!

Staff in Great River move around a lot, filling in at various branches as needed. That's why a librarian here said, when I approached the desk after wandering around and making my notes, "I recognized you from your visit to..." That happens more and more here in MN.

For more about this library, go to,


136a. Cold Spring, Great River Regional Library -- revisit

So, why revisit Cold Spring today? Well, it's up near the other two places I planned to go. And, hmmm...the Cold Spring Bakery. And a great bacon cheeseburger with fries. That should be enough reasons.

It's definitely a pleasant place to visit. Not too much has changed since I was last there, except that teens now have a hangout near the large, bright window, with a tall table and four very colorful chairs--see picture. I was invited to try out the beanbag chairs nearby, but pictured myself trying to get up from a beanbag chair, and wisely declined. I'm sure they are incredibly comfortable! In addition to good seating, there is also an anime club for teens.

Like the rest of Great River, the Cold Spring summer reading program is science-themed. I like the "guess the scientist" poster, with a quotation, bio, and picture...and come back next week for the answer. It appears that there will be one of these each week. Nice.

The staff, as they were at my last visit, are friendly and fun to talk to. But...the cheeseburger and the bakery were calling, as well as two more stops, so I had to move on.

For more about this branch, hop on over to Better yet, go visit. The staff will be happy to tell you how to find the restaurant and the mmmmm bakery.

6/18/2014, car

The new teen seating...

...which is right inside that window.

26b. Anoka County Library, Mississippi Branch, Fridley MN--Revisit

The purpose of this visit was to meet someone and hand off some memorabilia from the Volksmarch Association: But since I was there, and I noticed a few new things I like, it gets another entry.

First, rental DVDs here are $1.00 for 21 days. Wow! I expect this is the same throughout the Anoka County system, but in the county where I work, rental is 50 cents a day!

At this branch, oversized books are shelved flat on top shelves. I've seen many places where oversized books are flat on the bottom shelves, not on the top. A staff person said that she'd rather not have books on the top or bottom shelves, and I can support that as far as ease of access is concerned. Of course, I'm pretty tall; I don't mind books on the top shelves, but I have colleagues who would take the opposite view.

A very clever display on an endcap invites patrons to "Read 'em before you meet 'em--Books by deceased authors." In addition to books, a brown paper lunch bag was displayed as a tombstone with R.I.P. Nice.

The kids area has joined forces with the Children's Museum in St. Paul, and has features like those in the Woodbury branch library of Washington county: tree trunk, picnic table, grill, farmers market. They also have a "bus" with a driver's seat and steering wheel, plus a bench seat for readers; let's hope the driver doesn't read! In the place of a place to flash your bus pass, there is a phonics spinner: three wheels with letters allowing a kid to create CVC words like bus and bug. Another surprise: double-decker picture book bins. Why is this a surprise? Because a week earlier I saw them, for the first time I could recall, at a couple of small libraries in Great River Region. Did I miss these on my earlier visits? Are they new? A mystery.

A mural in this area shows the Mississippi river with the Minneapolis skyline. Another favorite, and new to me, is a set of shallow shelves (picture a wide kindergarten easel with shelves) with wooden letters about 6" tall. Kids can put the letters in alphabetical order, or create words on these shelves.

Another favorite: this library is on a bus line.

For more about this library, go to

6/10/14,  bus

Thursday, June 5, 2014

245. Melrose, MN -- Great River Regional Library

For a moment when I walked into the lobby here, I thought I had been here before. No, I was thinking of a library in (I think) SELCO (southeastern MN). The similarity is an open lobby with a window wall straight ahead and with an open staircase to the lower level. Here in Melrose, the police department is on that lower level, perhaps wasting the view of the park and lake--assuming that the police spend most of their time out chasing bad guys, not looking out windows. But I digress...

Even before I entered the library proper, I knew that Melrose was the proud home of an Olympian. I had missed the billboard out on the highway (the librarian told me about it), but I saw a display of articles in a case by the door. Take a look or give a listen at to learn about this local hero, Amanda Smock, and her 2012 Olympic performance.

Immediately inside the library a table with assorted science gear (Geiger counter, weighing balance, lenses, rocks and minerals...) reminded me that this summer's reading program theme is science. I think that focusing summer reading programs on science is a brilliant idea, by the way.

There is a play area for little kids that includes the typical dollhouses, play kitchens, and Duplo blocks, but also the very un-typical car than can be driven by paddling ones feet along the floor. Do they actually get to ride it around the library? Yikes!

And how can it be that, after not seeing double-decker book bins for two years, I've now seen them in three libraries in the same day? Very strange.

There are a couple of study tables. At one, it appeared that a tutor was helping an adult learner, something very nice to see.

The free-standing shelves have a nice gray finish with dark green and natural wood detailing, very attractive. Paperback fiction is shelved horizontally in spinners. That is, instead of six books side-by-side in a compartment of a spinner, there are perhaps eight books in a stack. Interesting, effective, and new to me.

There is a modest-sized tech room with three computers, plus a couple of catalog-only computers.

For more about this library, go to


119a. Sauk Centre revisit -- Great River Regional Library

I made this revisit primarily because Sauk Centre was on my route between Grey Eagle and Melrose and I always enjoy visiting Carnegie libraries.

Everything seemed quite familiar, including the beautiful fireplace, the original detailing on the plaster walls, and the vertical blinds. The other time I visited I was not so obsessed with "living room" reading areas, and I was not yet asking permission to take interior pictures. This time I got the picture, see below.

The media collection must be growing: "Books on CD are now on both sides of this shelf."

As on my other visit, the history museum in the lower level was closed, but the on-going Friends of the Library book sale was available. Price of books? "Freewill offering," paid in a box upstairs.

And, also as on my other visit, I couldn't immediately find the exit from the main level!

For more about this library, go to


244. Grey Eagle, MN -- Great River Regional Library

Once again, bikes on the sidewalk signal "kids inside"-- a sight to warm the heart of anyone who cares about the future of libraries and reading. Even if they are inside using the computers!

The first half of the shelves on the right wall hold assorted media, with a sign encouraging patrons to use the Great River (GRRL) media materials, but reminding them that the library is not responsible for any damage the materials may cause.

The back half of the library is for youngsters, starting with two quite little ones, a boy and a girl, who were having a blast with the wooden train on its low table. There were book bins here, but they seemed to be for board books, not picture books, and it looked to me as if only adults and older kids would be able to reach into them. I kind of wondered about that, but forgot to ask.

A teen area has games like Pictionary safe on the top shelf. There was a sign encouraging teens to try "book bombing." Slips of paper said: "READ THIS! TEEN READ WEEK! Take this bookmark, put it in a book you really want other teens to read. Add what really mesmerized you about this book below." I don't know when Teen Read Week is, as there was no date, but I like the idea and I hope some teens did it!

Some shelves in the adult collection have name plates, suggesting contributions. There are a lot of large print books in the collection here.

A plaque says that this is a "1993 GE Community Library," developed with support of the Lions club.

If the man who told me about his long-expired New York library card reads this post, you are quite right, I should make the trip to visit New York City libraries, especially the Central library with the lions and the Brooklyn library where my Aunt Ruth once worked!

For more about this library, see


243. Swanville, MN -- Great River Regional Library

One mark of a small town is a collection of kids' bicycles on the sidewalk in front of the library. First, they are not locked...this is a small town. Second, they are evidence of kids inside, in this case three boys clustered around an Internet computer.

The lobby of the Swanville library (which shares a building with other town offices) has a nicely-executed mural/map of the town painted on the wall.

After seeing two-tiered picture book bins for the first time in Albany, MN, a few hours earlier, I was surprised to see them again here. Here, the top bins held books, the lower bins held book-and-media sets. Many series books are shelved in upright stacks facing front, so the cover of the top book is visible. This is an interesting approach, making it instantly clear what series you are looking at and capturing the eye with the cover. I think it may also save shelf space.

There seemed to be a lot of westerns for the size of the library; they must be very popular here. And the non-fiction DVDs caught my eye; the non-fiction collection seemed large relative to the overall collection of DVDs. Perhaps I missed some?

I liked the two easy chairs by the sunny window, but didn't take a picture because the chairs were occupied.

For more about this library, go to I bet the Pint Sized Polkas program coming up on July 3 will be a hoot!


242. Upsala Minnesota -- Great River Regional Library

Upsala Library, I was told, moved from one side of its building to another in 2010, increasing its space somewhat. It's still a rather small space, but well-utilized. There is plenty for the youngest patrons, including a nylon ball pit and a play tent! A display for the older kids featured LEGO and Transformers books and DVDs.

Every library I visit promotes literacy, of course, but often the aim seems to be solely pre-readers. There was something on the wall about helping pre-schoolers get "ready to read," and I'm sorry I didn't copy it into my notebook. I was distracted from doing that by two intriguing signs for older readers/learners. One was a tongue-twister "The instinct of an extinct insect stinks!" The other was a poem that has many variations: "Whether the weather is warm / Whether the weather is not / We have to put up with the weather / Whether we like it or not." I hope, and want to believe, that these are changed periodically. They reminded me of the Ridgedale library in the Hennepin County system, which has/had vocabulary words and definitions posted throughout the adult shelves.

One more favorite feature here: Books are returned into a plastic laundry basket perched on a chair. No automated materials handling needed here, just a practical eye on "what do we need" and "how can we save money?" [Friendly librarian, too!]

For more about this library go to

6/4/2014   car

241. Albany, Minnesota -- Great River Regional Library

Beautiful day to drive out into farming country with five libraries and one re-visit on the agenda.

I started my visits in Albany, Minnesota, which is on the Lake Wobegon Trail. The library shares a building with other town services, and is entered from a generic parking lot. But just go in and walk straight ahead, and you come to a large window wall that looks out on parkland and the trail. It's a startling and wonderful contrast.

There are a couple of couches where one can sit comfortably while browsing or reading the paper. In two places along the wall there are shelves wide enough for laptops, and there are chairs, but I didn't spot electrical outlets, so be sure your laptop is well charged!

A very interesting feature, around to the right when you enter, is a mural that is enhanced by 3-D features on top of a shelf. Most notable is a three-step ladder that appears to lead to a "porthole" in the mural. (I wish I'd taken a picture.) This reminded me of the ladder in the Wild Rumpus bookstore in Minneapolis. If you love children's books, you should visit that bookstore and ask what I'm talking about!

Something I hadn't seen before was two-tiered bins for picture books. Bins are common, and a very convenient way to shelf picture books. (Not so convenient if you are looking for books to fill requests, but no matter.) Until now, however, I've only seen the "bin above, shelf below" arrangement. I like the double-decker arrangement.

I learned that I had just missed a visit by 150 or so fourth, fifth, and sixth graders who had ridden bikes along the Lake Wobegon Trail from their school in Avon Lake. I believe that half the kids came to the library while half visited Dairy Queen, then they swapped places. What an invasion that must have been! I'm sorry I missed them, but of course, if they had been there, I would have missed a very nice chat with the staff. [I'm assuming, of course, that having such a large influx of kids would keep the staff very busy!]

For more about this library, visit

6/4/2014   car

Enter from the parking lot...

...and discover what is on the other side of the building.
The picture doesn't do justice to the view.