Friday, July 25, 2014

98a. Hennepin County, St. Louis Park Branch, revisit before renovations

What an adventure, just getting to this library. Let's pretend that I can create a sidebar within this blog post, and this is it. So: I started by getting directions from Metro Transit, usually a very effective way to start. Rode the 61 to downtown Minneapolis, caught the 675 to the Louisiana Transit Center, then the 604 to "Louisiana Ave & Oak Park Village Dr." That stop didn't show on the map, so I asked the driver to please let me know when we got there. "Never heard of it." Oh. Well, do you know where the library is? "No." A fellow passenger said I should get off two stops after he did, and the library would be on my left.

I apparently got off too soon, and didn't see a library. So I asked at a gas station and was pointed in a certain direction by a woman who sounded very confident. "Go that way two lights, then turn right." I walked that way two lights, didn't see any sign of a library, and stopped at a bakery. (Got a cookie to fuel the trek.) Yes, I should turn right and go until I saw the high school. Turn right, then left; the library is diagonally behind the high school. Three more inquiries and I found it.

I remembered the library and its less-than-obvious location once I had found it. I was visiting today just to refresh my memory from my first visit almost two years ago, because this branch will close in a couple of days for a month of renovations: new carpet, new HVAC, some furniture changes.

The building is a long rectangle with the entrance in the middle of one long side, the information desk directly ahead as you walk in, and the circulation and service desk to the right. The children's area is to the left and features computers for kids, a large windowed alcove, and of course, plenty of books. It seemed quite spacious. The end of one picture book unit had a mounted drawing toy that I think is called a "Magna-Doodle," with a sign that reminds parents "When I draw lines and shapes I am learning to write."

There is a teen area along the back wall and a "living room" area by windows behind the info desk. Another "living room" is along the wall opposite the children's area, and this is where the periodicals and papers are found. I saw a sign indicating "Westerns" and had to chuckle; there was one shelf, perhaps two feet long; after three days of visiting Montana libraries, well, let's just say this is a pretty small collection!

I used a computer to check on my bus trip back, and the route finder suggested a different bus entirely. A helpful librarian actually walked me outside and pointed where I needed to go to catch the #17, and made sure that I had a #17 schedule from the rack in the lobby. The walk was about three blocks, and when I got there I realized...this is where I got off the 604 bus and got the directions that sent me 180 degrees from where I should have gone! Needless to say, the trip home was much easier! Well, unless you count the 30 or so kids and their teachers/leaders/counselors who boarded by Lake Calhoun and stayed on to the Uptown transit center.

I'll be back in a month or so to see what changes are made.

For more information about this library, go to .

7/25/2014, bus & walking.........

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Oxymoronic "Little" Free Library

Finally, I got myself, my camera, and this "little free library" together at the same time and place. (If you are not familiar with little free libraries, take a look at There are many of these--I can think of at least five that I could walk to in a half hour or less. But this one stands out.

The upper level has books for adults, and a better assortment than I have seen in other Little Libraries. The lower level has books for kids. As you can see, it's about double the size of a typical Little Library. I just had to put it in here, because I think it's very cool.

7/22/2014, walking


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

269. Glendive, Montana

I have to start with these words from the library's web page: "A library is a community's gift to its future." That really says it.

This library was once a bank, and the transformation has used the building in a number of interesting ways. The drive-up banking window now serves as the book drop, with a locked box on the inside that projects into part of the children's area. Notice that the building is round: shelves are end-on to the walls, creating a radiating pattern. (It appears that each shelf is labeled with a donor's name.) An original entrance has become a small "sun room" for relaxing with something to read--or just relaxing; see the second picture below.

In the lobby is a plaque honoring a "Special Friend to Libraries," Frederic E. Dion.

Just inside the door I spotted "Keep calm and have fun with math," with materials from Check it out if you are interested in STEM activities for kids, especially but not exclusively the "M" of STEM. Notice that dot-org; they are not selling anything.

A dinosaur rug in the children's area is appropriate for this part of the country. There is a mural on the wall, while blue-and-white fabric creates a "sky" overhead. There are two children's computers, a kid-size easy chair, and a table with eight chairs. As I've seen in several other Montana libraries, there is a set of standard-sized kindergarten blocks, a classic construction toy. I like this sign: "We hope you enjoy the children's area. Thank you for helping your child clean up after playing."

The summer reading program is for all ages. A display of several dozen buckets allows participants to deposit tickets for the prize they hope to win. The buckets are color coded to indicate the age group each prize is intended for. It appears that each bucket represents a donation from a local business, and most of the prizes I noticed represent substantial contributions. Refer back to the first sentence I wrote at the top of the page.

A teen area has a tall table with chairs, an upholstered chair, and a crazy clock.

There are at least nine public computers. A conference room can be used for small meetings, and a community room on the lower level is used, among other things, for parenting courses. And, finally, the bank vault is used for genealogical material. Waste not, want seems that this library is using its repurposed building to the max.
To learn more about this library, go to and

7/12/2014, car

268. Miles City, Montana

This library began as a Carnegie library in 1902. A new part was added in 1964. A collection of library memorabilia is displayed under a protective dome. There is a gigantic grandfather clock; I associate grandfather clocks with New Hampshire libraries, but I keep finding them where I least expect to. Was this clock built in Montana? Did it arrive in a covered wagon, or by train? I wish I had asked.

One of the computers has a large-type keyboard, the first such keyboard I've seen anywhere. Very thoughtful to provide this for those who will be helped.

A "living room" by tall windows in the back looks out on a small courtyard with blue-glass ornaments. This would be a wonderful place to relax with a book or magazine.

This is the second library in Montana where I spotted rebound editions of older books. Two that I saw here were Ivanhoe and Into the Teeth of the Evidence by Sayers. When I was a library page in the 1950s, having books rebound when they started to fall apart from use was common procedure. Now, it is no doubt cheaper to buy a new copy. Or simply discard the book.

A collection of VHS tapes includes large sets of Cowboy Heroes, Gene Autry, Rawhide, and Star Trek. I'll bet that makes some blog readers want to head out to Montana! (You could do worse...I learned last week that it is a beautiful state.)

A history collection includes old phone books and business records. A genealogy society collected some relevant books which the library now holds, but the society no longer exists.

The children's area is a world unto itself. Footprints stuck to the carpet lead you down a corridor, past the restrooms (very clean) and into the former bookmobile garage. Here you can see part of the stone and brick exterior walls of the Carnegie building. You would not know this had ever been a garage; the floors are immaculate, and set into them are engraved paving bricks with donor names. There are two long tables with chairs, and I noticed that they were two heights to accommodate various children. Each table was provided with containers of markers...ready for a program, perhaps?

One corner has a wonderful dragon rug and a literature-themed mural; see the picture below. Kindergarten blocks were ready to go, along with other toys for the smallest patrons. The librarian was arbitrating the use of several computers by three or four boys who looked like young teens and one younger boy. Who had had a turn with what? And how long was that turn? I was glad it was her problem, not mine, though as problems go, it seemed quite tame and she had the situation well in hand.

To learn more about this library, go to and

Have to love a Western library with a bike rack made of branding irons!
The "wooden" frame is actually metal.

Isn't that a great dragon rug? And the mural on the back wall is charming.

I took this picture and the next because I was told I should
use these vantages to show the upper levels of the building.

267. Rosebud County Library, Forsyth, Montana

The children's area at the Forsyth branch of the Rosebud County Library has a sign indicating that the children's book collection was given "In loving memory of Beverly Delmiro, June 2007." What a wonderful way to honor her memory. The children's area has posters aimed at parents, reminding them that they can help children get ready to read by reading, writing, playing.... Children under 5 "must have direct adult supervision" at the library.

This library has a new director, the first in 16 years, and she was happy to point out the features. Some that struck me as especially fine are a "living room" area that includes "coffee table books" on the coffee table--just like home. These books include a binder of art "from the residents of Rosebud Health Care Center, 2009-2010." I liked the posters on the ends of shelves that show various feet (yes, really) representing different types of people and saying "We have books for all walks of life." Four carrels are new, and are used when tests are proctored, apparently a significant community contribution by the library. I know of some "big city" libraries that are backing away from proctoring tests; it's good to see that it is still part of the library's role in smaller settings.

A collection of textbooks is on a shelf in the back. I don't think I've seen textbooks in a public library before, at least not a collection of them gathered together. Textbooks about nursing and education remain popular, but others are due for some weeding. There is a large collection of western non-fiction.

A large space in the basement that can be rented, including a "living room" area and a full kitchen. The library holds local papers back to the 1890s, as well as records of Library Board and Women's Club meetings.

I think my favorite feature is the large free-standing wooden frame that holds a map of Montana on a roller, like the maps that once graced every classroom.

To learn more about this library, go to and

7/12/2014, car

Not just your basic sign!

266. Billings, Montana

This is by far the newest library I visited on this trip, as it opened in January 2014. There are many interesting and unusual features of architecture and furnishings, and I will try to do it justice. There are a coffee shop and Friends of the Library bookshop close to the door; these are common features in new libraries these days. But I've never before seen a fountain inside a library. Wouldn't that add a lot of unwanted humidity to the air? Well, you might call this a fountain in reverse. Instead of water shooting into the air, this is a large, shallow pool with a round drain, perhaps a foot in diameter. The water is very still; I could not tell where it comes in, but it flows quietly out the drain. It serves as a wishing well, and had a sizable collection of pennies and other coins.

Past the fountain, I entered the children's area. Outside and in, this area features natural wood boards installed vertically on rounded walls; the effect is something like a palisade. One rounded area has a semi-circular padded bench, very long, with baskets of board books tucked beneath the bench. Three free-standing wooden displays provide many panels of activities for youngsters, with displays for their parents about the value of each activity. One of the panels bore a sign saying that it was in memory of Edith Gronhovd, Children's Librarian from 1967 to 1976. This was the first of many places in the library where I saw such signs indicating significant donations.

A complete circle formed the Story Room, again using the vertical boards. This room can be closed to contain story time "noise." The outside wall has shallow shelves that display books face-front. A children's computer I spotted invited the user to "Click here to find things in our library." That's kid-friendly language!

As one would hope and expect in a new library, the shelves have plenty of room for an expanding collection. Beyond the shelves a project area with sink, cabinets, and what looked like a spill-resistant floor was being prepared for an upcoming program. This space is backed by walls of green, yellow, and blue glass panels, with clear glass above. It's very handsome.

Back out in the lobby I saw a red wall that seemed to be wavy. I walked over and discovered a translucent red plastic curtain wall providing a muted view of the automated materials handling conveyor. Up close, you can see the AMH; farther away, you see an interesting red wall. Neat.

The other end of the first floor, away from the children's area, has three window walls. Here I saw new fiction and non-fiction, graphic novels, plenty of westerns, and assorted media. I also saw the first unusual table, an oval glass form with an intriguing rock underneath. I later learned that this is one of the "art tables." There are six of them, all different and all fascinating.

I headed upstairs, happy to find that an easily-graspable railing is provided. Here I had an up-close view of the oculus, which I had noticed from the first floor. It is a circular skylight, perhaps 20 feet across. On the inside of the circle are quotations related to books and libraries, and what I think are the names of principal donors.

The reference section is near the public computers. There are two "living room" areas for sitting and reading (or thinking) and about 30 carrels designed for laptop users. Desks along the window had very modern square light bars above them. I was surprised that these lights appeared to be on, although the area was very bright and sunny.

A large windowed corner "Reserved for Teens" has six computers. Outside this space is a "Mystery Book Challenge," five large glass jars each holding cut-up pages from unusable books. The challenge is to figure out the titles of the books by looking at these fragments. Each one correctly identified counts as an hour toward summer reading program prizes.

There is a mid-sized conference room as well as a couple of group study rooms. A technology lab was being used for a course by the Yellowstone Amateur Radio Emergency Service.

A genealogy room is adjacent to the extensive Montana area, with flat files for maps, a computer, and microfilm and -fiche readers.

Back downstairs I chatted for a while with a young woman sitting at the information desk, under an enormous suspended ?. There was also a large patio umbrella with a weighted base; it turns out that the large oculus places the sun directly into the eyes of the person sitting here, at certain times of day. The library where I work could use such a clever solution!

For more information about this library, go to and They even have a bookmobile:

7/12/2014, car

The building at the left is the old Billings library, which is being razed.




265. Carnegie Library, Red Lodge, Montana

This is a later Carnegie library, from 1919. One sign that it is later is the relative lack of ornamentation, but it is still a handsome building. I don't know how many existing Carnegie libraries have made it to this century without an addition; probably few if any. This one received its addition in 1992.

In the children's area I saw interesting bookcases that will be hard to describe here. One was sort of dollhouse-shaped, with rectangular and triangular sections of various sizes. They are very nice and add visual interest. There are lots of stuffed animals of various types. Classic wooden chairs have curved wood backs and spindles; they have been painted in cheerful colors. Recorded books are available on audio cassettes and CDs. I like to see the older technology remaining in use, so long as someone is around to use it. [I had an audio cassette player in my car until last Spring; I had to have a CD player in my new car, and I'm still getting used to it!]

There are at least nine public computers; when I was there, six were being used by teens.

Books here are catalogued by the Dewey system, but somehow I got talking to staff about the "BISAC" system or "bookstore" method of shelving by category. Now I know that BISAC stands for Book Industry Standard and Communication. I still think it would be practical only for a rather small collection.

The last detail I noted as I was leaving was the book drop, a "mail slot" on the outside and a wooden chute leading to a carpeted landing pad. A home-grown solution to a specific need, I imagine. I like it.

For more about this library, go to and

7/11/2014, car

The sign on the bike rack indicates that it was provided by a local bike shop.
If I had turned about 180 degrees, I could have taken a picture of a few dozen residents
doing some kind of dance routine in the street--a fundraiser, I believe.
Sorry I didn't treat you to that.


Monday, July 14, 2014

264. Carnegie Public Library, Big Timber, Montana

This is the centennial year for this Carnegie library, and a large scrapbook contains clippings and photos from the recent celebration.

A sign on the door indicated that Carl Hiaasen would be visiting!

The children's area has two tables for kids, one for small kids and one for medium sized, a nice touch. A display of many LEGO models suggests an active club. A collection of parenting books is shelved in this area.

There is a nice "living room" area near windows and the periodicals. Near the adult collections are a diner booth, a row of tables, and eight computers. Inspirational books, biographies, and travel books have their own places. I spotted about 15 "book club in a bag" sets.

On the lower level there is a community meeting room, a fireplace, and a full kitchen, plus an area of "living room" seating.

On the landing between levels, near the "side" door, there is a large frame with many photographs labeled "Community Fun at the Library." The pictures reflect a large variety of activities for adults and children. It's nice to see that it's not only the kids who have library fun in Big Timber!

For more about this library, go to and

7/11/2014, car

New addition at the left, Carnegie building to the right.

Front view of the Carnegie building.

A handsome wall in the kids' area;
I didn't get the story on this, unfortunately.
Perhaps someone will leave a comment about it.

263. Great Falls, Montana

Great Falls had a library called the Valerian very early on, about 1890. That was followed by a Carnegie library, and then the current building in 1967. I strongly suggest that you visit the library's web page (link below, at the end of this post) and find the history. It has a number of unusual twists and turns, and reflects a lot of well-earned pride.

I arrived at the library shortly after a children's program ended, which explained the large number of kids present. A spacious play area looked like a kindergarten at "Center Time," complete with wooden block creations. In one corner, two tweens or young teens read to a rapt audience of four preschoolers, while the little ones' mothers sat back and watched. Very nice.
Every shelf of Junior books is labelled "Please do not reshelve books." And I'll bet there is good compliance, because a fanciful figure labeled Betty Beaker bears a sign reading "Where to put books you don't want?" There was a slot provided, and another sign that reminded kids "I only eat books you have not checked out." Nearby is a column with posters for the various summer programs being offered, and a sign saying that "Financial sponsorship for the following special presentations provided by Marshall Orthodontics." That sort of community support is always good to see.

A small room next to the larger area is labeled "Kids' Science Lab." Nobody was there when I was, but I saw two computers for kids.

Now let's go up the stairs to the second floor. There is a copier at the top of the stairs with a helpful sign that shows clearly "To copy, your page must be like this." Well, perhaps not entirely clearly, because the picture shows the text on the page, and an additional note states that the text must face down. Nearby are vending machines for snacks and soft drinks. A carrel holds an electric typewriter.

Non-fiction books are shelved along a very long wall and on shelves that extend from this wall at a slight diagonal. Oversized books are shelved flat on the top shelf or at the right-hand end of a shelf, wherever there is space. Biographies are shelved by themselves and are designated "92," not 920 or 921. Spines are labeled with the 92, then the last name of the subject of the book and the last name of the author, truncated to 7 characters. Effective, but unusual in my experience.

Twenty-four public computers are housed in six-sided carrels. There is a large hard-copy reference section, with several microfilm/fiche readers and cabinets with the local paper and the New York Times going back many years. There are also pamphlet files, flat files for maps, and sheet music. Patrons can borrow four sheet music items for two weeks at a time.

The Teen Scene area is wonderful; see the picture below. A sign says that it is reserved for "ages 12 to 18 only." The quotation on the wall is from Plutarch.

I still wasn't quite done, as there is a third floor. I went up there to see the stained glass from the old Valerian library. This floor houses historical and genealogical material. No food or drink is allowed up here, a buzzer signals that someone has entered, and there is a sign-in book. A gentleman, probably a volunteer, welcomed me and showed me around a bit. Then I went back to the genealogy area, which is large, where I found at least five people poring over documents or studying computer screens. Clearly, genealogy is a big deal here.

On my way out I tried to buy a handsome blue T-shirt with the library logo and the message "Life is great; reading makes it better." Alas, the only shirt left, on a display mannequin, was a Youth Large, which is smaller than I am. If they ever restock those shirts, I hope someone will let me know; I'll  happily pay the postage!

Finally, a sign at the front desk reminds patrons that "All checkouts must be completed by 6 P.M." (closing time) and "Library applications taken until 5:45." I talked to staff about that, and learned that patrons handle it very well, with few occasions when exceptions must be made.

For more about this library, starting with the history, go to Also have a look at

7/11/2014, car

This is the Teen Scene area, one of the nicest I've seen.

These stained glass windows are from the original Valeria library. When a Carnegie library was built, these were put in storage. At some point they were "discovered," rehabbed, and they now hang in the windows of the third level.

261. Whitefish Community Library, Whitefish, Montana

The third library I visited in my afternoon of playing hooky was in Whitefish. This is an independent community library. Fundraising began in 1994, and in 1998 the library was complete. [I hope I have that right; I looked at the library's website for a "history of the library," and couldn't find it.] There is a scrapbook with pictures and newspaper clippings telling the story. I enjoyed the pictures that showed sixth graders in a "bucket brigade," helping to move 35,000 books to this new building, one shopping bagful at a time! I bet they'll remember that experience all their lives.

The children's area has two oak-and-green tables with reading lamps (the one I tried didn't seem to work; they look old) and access to plug in laptops. There is also a "living room" here, with a couch, two chairs, a recliner, a coffee table and a floor lamp. I frequently see this sort of arrangement in adult areas of libraries; it was very charming to see it there for kids.

A bulletin board held multiple pockets with suggestions fitting with the science theme of the summer reading program. I took just one, a "Science Log" with drawings of 12 beakers, each with an activity suggestion, from "Sort your toys in two ways: size and color" to "Write a paragraph about what kind of scientist you might like to be and why." The instructions are to complete eight of the activities, get the "beakers" stamped or punched, and turn in the sheet to get a surprise. Other sheets available included a "Food Science Match Game." Lots of variety and scope here, to meet varied interests and age levels.

Young Adults have a wedge-shaped space with an octagonal table. Nearby is a display by the Glacier Stamp Club.

There are two "living room" areas for adults, with comfortable furniture and plenty of windows. Both are labeled "Quiet Area." In one, two adults were reading quietly. In the other, a young man was talking on his cell phone. Hmmm. A third reading area is distinguished with a braided rug.

A well-labeled cross-section of a tree shows 690 years of history. One corner of the library is reserved for maps, a computer and scanning station, and a microfilm and fiche reader. A sign asks patrons to please "don't use these power strips" because "the green tables all have pop-up power sources."

I still see VHS tapes in many libraries, especially in small towns. Here, the remaining VHS movies circulate on the honor system. That seems like a neat idea, when a building has the space. Let them just fade away, but keep them circulating while there is any interest.

 For more about this library, visit or

7/10/14, car

262. Columbia Falls, Montana

Libraries get their buildings in many ways. In this case, the Anaconda Copper Mining company sold the building to the city of Columbia Falls for $1.00 -- on the condition that it be used for a library. And so it is, sharing the space with the city hall.

One of the first things I noticed was a genuine old wooden telephone booth, complete with a folding door, in the lobby; I was disappointed to see that it no longer has a phone in it. Also in the lobby there is a large display about the Farmers' Market and a collection box for magazines "for the troops."

Inside, there is a guest book, something I've seen in only one other library, in Albert Lea, Minnesota. The people who had signed ahead of me were from Germany! A display of new fiction invites patrons to "Grab and Go" with two books for two weeks. I spotted seven computers, one with a scanner. The home page menu offers Internet & Office, Large Print, Kids, and Library Catalog. This seems like a user-friendly way to set up public computers.

An alcove partway along one wall has no windows, but otherwise provides a nice "living room" setting. There is a large fish tank, which sort of fills the role of a window, giving one something pleasant to look at. In this area, I had a short conversation with someone I guessed was local and a regular library user. When I mentioned that I was visiting Glacier NP, he told me that Walmart owns Xanterra, and Xanterra owns the national parks. Well, I know that Xanterra now owns the concessions (like the hotel and dining facilities) in Glacier; I don't think that equals owning the parks, but it didn't seem like a good time or place to argue the point. And I haven't done any research on this--perhaps he's right!

At the far end of the space, five steps lead up to the Teen Loft, which is provided with soft chairs and a study table, as well as appropriate books. No teens there when I was, just an adult male with a laptop.

The children's area has something that my notes call "Lam and arches" and high windows. What on earth did I mean? [This is the trouble with getting a few days behind in my blogging.] There is also an enclosed area for the little kids, a computer, another fish tank, and a very nice mural showing The Little Engine that Could, the steam shovel (I can picture the book but forget the name), and others.

I was able to use a computer for a while here. I used the time to change some of my back-home requests from "Suspended" to "Active" so there would be books waiting for me when I got home. I also looked up the address of the library where I work, so I could send a postcard. No, I don't know the address--all I have to know is how to get there!

To learn more about this library, go to or'

7/10/14, car

Sunday, July 13, 2014

260. Kalispell, Montana

This was the second stop in an afternoon when I slipped away from my Road Scholar group; while they floated down a river, I went library collecting. (What's Road Scholar? Find out here:

Kalispell once had a Carnegie library, as you will see in the picture below. It still exists, but no longer serves as a library. The current library was the Federal Building and became the library in 1969. Montanans are clearly into recycling!

The first thing I noticed was a "do it yourself" science activity right inside the door. It involved a solar yard light, a Mason jar, and a circle of white paper. A boy was busily following the directions when I was there, with some guidance from an adult, perhaps his mother. Science is big in summer reading programs this year, and this was one of the most interesting projects I have seen.

There was a very nice display of photographs of Syria, taken by Margaret Davis in March and April of 2011.

Federal Buildings tend to be large, so the library is very spacious. The picture book area is partly enclosed in a red wall with natural wood highlights. There is seating for adults, a nice collection of construction toys, and a "store" for dramatic play. Six computers are available for school-age kids. Parents and kids were lined up, waiting for a chance to collect summer reading program prizes from the children's librarian.

The prize for teens in the summer reading program is an electric Navigator SM24 bike, displayed in the lobby. How cool is that?!

Upstairs there is an adult lounging and browsing area by the tops of the big windows. It's very spacious and light. And there is another floor above this, which I believe is not used by the library. Someone will leave a comment and correct me, if I have that wrong.

For more about this library, go to the home page of the county library system at or

7/10/2014, car

If you look closely, you will see CARNEGIE above the door of the former library.

The current building is the former Federal Buildding.

259. Bigfork, Montana

First thing you need to know: If you ask your GPS to guide you to Bigfork, you must write it the proper way, as one word. Otherwise, your GPS will plead ignorance. The town took me by surprise; I was driving from Glacier Park--driving and driving--and  suddenly I was in this charming tourist mecca, lined with shops and very lively. I'm not sure what my preconceptions of Montana had me expecting, but this wasn't it! [Hey, I was raised in the East and have spent more than 40 years in the Midwest; it's not that I was expecting a ghost town, exactly, but.... OK, I'm sorry, I know better now!]

As I sit down to write this post, I discover that I have a couple of problems. First, the visit was four days ago. Second, my notes are more-than-usually illegible. And finally, and this is not a bad thing, I got talking to staff and didn't write down as much as I should have. But I shall do my best.

The main thing that caught my eye was a very unusual (to me) round table and bench, see picture below. I'd never seen anything like this before, but perhaps it is a Montana specialty, because I did spot one later during my visit to the state.

In the back of the library there is a large conference table, and a circle of upholstered chairs near the windows, similar to the "living room" browsing areas that I like a lot. There are at least four computers available.

This town, as well as Kalispell and Columbia Falls, are part of a county library system. The four branches, of which I visited three, are "Imagine if" libraries, indicating a creative approach to library services, in my opinion. Look around the website and you'll find some interesting things going on.

For more about the Bigfork library, go to This is the home page of the county system. They also have a Facebook page at

7/10/14, car

Isn't this a neat table?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

258. Banff Library, Banff, Alberta, Canada--Updated

At last, I'm all sorted out and squared away and ready to work on the Banff entry!

I walked from my motel, at one end of town, to the library at the other end, a nice treat after a day of driving. Sidewalks were crowded with tourists by the busload from all over. Shops, restaurants, more shops, and then, voila! A gem of a library, tucked about a block off the main drag. Things that I noticed:

Children's art, nicely framed, is displayed in the lobby area. One very creative piece was unframed, as it was a construction, perhaps from found objects. The lobby also holds a Friends of the Library book sale cart, plus a shelf of "Gems," unusual books with special pricing.

The littlest patrons have an area set off with partial walls of glass, sort of a "nook." The Junior area is right in the middle of the library, and Young Adult corner has two tall windows.

There is a modest International collection, where I spotted books in Japanese, German, and French.

This library has a grandfather clock, usually a hallmark of New Hampshire libraries but looking quite at home here.

Near the browsing area I noticed newspaper "sticks" like the ones I used to place papers on in the 50s. Here, the papers were draped over the sticks, not slipped onto them. That's a big timesaver!

For more about this library, go to and

And I DO apologize for being so slow getting this posted.

7/5/2014, car

257. Calgary Public Library, Crowfoot Branch, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

It had been my plan to visit two libraries in Calgary, the Memorial Park branch and the Crowfoot. My plans for Memorial Park were foiled by the Calgary Stampede and white-knuckle driving in the center of this larger-than-I-would-have-thought city. (I don't like city driving, especially in unfamiliar cities. This was like Boston--but with courtesy!) I did get a glimpse of the building, but only a glimpse.

Having given up on Memorial Park, and needing to get to my next destination before it closed, I reset the GPS and headed for Crowfoot, which was relatively easy to reach. The building is a large rectangle with many windows looking out on views of mountains. Automated Material Handling (AMH) is in use, and there are two book returns in the lobby, unlike one place I could name; you know who you are!

A sign near the lobby reads, "Calgary Public Library--Services for Newcomers--Calgary Public Library welcomes you!" Many libraries welcome new patrons, especially immigrants--I think of Dayton Heights in St. Paul, MN, for example. But I thought this sign was especially nice.

The children's area has four "filtered internet" computers for kids. Short shelves not only serve kids well, but also maximize openness and light in this area. The ceiling is high and the "mechanics" of the building are exposed, but in this area large geometric forms suspended from the ceiling keep it from feeling at all industrial. Picture books are on shelving with two shelves below, a sloping display rack on top. I think this is very effective, especially in the way it allows so many front covers to be shown. It's very attractive.

The Teen Zone is identified by a neon sign on the wall. "Make reading part of your summer--join the club," invites teens to read without being pushy. Another sign says that "Opportunity knocks" and invites teens to volunteer at the library. There is a Youth Read summer reading program on line, too.

A centrally located "living room" browsing area is opposite the entrance. There is an attractive four-sided fireplace and a large-screen TV is suspended from the ceiling.

Most of the adult collection is to the right after you enter. The World Languages collection is the most comprehensive I've seen: Korean, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Urdu, Vietnamese, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Japanese, Arabic, Farsi, and many in Chinese. Most impressive is that the signs for each language are in English and in that language; that's very respectful, and I can't recall another library where I've seen it done.

There is a quiet study room, a row of study tables down the middle of the non-fiction collection, and extensive shelves for Holds, of which there were many.

The drinking fountain is a "hydration station," which encourages people to refill water bottles.

Driving here from the central city I became aware of extensive public transportation, which I always like to see. There is light rail, and I saw schedules for 16 bus routes.

Getting back on Route 1 was ... interesting ... because of construction. I'm very glad I stopped here; it was definitely worth it! And I like the motto of the whole Calgary Library system, "Everything you're into." See it on the picture of their truck, below.

For more about the Calgary libraries, go to and

7/5/2014, car

256. Strathmore Municipal Library, Strathmore, Alberta, Canada

This was a fairly quick visit, but I spotted a number of items of interest.

If you're having problems with your computer, come here on Saturday mornings between 10 and 12 for "Tech Tutoring with Kat."

Graphic novels have J/Y spine stickers. This initially raised my eyebrows, as I've seen some pretty racy YA graphic novels. Then I spotted this sign: "Please note: YA graphic novels may contain mature content and may be unsuitable for younger readers."

You can borrow a pedometer kit from this library, an excellent idea.

There are some Spanish books. I didn't notice other world languages, but could have missed them.

I reached the kids area last, and found a large "alcove," perhaps 4 x 8 meters, with a bright alpha/numeric rug with a yellow sun in the center. Picture books are on shelves; easy readers are in bins, sorted by reading level and author. There are two semi-circular tables sized for young children.

This is the first library where I've spotted a picture of the Queen!

For more about the Strathmore library, go to and


Saturday, July 5, 2014

255. Brooks Public Library, Brooks, Alberta, Canada

There are some very creative people at this library, and with their permission I'll tell you that they are Cassandra and Jill. Where shall I start with what they are up to? First, the children's area has a total castle and fairy tale theme, with a tall arched "doorway" and murals on the walls with thematic pictures. This area is called Karen Armbruster's Kids Castle. And how about programming for boys 7 to 12 that includes "Fear Factor" (I think the poster had a reference to "What would you be willing to eat?") and Amazing Race? The same board displayed promos for Wii for Tweens, Ramadan Story Time, and Spa Day for Girls. [I was told that when school kids were told about the boys' program, girls very much wanted to do it, too, and were not satisfied to be told that they would have a spa day. You go, girls--equality!] How's that for variety?

Within the kids area are tall windows, big floor cushions, board books on one windowsill and a padded bench in front of a long bench by the windows. I like the sign that says "Three ways to read a book: Read the pictures, Read the words, Retell the Story. What a great message to convey!

Teens have not been forgotten. They have the opportunity to vote for a movie they want to see, there are volunteer opportunities, something called Teen Scene meets on Wednesdays from 6 to 8, and best of all: Extreme Water Fight for ages 13 to 18, bring your own water gun if you wish and prepare to get wet!

I hope my daughter is reading this blog post, because I think she'd enjoy this sign by the computers, with a picture of grumpy cat: "I can haz cheezburger? NO, YOU CANTZ. Please, no food or drink at the computers."

The biggest surprise to me was to see books with their Dewey numbers covered, shelved by category. I was told that this practice is called BISAC. Google didn't help me with the acronym, so all I can tell you is that it means shelving books as a bookstore would. Great for browsers, and would simplify shelving, but I should have asked how it works with the catalog. What if you are looking for a specific title? Hey, Cassandra and Jill, answer that one in a comment, will you please?

Aside from the library's location being COIC (Clear Only If Known), this is a terrific place with very lively programming.

For more, go to and

7/5/2014, car

254. Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada

This wasn't a full-fledged visit, because I didn't go inside. I didn't expect to see the Medicine Hat Library at all, because I got in too late last night, and had to be back on the road too early this morning. But as I headed out of town I saw the universal blue-and-white library sign, and figured I could at least drive by.

Good choice, as the drive took me though a very nice neighborhood of well-kept houses and mature trees. The library, as expected, was not open. There were two intriguing signs on the door, one about a summer reading club for teens, the other about an afternoon drop-in program.

And there was a nice young man waiting on a bench for the library to open. He had about 40 minutes to wait! I asked him if he would do me the favor of giving one of my "leave behind" cards to someone on library staff, and he agreed to do so.

To learn more about this library, go to or check them out at I'm puzzled, however. The picture in Facebook doesn't look like the library I saw. I was looking from a different angle, perhaps? Someone will read this and leave a clarifying comment, perhaps? Please?

7/5/14, car

Friday, July 4, 2014

253. Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada

No adventures in Swift Current, thank goodness. (See Moose Jaw if you wonder what that means!) My GPS took me right to the door with no problems.

I was a day early...on July 5 the library will kick off the summer reading program with a "Slug Launch Party." Hmmm, perhaps I'm not sorry to miss that. Should appeal to kids, however.

My overall sense of this library was of openness and light, thanks to pale-yellow walls, a high ceiling, and large windows. The children's area is designated by KIDS' CORNER letters high on one of these walls; the letters must be half a meter tall and they are cleverly decorated with animal figures. They represent a lot of work and creativity.

There are family literature bins on various topics. Also, new to me, there are pillow-case-sized bags, each different, called Incredible You; each bag appears to have a number of books and toys. I saw several styles of table here that I haven't seen before. A pair of tables fit together in a yin/yang pattern. Others are lozenge-shaped with a curved cutout in one end, so they can be  put together in various configurations. The children's area is spacious enough for four large, colorful rugs to be placed together. There is a tall puppet theater with a sign "Staff use only--unstable." Kids can use a smaller table-top puppet theater nearby. An adult "living room" space is adjacent to the kids area.

Moving on to the adult area, there is a large space with floor to ceiling windows on two sides. This space holds round and rectangular tables and many plants--very nice.

One sign among many at the information desk asks for donations of crochet hooks for a tween program. (This reminded me of Canaan, NH, where patrons can borrow knitting needles in special sizes and styles.)

There is a genealogy cabinet with materials for in-library use only, along with microfilm and -fiche readers. I spotted a multi-volume History of Canada and Its Provinces, published in 1914--this is its centennial year!

I spotted at least five public computers. There is a modest collection of non-English materials in Chinese, Dutch, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, German, Ukrainian, and Filipino. There are two statues of historic figures, and I meant to ask who they are, but I forgot. Perhaps someone will leave a comment and let us know. (Having read all of Louise Penny's books, I thought I should know at least one of them!)

As I was leaving I noticed a fire hose in an enclosure in the lobby with a sign asking that nothing be placed in front of emergency equipment. And there wasn't much, just a chair and a wheelchair...

For more about this library, go to or

7/4/2014, car

252. Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada

After getting lost in Regina, where my GPS took me to a decidedly un-library corner of town, I tried to set up the GPS for Moose Jaw. Interesting: Garmin doesn't seem to know that Moose Jaw exists! Canada, OK. Saskatchewan, no problem. Moose Jaw? "No match found." But Winkler to Regina was a looong drive, and I really wanted a library to visit, so I got off Route 1 at Moose Jaw and asked for help. Not everyone knows where their local library is, and not everyone can give decent directions (anywhere, not just in Moose Jaw), but the McDonald's manager was good on both counts; his directions were clear enough that I was even able to work around a street festival in the middle of town. And the library was worth the effort. [And someday I should make a trip back here, and plan to spend at least a day in Moose Jaw. There is so much more here than the library!]

I now know that Carnegie funded libraries in Canada, not just the USA. This handsome library with its large addition is snuggled into a fascinating park and shares space with a museum. I entered through the Carnegie building; on the right is a large room with a fireplace and some furniture that looks original; this is designated as a quiet study space. To the left of the lobby a similar space, also with a fireplace, is being used for support services.

The children's area is completely separate from the rest of the library. There are two doors from the lobby, one into each area. I entered the kids area first, and noticed a glass wall that looks down into the lower level of the Carnegie building. The book and media collection is extensive, with many graphic novels, hard-cover comics, recorded books, DVDs, lots of book-and-media kits, and of course a large collection of just plain books. A long window wall with five study tables overlooks the park; when I was there, a girl perhaps 10 or 11 years old was totally engrossed in a book at one of these tables. I wish I knew what had her so captivated!

It's not necessary to return to the lobby to get to the adult side of the library, as there is a doorway near the picture books. Some of the things I noticed: Large colorful signs suspended from the ceiling, identifying parts of the space; a clipping file, something that used to be in every library but seems to be quite rare now; a poster about the on-line Encyclopedia Britannica, pointing out that there are two sites, one for kids and one for adults; another big window wall, with more views of the park, with a "living room" space for browsers; lots of study carrels; and more.

All paperback fiction is "shelved" on large wire spinners, about 20 of them! Near the large paper-based reference collection three large tables are placed end to end, providing plenty of space for researchers to spread out. Eight public computers are nearby.

A feature I noticed as I was leaving was a set of shelves for "recent returns," labeled by category. It appears that books are put here, then moved to carts when someone is available to shelve them. I imagine that this cuts down on the number of carts needed, and certainly keeps carts from cluttering the space. And of course, patrons often like to browse what has been returned recently!

I chatted with a couple of staff before I left, and learned that my hunch about this being a Carnegie library was correct. I bought a library tote bag and I learned that Regina is pronounced to rhyme with "that other word." The young man working at the desk told me that there is a plaque outside that I must see. I'm sorry, I couldn't find it. I really looked. I even asked a passing grandma, and she didn't know. And I was simply too tired and hot to come back in and ask.

For more about this library, go to or Hey, go to both--they are loaded with pictures and information!

7/4/2014, car


Thursday, July 3, 2014

251. Winkler, Manitoba, Canada Public Library

This library is about six years old. I like the architectural touches inside, especially the laminated-wood beams and the metal supports that remind me of double-trunked trees, with bench seating around the bottom. Before I spotted those, however, I saw a full-sized tent in the entry, with a bunch of carpet squares inside. Story time? Just a place to hang out?

This library is getting into science in a big way for its summer reading program. Across from the tent is a "Eureka Summer Reading Club Lab," where it appears various experiments must be done from time to time. I followed some laminated footsteps on the floor to the children's area, where a couple of teen-age volunteers were reading and standing by to assist kids with the reading program. On the wall was an enormous graphic of scientific apparatus labeled "Mad Scientist Lab Soda Pop Challenge." I didn't totally understand, but I gathered that there are a couple of reading teams and the idea is to get your points credited to part of this graphic. A display case showed the many, many prizes that can be won. This reminded me of a recent post about prizes for summer reading programs; see it at Scroll down to the entry about Books as Prizes.

Something very special in the children's area is how pairs of shelves have been joined by arches and fabric to create The Eureka Tunnel of Discovery. Signs sticking out from the ends of shelves invite you to Electric Street, Tin Tin Lane, and so forth. The list of kids' series books is astonishing!


A couple of tables by large windows allow kids to sit and read and look out at grass and trees. Just beyond this area, there are two adult "living room" areas, also by large windows. There is a large public park just outside this library, providing some of the nice views.

The History Society Archives have their own room, open 3-5 on Wednesdays or by appointment.

This area is home to a large Mennonite population, which (I assume) accounts for a large collection of books in German, and a section near the reference books of Mennonite-related books in many categories.

7/3/2014, car

250. Thief River Falls Public Library, Minnesota

Another Carnegie...built in 1914, across the street from the current library. The new one was built in the 60s, I believe, and remodeled about 10 years ago. It feels very spacious and light. I asked whether the old library was replaced because of space or condition, and the answer was, "both."

There is a mosaic made of glass and pieces of mirror; it's a lot like the ones I've seen in Great River libraries, but larger. There are two messages: "I am part of everything I read and it is part of me." and, this one spelled out in Scrabble tiles, "All great journeys begin at the library."

There is a small seating area near the entrance with comfy chairs and ottomans, and coffee available for a "free will offering."

The children's area has four computer devices, bright orange, labeled Kensington. I haven't seen anything like these. Two-level bins for picture books have sloping sides; the bins on top are narrower, front to back, than those on the bottom, solving the problem of access. See picture below, but you'll have to tip your head or your screen; I'll rotate it later.

An interesting variation on the "parental responsibility" theme is a sign that reads, "Parents and guardians are responsible for materials children read and view while visiting the library." I interpret this to mean that if your kid is poring over a book you deem inappropriate, it doesn't mean the library shouldn't have the book--it means that you, the adult, are supposed to be paying attention.

Patrons who enter from the parking lot are greeted by a large display of new books. And that's just what you should see on entering a library: books!

There is a genealogy corner with a microfilm reader and a scanner with a sign suggesting that you "digitize your family story." Local high school yearbooks, some as far back as 1916, are available online.

There is a large window wall with five comfy chairs facing the outdoors and at least one bird feeder, six big study tables (one with a jigsaw puzzle underway), and best of all: newspapers on sticks!

For more about this library, go to or

I will eventually get this rotated. Too tired tonight.

A tree grows in...

The 1914 Carnegie library across the street

7/3/2014, car