Tuesday, July 15, 2014

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 http://ci.billings.mt.us/index.aspx?NID=258 and https://www.facebook.com/BillingsPublicLibrary. They even have a bookmobile: https://www.facebook.com/BillingsPublicLibraryBookmobile.

7/12/2014, car






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

 

 

 

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