Thursday, January 15, 2015

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

1/14/15  car


1 comment:

  1. The library's website is and our Facebook page is

    (If you update the links, you don't need to post this comment)


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