Saturday, March 28, 2015

316. Grand Rapids Area Library, Grand Rapids, MN

As I traveled on this cold, sunny day, I kept hearing about the wonderful library in Grand Rapids. My informants did not exaggerate; this library is great. [Well, OK, I have a tendency to think all libraries are great.]

The first thing I noticed as I drove into the parking lot was a huge sunflower made, I believe, of metal. As I was leaving, I saw that it had solar collectors in the area where the seeds would be. I didn't go back in to ask about it, but I've sent a question via the library's website and will add information when I get it. You can get a glimpse of it in the third picture below.

I was surprised to learn that the library was built in looks brand new to me, with its high wood ceiling, gently curved wall, and windows facing the Mississippi River. The ceiling is supported by large metal columns (tree trunks) with angled metal pieces (branches) and additional wooden props (canoe paddles). There is a map on the wall with the question "Where have you been?" Based on the stickers added to the map, I'd say that Grand Rapidians get around! There is an oval bench that forms the base for a sculpture of a girl reading; see picture below.

The children's area feels enormous. Picture book shelving is an interesting combination of shelves and bins; hard to explain, but instead of the common "bin above, shelf below" configuration, here there are three shelves built like bins so that the books face forward and there is a top surface for displays. [As often happens on these visits, I don't know until I get home what I should have taken a picture of!]

A play area has some of the features common to libraries that have worked with the Children's Museum in St. Paul. How Grand Rapids got these features is an interesting story that I won't tell here; stop by the library and ask. The features here include a hollow tree trunk, bait shop, boat with life vest and motor, and a farmers market. A couple of "telescopes" are mounted by a window near the bait shop, with a sign asking "What can you see?" In the bait shop, a sign challenges kids to find an object beginning with each letter of the alphabet.

Moving away from the play area, there is a window alcove with easy chairs and love seats, eight computers for kids, four kid-sized study tables, and the Junior fiction and non-fiction shelves. One of those shelves is topped with an impressive papier mache "Dragelcorn" which was made a few years ago in an eighth grade class and donated to the library by Justine, Taylor, and Kate. A few other figures from this project are elsewhere in the library.

Adults have a delightful area for browsing or study, with a river view, a couple of stained glass panels hanging by one of the windows, tables, carrels, upholstered chairs, and of course, computers. The River Room is a long, narrow conference room. There are also three quiet study rooms, and a group study room that can seat up to eight.

A modest teen room has a space-themed painting on the wall that reminds me of one I saw last Vermont, perhaps? I'll have to look for it!

The river outside looks a bit small for the Mississippi, but I'm accustomed to seeing it further south! Given a few more degrees of warmth in the air, and I'd have been greatly tempted to explore the paved path. Next time!

For more about this library, go to or visit on Facebook at

The windows you can see beyond the cars are in the children's area.

The wooden doors have massive curved metal handles that go beautifully with the building.

The center of the sunflower appears to be made of solar panels.

Here's the bait shop...

And the boat, nicely designed for play.

Friday, March 27, 2015

315. Hibbing Public Library, Hibbing, MN

 First thing: "Please wipe your feet...the Minnesota shuffle." So I shuffled, although the ground was dry! I always try to do what librarians ask.
OK, the children's area is to the right. It's brightened by four floor-to-ceiling windows and large colorful banners on the walls. There are five kid-sized study tables with a total of 22 chairs. There are plenty of juvenile audio books, what seems to be a lot of juvenile non-fiction, and (wonderful idea) a special shelf for "Superhero Reads." Easy readers and picture books are shelved together, with different colored dots for first grade, levels 1 and 2, and second grade, ditto. "Reading Counts Books" are also identified with stickers on the spine and I also saw what I believe are AR indicators on book spines.
Restrooms for Boys and Girls are located behind the children's librarian's desk, with signs indicating that all adults should use the restrooms on the lower level. Good for the safety of kids, but I trust parents and caregivers are allowed in!
There is a gigantic papier mache whale with an impressive spout on top of one of the shelves, and a "Reading Lines" train displayed high on one wall; I asked about taking pictures of these, but the person who could grant permission was not available and I was unable to wait. Maybe next time. This is the first time I recall that I was not allowed to take interior pictures (so long as no people appeared).
The adult side of the library has a similarly large, well-windowed space. Fiction, media, and large print books are on the main level, non-fiction stacks are on a mezzanine level. Signs on the ends of some shelves in the stacks ask patrons to "...not shelve books. Put them on the red shelves." The red shelves were scattered throughout the stacks. This seems like a good way to deal with the reshelving issue. The red shelves are more obvious than the ones labeled "Put unwanted materials here" at the library where I work; at the same time, they do not take up extra floor space as carts for unwanted books do.
One wall on the first floor holds paperback fiction; these shelves have 2x6 boards to keep books from slipping back and getting lost on the normal deep shelves. Along the window wall are upholstered chairs and various tables. I especially liked some interesting bentwood tables in this area. (Sorry, no picture.)
The Teen / YA Zone is at the far end of the adult area. Something new to me was a display of "Reads for Teens" leaflets with booklists on many different topics. Nice.
I chuckled to see an unabridged dictionary sharing a table with a large box of crayons--just a momentary juxtaposition, perhaps.
There was a Bob Dylan collection on the lower level, but when I learned that it would have to be unlocked, I decided to skip it. [I know one reader of the blog who will probably consider that inexcusable!] At any rate, I had one more library to visit before a three-hour drive home, and I was starting to get a bit frayed around the edges, I'm afraid.
For more about this library (and the city), go to{4C158728-884C-42F1-A81C-C44EAC59740A}, and visit them on Facebook at
This picture does not do the library justice, I'm afraid!

314. Mountain Iron Public Library, Mountain Iron, MN

Mountain Iron was  actually my reason for making this "collecting" trip. I'd never been here before, but I've been seeing pictures and reading about their programs for months; I almost feel that I know some of the kids!

No kids were there when I visited. In fact, I was early, a half hour before opening, but the librarian graciously welcomed me and gave me the tour. This is a Carnegie library, and one in nearly original condition. It's hard to fault ADA for requiring accessibility, and I think the elevator has been inserted in an unobtrusive way. Though I'm sure that "old timers" found the addition jarring for a while.

The library has a bit of everything: children's and adults' books of all the usual types, tables and chairs, new books and "staff picks," which I'm told are a magnet for a lot of patrons, and of course the ubiquitous DVDs. The rectangular tables in the kids area are the ones I've seen in the pictures of story time programs, one for the craft activity and one for snacks. The round table in the adult area, I was told, hosts a lively TOPS group, among others.

I learned that youngsters in town are more into sports than reading, except during the summer reading program with its prizes. Hey, kids, think about it: if (and I hope this doesn't happen) you maybe sprain an ankle, it would be good to already know your favorite authors and types of books. Get on over to the library and at least do some sampling.

Many Carnegie libraries have now been razed or repurposed, and that was nearly the fate here. I learned, however, that the "build new or renovate the old" decision was decided by the vote of a single library board member. In addition to the mandated elevator, the lower level has been refreshed and now houses a very popular meeting room. I'd be willing to bet it has prompted some "what did we do before we had this?" moments.

The library has a special treasure that I didn't see, a collection of scrapbooks about town history as well as school yearbooks back to the 30s. There is another treasure in the person of Sally, the librarian, who is also an author, writing for the local paper. Her column on page 16 of the March 20, 2015, edition is a hoot. We're both on the same page when it comes to gardening, right down to the raspberries. The difference is that while I maintain the raspberries, nobody maintains anything else at my house. The cats are no help at all.

For more about this library, go to or visit them on Facebook at

I believe this is the first miner in the area, though the sign is illegible.

Carnegie to the core!

313. Virginia Public Library, Virginia, MN

A long jaunt north to Virginia, MN, started my day. The weather looked a bit iffy in St. Paul and there were some flurries along the way, but soon the sky cleared and it was a beautiful but chilly day to collect a few libraries.
Virginia's library looks as if it could be a Carnegie library, and the date is right, 1912, but no, it was built by the town without Carnegie help. Wikipedia says that the population was about 8700 in 2010; a brochure I saw near the entrance says that the library has 8670 registered borrowers, so I will assume that some of them live in neighboring communities! At any rate, with 93,652 visits last year, it's clear that this library is central to the community.
The Carnegie look is obvious inside from the large, windowed spaces to right and left, each with an impressive brick fireplace. The space to the left as you enter is the kids area, with three easy chairs, lots of art on the walls and mobiles hanging overhead, puzzles, and soft toys. A first for me was to see picture books labeled "F" for "First Readers," not the usual "E" for easy. I actually think neither of these designations is quite right, since picture books are often not at children's reading levels; they are intended for an adult to read to a child. Children's books are marked "Y" for "Young reader" rather than the usual "J" for Juvenile or Junior. And many books have what I believe to be Accelerated Reader labels. This was especially striking, since I had just read an article about whether libraries should use "levels" like this. [I've been unable to find the article again; I will keep looking and add a link when I locate it.] [Found it: ]
Books for teen readers are labelled with the familiar "YA" for Young Adult.
I liked seeing dictionaries on many of the computer desks!
To the right as you enter is the adult area of the library, with armchairs, study tables, and fiction / non-fiction stacks. I noticed a lot of Westerns, and paperbacks are shelved on spinners.
The service / reference desk is directly ahead as you enter. At first it looked as if Reference books were sequestered behind the librarian, but she assured me that the stacks behind her are open to the public, and hold YA as well as Reference books.
The library sells very nice book bags at a very reasonable price. I got the blue and white one that says "Virginia Public Library." Now I need to meet someone named Virginia so I can gift it!
To learn more about this library, go to, look for it on Facebook at or check out their blog at
3/26/2015   car


Monday, March 23, 2015

312. Menomonie Public Library, Menominie, WI

The only problem with visiting six libraries in one day is catching up with the blog entries! OK, Menomonie, it's your turn at last. The librarian in Hammond told me I was in for a treat, and she was right!

First impressions? The location and the low "sheltered against the storm" design. Lake Menomin, ice and all. And the "Little Free Library" at the entrance to the parking lot, with its welcoming sign "Big and small, we love them all."

Inside, the first things I noticed were a teen area, complete with teens; a coffee station, with a suggested 25 cents donation per cup; and photos of about three dozen "1000 Books before Kindergarten" graduates. Barely in the door, and I see possibilities for a broad range of ages.

The children's area has four big armchairs facing a play space. Did I say big? Each of these chairs would easily hold an adult and a kid or two, perfect for a story. There are bins of animals and puppets, lots of puzzles, and the ubiquitous wooden train table. The front of the children's librarian's desk is metal, with a large collection of magnetic letters and numbers. The tops of picture book shelves are lined with bright-covered books on stands. A low table by a window has two computer keyboards, like Spring Valley. Here there are also a couple of portable phones to add fun to dramatic play.

The walls that face the lake are lined with angled windows to maximize the view. Each pair of windows creates a sort of alcove, and each alcove is a bit different. One has the low kids' table; the next has a low platform with carpet and cushions; others have various tables, chairs, carrels, and benches.

The Friends of the Library have a large shelf of books for sale. I found about a dozen like-new kids books for next Halloween. Their book sale is coming up in April.

A few other people-friendly features include a self-service fax machine, tissues and hand sanitizer on a table in the browsing area, a bin of free magazines, and a free charging station for electronic devices. And fortunately I paused and looked up on my way out, or I would have missed a handsome pyramidal ceiling of stained glass. It's no surprise that the library was bustling, it's so welcoming.

For more about this library, go to or visit them on Facebook at

3/20/2015, car

A glimpse of Lake Menomin on the right.

A "Little Free Library" outside a mid-size public library.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

311. L. E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire, WI

After four small town libraries, here I am at the big time! I should stop here later in the year when the world is green and take a picture to show how the building maximizes the river view. In brief, the outside walls are lined with windowed alcoves that have varied seating for about four people each. Even without a sunny, green, river view it was clear that these spaces are popular, as each one had at least one patron.

In several places I saw some unusual seating, square-ish upholstered chairs separated by tables and with reading lamps with Tiffany-esque shades. In one place there were four, I think, of these chairs in a row. These fit very nicely where they are, and I wondered if they might be from an older building.

A wall display honors donors to the Capital Campaign, Endowment Fund, and Special Gifts. The many names listed here, and (on a different scale) the adoption of shelves by patrons, suggest a library that is appreciated by its community.

A lot of specialized technology is in the glass-walled Lois Barland Room, dedicated to genealogic research, near a cabinet filled with microfilm copies of census records, old newspapers, etc. A sign I like says "Did you know? Print Preview lets you see...." Every library computer that has access to a printer should have this sign! Another sign says that the first ten pages per day of printouts are free. I assumed that this was for genealogy materials only, but I later saw signs that make me think it is overall library policy--and a very generous policy it is, one that I have never seen before.

At the top of the stairs is a cart for "materials you do not wish to check out." Carts like this help a lot in keeping shelves tidy and in order.

A Young Adult Lounge has large windows, computers, and a collection of young adult non-fiction. In my experience it's somewhat unusual to have a separate YA collection of non-fiction, but I can see that it makes sense.

The general non-fiction collection is on shelves that are numbered, labeled with Dewey numbers, and captioned. Shelf 75, for example, holds Non-fiction 782 - 787 and 787 to 791, and is labeled "Music Movies TV Theater." I was intrigued to see that Manga are shelved as 741.5952, not in a separate area. Seating areas in the non-fiction part of the library are designated as "Quiet Areas" -- no cell phone use and only brief conversations.

Back downstairs I found the large children's area. Separate shelves hold J Large Print books, more than I usually see, and collections of award-winning books. A windowed area for browsing has four upholstered chairs, two love seats, and shelves with 24 juvenile periodical titles. The "stacks" in this area are labeled with Dewey numbers but not with topics as in the adult stacks; that might be a nice addition. Kids can check out games to play in the library, but their cards will be held until they return the game in good order!

Moving toward the area for younger children, I liked the mirrors on the wall near the librarian's desk with suggestions about making a happy face, sad face, and so forth. The Play and Learn area has a long, wavy counter by the windows, a barn, dollhouse, and store for creative play, and a suggestion that parents can check out, for an hour, an iPad loaded with early literacy apps. In addition to being fun, I can see this modeling for parents the kinds of apps that are appropriate for young kids.

Fourteen computers are available for kids at a two-sided counter along a wall with windows to the interior of the library.

The library was hosting the ArtsWest 36 show, which had many interesting pieces in varied media, including one of "cut paper and baking soda" which was very intriguing!

For more about this library, go to or visit them on Facebook at

3/20/2015, car

Saturday, March 21, 2015

310. Altoona Public Library, Altoona, WI

"All Aboard the Altoona Express Early Literacy Trail: 1000 Books by Kindergarten." This is what greets you in the lobby of the library / community center. It's accompanied by train cutouts with the names of about 40 graduates of this program. There is also a mural of a steam engine, and in the library a mural of a 10-car train runs the length of the service desk. As kids complete each 100 books toward their goal, they get a colored dot to place on the appropriate car: the 100 car, the 200 car, and so forth. AND they have their own smaller version to keep at home. If that wasn't enough to convince you that Altoona is about trains, check out the double wooden train table in the kids area; two tables have been joined together for one large layout, with bridges from one table to the other.

I was especially taken with the signs here. The picture book area greets you with "Welcome to Picture Book Place," and the books are color-coded by theme. Posters describing each theme are on the shelves; see the blue "animals" poster below for an example.

There are plush puppets in bags that can be checked out, one per library card, for three weeks; themed bags with books, games, and puzzles; a Duplo table; a dollhouse; puppets and a puppet theater; and many DVDs and VHS tapes shelved together. With all the toys, it seemed reasonable to see this sign: "Parents / Caregivers, we are happy to provide a play area for your children, but please remind them to clean up the area before leaving. Thank you for your support." There is a computer designated as the "Early Literacy Computer." It is for children 2 through 11, and children five and under must have a parent sit with them at the computer. That seems like a very reasonable policy.

There are plenty of books for older kids as well, and models on display reflect what must be quite an active LEGO club. A teen area is "Reserved for Teens from 3 PM weekdays and during library hours on Saturdays." Shelves in the teen area have been "adopted" and looked very neat. The ones I noticed have been adopted by Hannah S. -- nice job, Hannah!

At this point you might think that Altoona is strictly a kids library, and of course that is not the case. The adult area has plenty of books, and they can request books from throughout the MORE system. DVDs are displayed alphabetically on shallow shelves mounted to the walls between the windows in the back of the library. Paperbacks are displayed on spinners. Two stools on wheels face the low set of bookshelves for new books, a very nice convenience for those who want to look these books over. And in the center is a "living room" area with a low table and eight chairs for relaxing and looking at books or periodicals.

For more about this library, go to or visit them on Facebook at

3/20/2015, car

309. Elmwood Public Library, Elmwood, WI

This is a small library with "a little bit of everything." When I arrived, two gentlemen were reading newspapers at the table by the window to the right of the door, and having a lively discussion about the news of the day.

The next thing I noticed was that everything (shelves, furniture...) is "In memory of..." someone. This indicates wonderful community support of the library, and the librarian agreed with that impression.

Teens have a tall table with a couple of chairs/stools by the back window. The children's area is toward the back, with books, papers for drawing and coloring, an enormous box of crayons, a small, charming "teddy bear" quilt on the wall, a large whiteboard and a magnetic board with letters, numbers, and pictures. And of course there is the cart for board books, see picture below.

I enjoyed chatting with the librarian. On my way out I saw a tall dinosaur-shaped container with a healthy collection of coins in the bottom and a request that one "feed the dinosaur" to support library programs. I didn't "feed the dino," but I did buy some books from the Friends of the Library. They'll start my collection for next Halloween!

For more about this library, go to or visit them on Facebook at

3/20/2015, car
Notice the collection of "book spines" above the entrance!
The "John Deere wagon" for board books is eminently suitable to the agricultural area.

308. Spring Valley Public Library, Spring Valley, WI

As is true in many small towns, the Spring Valley Public Library shares a building with other municipal services. It's also right across the street from the elementary school. The most notable feature as I walked in was a very long display case that fills half of the right-hand wall. It holds the Doug Blegen (1946-2002) Historical Collection, a wonderful array of pictures, objects, clippings, and so forth. I noticed that the rest of the wall is being prepared to double the display space, and I learned in the library that Doug Blegen's brother has followed his footsteps as town historian and will be filling the new space. Very cool.

After walking the length of the corridor to the library entrance, I headed to the back of the space, planning to work my way forward. I found a bright adult browsing area with a couple of windows (one with an attractive stained glass hanging), assorted tables and chairs, and a collection of periodicals. Non-fiction and fiction books are shelved here, with a detailed poster about the Dewey Decimal System.

Heading back to the front of the library, I found a Large Print collection, three computers, a lot of recorded books and DVDs. There is a lot of kids' art on the walls which really sparks the space; this includes some framed art labeled "Artwork of the Month--Spring Valley Art Department."

The children's area has shelves of picture books and plenty of "J" material. I think there is a teen area in one corner near the librarian's desk. I was intrigued to see three computer keyboards, without computers, on a low table. The assistant librarian confirmed my guess: The kids love to pretend to use computers. Since the library is so close to the school, I asked about program connections and learned that, in addition to some classes coming to the library, they also run a program on "early release" days that attracts 30 to 50 kids for crafts and a movie. The place must be really jumping on those afternoons!

For more about this library, go to or visit on Facebook at

3/20/2015, car
The bottom line of the sign says "MARCH INTO READING."

307. Hammond Community Library, Hammond, WI

Well, I have to start by apologizing for the pictures! I should have walked a bit further and taken a picture straight on of those wonderful Hammond murals. You'll just have to go see them for yourself. And I'll be back after I complete six new entries and will get the second picture upright. Mea culpa!

To the right inside the door is the library office, where the first thing I spotted was a collection of topical "Book Bundles," bags with four books, an activity, finger play and song ideas, and a list of additional theme books. And not just a bag: a bag with a ribbon on it, clearly stating that "this is something special." These bundles were to replace story times for March, while the librarian was away for a couple of weeks. Brilliant and thoughtful.

The first part of the long, narrow space is divided by a tall bookshelf into picture book space on the left and the YA / juvenile section on the right. On each side, short sections of shelves stick out from the outer walls, creating either mini-stacks or alcoves. Seems like a good use of space. There are toys for the youngest, including a Duplo table.

To the rear of the library is space for adults. Shallow shelves of paperbacks line the walls, and there are fiction, non-fiction, and audio books. At least three computers are available. A wooden rocker and a couple of armchairs are near the newspapers (on sticks!) and periodicals.

DVDs are represented by plastic sleeves with the case inserts; I didn't see a sign, but I assume the DVDs themselves must be obtained from the librarian. There are also some circulating Wii games. A shelf of requests indicates that patrons are making use of the MORE library system sharing.

Props to the librarian, a very lively presence. I think that Hammond is very fortunate to have her! I hope the Friends of the Library are able to follow through on their plans to make the upper-level space usable for expansion.

For more about this library, go to or visit on Facebook at

3/20/2015, car

These painted panels are very attractive.