Monday, July 14, 2014

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.

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