Saturday, January 31, 2015

304. MORE -- Turtle Lake, WI, Public Library

Turtle Lake is a town of just of 1000 people--but towns around these parts will have a library! This library, like many others in small towns, shares a building with town offices and a tourism office.

The book and media collection is small, of course. Or perhaps it is quite large, since patrons have access to materials from the entire MORE group of 50 libraries. A few interesting details include the popcorn machine in the storage room, narrow bookshelves at the end of each pair of shelves in the "stacks," one for Stephen King books and the other for Chilton manuals, and a fundraising "thermometer" that looked a bit lonely.

But once I started talking to the librarian, I realized that the physical library is only an outer shell. The woman working on this Saturday morning introduced herself as the children's librarian. She is at the library six days a week, providing "a safe place for kids." She thought for a moment and then told me that she probably knows more than 60 kids "quite well." After work, her husband helps with homework. Every week there is a craft project and "in three years, there have been no repeats!" When I was there, about a half dozen kids, pre-teens or tweens, were clustered around a couple of laptops. I didn't get a good look at the kids' corner for the best of reasons--it was full of kids!

Once a week, the local kindergarten class walks over for story time, a craft, and a snack.

I did not get her name, but February 1, 2015, will mark her third anniversary with the library.

There is, of course, an "adult" librarian who works mornings during the week!

For more about Turtle Lake Library, go to They don't appear to have a Facebook page, but you might consider going to the Contact Us link on the library page and sending the children's librarian best wishes on her third anniversary. Just sayin' ...

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303. MORE -- Cumberland, WI -- Thomas St. Angelo Public Library

A nice day to get on the road and visit another cluster of libraries in Wisconsin's MORE library information system. MORE serves 50 libraries; with today's four visits, I've now been to 21, and have 29 "more" to go.

My GPS is very clever at bringing me to the street address, but not necessarily the current entrance. In this case, that meant my first view of the library was of the over-100-year-old Carnegie building. I parked there and walked around to the new building, and I would say that this is a very good example of blending the old and the new.

The first floor has a lot of nooks and crannies. To my left as I entered the new part is a comfortable browsing area with periodicals, newspapers, large print books, and a magnifying reader. To the right are a display of mini houses (1:144 scale), a meeting room, rest rooms, and a display of old high school photographs. Further on there are a half dozen public Internet computers and a small coffee area. The coffee area also has an array of round ornaments featuring local businesses. There is also a display of photographs of the Library Directors back to 1901; just seven of them in all that time, I believe, and all women. There is a new director now; her picture will not go up until her tenure ends.

To the back is a jigsaw puzzle in progress, an ancient adding machine ("Do not touch!!") and a book sales room where I found a number of board books for my youngest visitors next Halloween. Nothing like getting an early start! I also bought a book bag; not a standard bag with the library name imprinted, but a very nice handmade fabric bag available "for a donation, minimum $1.00 please."

The stairs go up past a small area titled Thomas St. Angelo Reading Nook. This "nook" includes a set of Harvard Classics, memorabilia about Mr. St. Angelo, an early resident, including reference to a movie, "Thomas St. Angelo: An Unconventional Scholar." When a "move, build new, or add on" decision was in the works, the St. Angelo Charitable Trust contributed a half million dollars, and the library had a new name.

Upstairs is wonderfully light and bright, with tall windows in both the Carnegie and the new parts of the building. The adult fiction and non-fiction are in the Carnegie area with its handsome fireplace and windows with stained glass panels at the top. The children's area is in the new building, with bright colors and murals up by the ceiling. There is a Teen Corner, which  has a couple of study tables and some low chairs for relaxing. I saw that Wii games may be borrowed, "5 per library card." That seems like a pretty generous policy!

BREAKING NEWS--I have just (2/10) received information about the library murals: "The murals in the children's room were done by a local artist - Jeff Hile.  He has Dancing Bird Studio just down the street from the library.  He also did the painting of former librarian Katherine Robinson which is over the elevator door.  The dragon's name is Robbie in her honor.  We had a contest to name the dragon."

For more about the library, go to or their Facebook page at

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View from the Carnegie side

Entrance to the new building

Adult area upstairs in the Carnegie building

Shh! Don't wake the sleeping dragon that "guards" the children's area!

I especially like the colorfully-painted table and chairs.

A glimpse into the Teen Center on the left, some of the public computers in the foreground; the wall with the four square windows is in the stairwell, where the gray triangular form lists major donors.
I should have asked about the murals, which are quite wonderful; perhaps someone will read this and share a comment about them.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

302. Spooner, Wisconsin, Memorial Library

Deep in my DNA, inherited from my father, is the importance of not returning by the same route one took outbound. Therefore, I decided to visit Spooner, WI, on my way home from Duluth, rather than just get on I35. My decision was not at all influenced by one of the Duluth librarians telling me about a wonderful bakery in Spooner. Nope, not at all. And I didn't find the bakery, and I didn't buy more treats than I intended. Not.

The children's area is in the right-hand wing as you enter. My eyes were immediately drawn to the mural on the far wall, with trees, sky, and a clock centered in a golden sun. There are collections of picture books and readers, plus junior fiction and non-fiction. Instead of a separate section for graphic novels, they are identified by a green sticker on the spine and shelved along with junior fiction. The preschool area has a rug with letters and numbers, various hand puppets and other toys, and a sign, "We hope you enjoy playing with the toys. Please put them away before you leave. Thanks! Library Staff." I like the fact that the sign is "signed"--this is not a faceless "someone" who wants you to put the toys away, it is "Library Staff."

To the left of the door is the adult section. The area inside the large windows shown in the second picture is a "living room" area for browsing, with comfortable chairs, a study table, periodicals, and newspapers, which are not mounted on "newspaper poles" but are laid over them in the rack.

The non-fiction section has shelves labeled by topic and Dewey number. A two-step wooden stool with a tall handle allows stable access to the upper shelves. [A similar stool allows small kids access to the drinking fountain.]

Periodicals have very special shelving, made by a friend of the library. At first glance, this appears to be simply wooden sloping shelves with space behind each shelf for back issues, a standard arrangement. A closer look shows that each title has its own "cubby" with a hinged lid. It's very neat and unusual. This shelving was donated in memory of Emma Busch-Lombard.

There are movies and recorded books, of course. DVDs may be borrowed, up to ten per household for seven days. That should suffice for most cold, snowy spells!

A glass-fronted case (Lois and George Rand, 1991) holds information and books related to genealogy, and a sign suggesting the website

As for the bakery? I recommend their gingersnaps; dipping them in hot chocolate instantly returns them to right-from-the-oven texture. I just polished them off, to fuel me as I wrote this entry.

For more about this library, go to or

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To see the fountain and read about it, go to the library website.

300. Duluth, Minnesota, Mt. Royal Branch

This library held a surprise that reminded me of Albany, MN. Although Mt. Royal branch is in a shopping center and Albany shares other civic space, the commonality is that you arrive at a very ordinary doorway, walk straight ahead, and glass doors welcome you into a surprising small library. A window wall, not obvious from the outside, fills the space with light, even on a rather gray day. The ceiling, with exposed mechanicals, is painted white, and the walls are brightly colored, creating a very inviting space.

I liked seeing the bright yellow cart with its signs "Please leave materials to be shelved on this cart. Thank you." and "Please return magazines here."

Paperback fiction is shelved on spinners, making it easier to shelve but perhaps harder to find a specific title. This separation also keeps the regular shelves neater, without paperbacks sliding back or falling forward. (Voice of experience.)

The shelves are quite full, but it seems that an effort is being made to avoid using the very lowest shelf; as a tall person, I appreciate that. I had to ask about children's non-fiction, and a librarian (Julie, I believe) showed me where they have their own shelves next to the adult collection. While looking for these books, I had spotted parenting books that surprised me by having "j" on the spine; for example, Diaper-free Baby, j 649.6. I haven't seen that kind of labeling anywhere else. I assume that, for consistency, it must be the same at Duluth Central and at the Duluth West branch, but I didn't notice it in those places. Perhaps, if she reads this, Julie can explain this in a comment on this post? Please?

A large corner by the windows holds the picture books along with a train table and a play kitchen. Posters remind parents to Share Stories, Share Sounds, Share Playtime, and Share Books.

There is a modest teen area with seating like a large corner booth in a diner.

I have a warm spot for small branch libraries that surprise me in good ways--like this one!

For more about this library, go to or

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The unassuming exterior, between pizza and haircuts

A glimpse of the bright interior,
with a dollhouse displayed on the right.

301. Duluth, Minnesota, West Duluth Branch

My last stop for the day in Minnesota was in West Duluth, where the library shares a cluster of buildings with the police department, fire department, and a senior center. I see this a lot in small towns, a practical use of shared space and resources. (I don't doubt there are "issues," too, but as one passing through, I am free to pretend there are not.)

The entrance hall serves both the library and the senior center. The seniors had a display of cleverly-made driftwood "trees," and I was tempted--but I kept to my goal of visiting the library. The dollhouse here (yes, each Duluth library has one) is also in the display case. Here, the dollhouse "viewing experience" is enhanced by a list of "I Spy" items and three questions to think about: Who lives here? Who visits sometimes? How many pets does the family have? These are great questions because the answers are not obvious; for example, is that lion in an upstairs bedroom a pet or a toy? Very nice.

Once in the library, I turned left into the adult area. Here I found the expected computers and many recorded books, including Playaway sets. The on-site collection is necessarily small, but the many requests waiting to be picked up indicate that patrons here make good use of the broader resources of Duluth and beyond.

There is a mural based on the history of the Village of West Duluth and the City of Duluth. A wall of windows is lined with study tables and a "living room" browsing area.

Young Adults (Teens) have two large beanbag chairs, shelves of books, spinners of graphic novels, and boxes of comics.

The children's area has a train table, a play store, kitchen, and phone booth, and a small wooden structure with a slide. All pretty typical, but not typical is a long padded bench with arched openings cut in the base, forming "garages" for an assortment of vehicles. A large display wall holds new and "old favorite" picture books on plastic shelves. And a bulletin board has drawings by youngsters and, my favorite, a Zits cartoon about the joy of discovering old, out-grown picture books and enjoying them anew.

Good things often come in small packages, and this library is definitely a "good thing."

For more about this library, go to or

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The cold,  snowy day allowed a clear view of the leaping fish bike rack.

299. Duluth, Minnesota, Central Library

If you have been to Duluth, and especially if you have ever traveled south on Superior St., you have probably seen this library, which somewhat resembles a Great Lakes ship--see the first picture below. I tried to visit here a few months ago, and this time I knew the tricks: get there early, and take quarters for a parking meter--unless you are more clever than I am, and know how to find other parking!

The entrance to the library is about midway down the building from the "bow," with the children's area to the right, behind the circulation desk, and the adult fiction area to the left. I started upstairs, and found an amazing assortment of non-fiction collections.

At first look, the upper level is almost overwhelming, it is so long. Signs hanging from the ceiling help a lot; from where I stood at the top of the stairs, I could see Catalog, Reference and Information Service, Recent Non-Fiction, and Magazines. Other areas became obvious as I walked around.

Immediately at the top of the stairs is the North Shore Room with Books, Family Histories, Cemetery Indexes and Maps. This room is reserved for genealogical research. Nearby is the largest collection of microfilm I have seen so far in any library. There are six readers, some with coin-operated printers, and many, many drawers of microfilm. Some I noted are Reader's Digest (1950 to 1973), Rolling Stone (1983 to 1995), Newsweek (1950 to 2001), and Engineering and Mining Journal (1951 to 1963). There are many more; one could spend a lot of time browsing for interesting items here!

Below a long, narrow band of windows that look out on the water are many flat drawers of maps, some of which can be checked out. There are even racks of 35mm slides, a first in my travels. Other goodies include Federal Census from 1852 (or 1857, my notes are unclear), and the State (Territory) Census from 1865. To top it off, there is a seed library. And this is just one corner of the whole upper floor!

Non-fiction DVDs are on this level. On the day I was there, extensive shelves of periodicals were topped with boxes asking patrons to put periodicals here for an in-house magazine use survey. [Tip to patrons: If you want a subscription continued, put some copies of the periodical in here!]

At the far end of the building, the rounded end, the shelves of the non-fiction collection are fanned out to conform to the space and a variety of seating is provided along the curved window wall. Continuing along the long side of the building, there are ten carrels designated a "quiet study area" with no cell phone use allowed. The reference section includes article and pamphlet files, and file drawers labeled "Administration Records Duluth International Airport" and "Air National Guard." I also spotted bound copies of Sears, Roebuck catalogs from 1897, 1902, 1906, and 1927, plus a Montgomery Ward catalog from 1922. More temptation to sit and browse, or to come back another day.

Other sections are dedicated to books about collectibles of all types, Christmas books, and government publications.

I enjoyed talking to the librarian on duty in the reference area, and I was impressed with her very correct priority of helping a patron get his laptop set up. The young man is apparently new to library services, and was amazed to learn about Inter-Library Loan.

Finally, thinking about the quarters I had put in the meter and how much time I might have left, I went back downstairs and to the fiction area, which is in the rounded end of the library, under the non-fiction. Here a long, narrow room, partially glassed-in, has 16 public computers, with several more along the wall outside. The rounded area on this level provides a near-circle of seating, with a coffee table in the center where a jigsaw puzzle was in progress. CDs, recorded books, fiction DVDs, and adult fiction are shelved here. There are offices and meeting rooms, and chairs are provided throughout for the comfort of browsers.

At the opposite end of the building is the children's area. There are eight computers, a reference section complete with a globe, games, book club bags, a good-sized collection of books for parents and teachers, and (of course) plenty of books for kids. A play area has comfortable seating for parents at both ends, with tables for wooden trains, Duplos, and other toys in the center. There is a very nice dollhouse in a display case. The library has a LEGO club but does not have a good place to display the kids' creations. Their clever solution is to display pictures on an "electronic picture frame" at the librarian's desk.

A teen area looks out on the sidewalk through window paintings done by the teens.

And I still had 13 minutes on the meter!

For more about this library, go to or

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