Thursday, November 20, 2014

40a. St. Paul Sunray Branch--revisit after remodeling

Another wonderful upgrade by St. Paul Public Libraries! The first three things that caught my eye were: 1) a large "Welcome to Your New Library" sign; 2) a drinking fountain that includes a "hydration station," providing an easy way to refill water bottles; and 3) pressure-sensitive squares in the floor that change color when you step on them. I have seen these only one other place, the Prairie West Branch in Sioux Falls, SD.

The south wall holds, in order from the entrance, the 3M Community Room (this branch is nearly across the street from 3M HQ), a computer lab, the teen area, and a quiet room. The community room holds a variety of tables, all with electrical access for laptops. (In fact, I think just about every piece of furniture here provides electrical access!) The computer lab is...just that. The teen area is marked by an S-curved counter with mod stools; in addition to an electrical outlet, each space along this counter has two USB ports. The Quiet Room has periodicals, a "living room" area for reading, and a couple of study tables. Both the teen and quiet rooms have full window walls.

I don't know why re-bound books appeal to me so much, but I was pleased to spot one in the Fiction section: Most of P.G. Wodehouse, published in 1960. I probably like rebound books because they are a form or recycling.

One area houses a goodly collection of travel books, and a globe, adjacent to a long shelf of language learning materials.

The children's area fills much of the north side of the library. It is set off, but not isolated, from the rest of the library by a highly textured, translucent glass panel. On the side of the panel facing into the kids area is a large (perhaps 3' x 8' ?) whiteboard panel, with colored markers. Beneath the panel are a series of cupboards with doors; these appear to be empty, so far.

An area that includes J series books could have been a darkish corner, but a very high ceiling in that area allows for clerestory windows collecting light from the south and reflecting it from the white north wall, making the area very light but without glare.

Seating is varied. My favorites are three large ... mmm ... cushions? that are shaped and colored like rocks. Very cool. And a couple of easy chairs upholstered in a fabric with a pattern of sheep! Hmm, the "rocks" seemed to be made of felt. Felt, wool, sheep...perhaps a theme? The program area is fairly small but totally charming. The north side has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on a reading garden. Well, I assume that's what it will be in warmer weather! The inside of the area is rounded and has a "tree" theme. Fortunately, I was able to take a picture, see below. The tree theme continues outside where a near twin of a feature at Highland Park library is located.

I did miss some of the interactive elements from the Children's Museum installation that were in the children's area the last time I visited. The building has been open less than two weeks; perhaps these elements will return?

For more about this library, go to .

11/20/2014, car

A look at the reading garden from the northeast corner.
The children's area is near the "trees and birdhouses."

A closer look at the "trees and birdhouses"

The new entrance

A peek into the program room, behind the curved wall

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

71b. St. Paul Highland Park Branch, remodeled

This was my third visit to the Highland Park branch. The first, in June 2012, was in pursuit of visiting every MELSA library. Three months later I went back to try and figure our why this library had so many hits on the blog, far above any other post. Alas, there was no explanation.

Today's visit was to a totally remodeled facility that recently reopened. After 11 months closed and almost $8 million spent--wow! What a difference!

The library still shares a building with a community center, and perhaps the only drawback I see is the lack of a readily-apparent entrance to the library itself. Instead, all of the outside signage refers to the community center; perhaps there is new signage coming? I hope so. (A picture at the link below suggests that there will be a vertical LIBRARY sign.)

There is now library space on the first floor, opening from the common lobby area. This space holds requests (very nice for just popping in to pick up something that is waiting for you) and media (except recorded  books). Library catalog computers and a service desk are here, and the circulation workroom is behind a large glass window. Partially clear and partially frosted, this window allows a glimpse of the automated materials handling equipment in action.

A large area to the left of this entrance is especially for teens, with a meeting room, study rooms, low bookcases on heavy casters (low: good sight lines for staff; casters, plenty of flexibility) and a variety of chairs, including two that are shaped somewhat like human beings (see picture below).

The rest of the library is reached by stairs or elevator from the lobby. My first impression, compared to earlier visits, was "Can this possibly be the same space?" It seemed to go on forever, in several directions. To the left is a large windowed space (behind the Community Center sign in the first picture below). Today the space was partially used as a browsing area, and partially as a potential meeting room, with a collection of tables and a sink and counter for refreshments at meetings. The spacious feeling is enhanced by an opening down to the teen area below.

There are large sections of shelving for adult fiction and non-fiction. The side of the space farthest from Ford Parkway has a "living room" area close to periodicals and non-fiction, with a rounded window that looks out on a reading garden. A couple of benches did not tempt readers on this cold day, but will be delightful in other seasons.

The children's area overlooks the Parkway. A welcome sign in four languages says that "We Practice the Wakanheza Project: Supporting, Protecting, Respecting, and Cherishing Children, Young People, and Families."

There are some study tables adjacent to the children's area. Within the area itself are computers on counters of two heights, at least six portable "writing tablets" (I think they use magnetism in some way with a stylus) that youngsters can use to draw or practice letters. Some very striking stylized tubular green "tree trunks" hold "bird houses." [Note: The remodeled Sunray library also has this feature, but theirs is outside. See entry 40a for a picture.] Varied seating for adults and children includes a large curved bench with a padded seat and back, and one section of the wall has three interactive "cause and effect" installations. I wanted to get some pictures, but I'm happy to report that several adults and children were using the area, and I could not figure out a way to get pictures without people.

Welcome back after almost a year away, Highland Park. You look terrific!

For more about this library, go to or

11/18/2014, car

View from the parking lot

The new entrance is no longer "hidden."
The Teen area is behind the windows to the left.

AMH book drop; there are two outside, an excellent idea as I was told that
Highland has the highest circulation of any St. Paul branch library.

I didn't try the "human" chairs, but I was told they are quite comfortable.

Friday, November 7, 2014

297.Mille Lacs Lake Community Library, Isle MN -- East Central Region (ECRL)

With this visit, I have been to all of the branches of Minnesota's East Central Regional Library!

As I walked up the ramp to enter the building I noticed a poster that showed a river winding between hills and said "Searching for Books." Once inside, I realized that there were many such posters displayed, all different. The librarian told me that they are created by third grade school children each spring during Library Month.

This library features many quilts, some made by a local person of considerable talent, some made by a quilting club (also showing talent), and seven or eight with squares made by schoolchildren, showing their self-portraits, assembled and quilted by adults. This is a library that clearly values community connections.

Posters in the children's area remind parents to share Books, Songs, Words, Rhymes, Sounds, Playtime, and Stories with their children. There was a large selection (for the size of the library) of book-and-audio sets for kids.

A separate area in the back holds fiction, large print books, several public computers, and a wide selection of periodicals. Two bookshelves and a couple of funky stools form a small teen corner.

I enjoyed conversation with Kathy, the librarian, before heading back to St. Paul after a fine day of driving and "collecting."

For more about this library, go to

11/6/2014, car

296. McGregor, MN -- East Central Region, ECRL

This library was very quiet when I visited, but as the local school is located just beyond the parking lot, I expect that the ambience changed an hour or two after I left!

A display cabinet in the entryway contained sewing items, including a McCall's pattern book from 1959. That date explained why everything in the display seemed familiar to me!

On entering the library proper, I noticed a series of "dog paw prints" on the floor, leading me to the children's area. Cute! The collection is not large, but the space is wonderful. There are three antique school desks along one side, but the large rocking chair is the main feature. The chair was created and donated in honor of Fae Porisch, author of a Christmas story that is written out on a large poster above the chair.

An area for teens includes a large circular rack of young adult novels.

I was interested to see that most reference materials may be checked out for three days; this is a rather unusual policy in my experience, but I can see its practicality for a small community. A high shelf holds school yearbooks back to the 20s.

The non-fiction shelves are set at a slight angle to the wall, rather than the standard 90 degrees. That, and the pictures on the wall at the end of each pair of shelves, add a nice visual interest. A large window and some live plants in the back create a pleasant browsing area near the fiction and media collections.

I can't resist mentioning the store I saw as I drove away, with the charming name "Barknarckles Store: Thrift and General."

For more about this library, go to


295. Aitkin, MN -- East Central Region, ECRL

A day without school or work, with a sunny sky--time for a trip to visit a few libraries! I planned a reasonable trip around Mille Lacs Lake that would allow me to complete my visits to the branches of the East Central Regional Libraries.

My first stop brought me a pleasant surprise: the Aitkin library, with a newly-opened addition that just about doubled its size. Three posters with pictures of the new construction and the moving-in process were displayed in the central reading area. One poster said, "Thank you to the many organizations, businesses, individuals and volunteers that helped this community dream come true." That statement says a lot about the importance of a library to a community.

I was a bit surprised that this "living room" reading area included a sink and a set of kitchen cabinets, until I learned from staff that this area used to be the meeting room. The new meeting room, much larger, is at the other end of the building, and was busy with Friends of the Library starting to set up tables for this weekend's book sale.

I've come to expect grandfather clocks in New England libraries and quilts here in the Midwest. Aitkin surprised me: a grandfather clock, but not a quilt in sight.

The wooden shelves are handsome, and two study tables in a windowed alcove near the non-fiction collection look ready for students.

The children's area is set off by a series of bright circles in the otherwise neutral carpeting, and it features a circular alcove with window seats ready for their cushions (which are not there yet). A family restroom is located conveniently nearby.

Aitkin's original library was a 1911 Carnegie. The building is now an Art Center. Regrettably, I did not spot the building while I was in town, but you may be able to see it at the second link below. An entryway holds a display cabinet of memorabilia from the Carnegie library, including photographs, hand-written record books, and documents. As in other places, books were moved to the new building in a "bucket brigade" effort that I'm sure is remembered by many members of the community.

Congratulations to Aitkin on the 20th anniversary of the "new" and now expanded building, which was dedicated on November 12, 1994.

For more about this library, go to or


Yes, there was a bit of snow!

This is the display of Carnegie memorabilia.

The former meeting room is now a cheerful browsing/reading area.

My first library job included putting newspapers onto sticks.
This is a particularly large and handsome display rack for the rods.

Monday, November 3, 2014

McAllen, TX Main Library: on the "to visit someday" list

I had heard about this Walmart-to-library conversion, but today my nephew sent me this link to an amazing set of pictures. If I ever get down to Texas, this will be on the Must Visit list!