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.

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