Monday, May 25, 2015

342 Cedar Lake Branch of Lake County Illinois Public Library

The library has a large lobby; when I visited, it was lined with project tables: Lego, make a wind catcher, and other crafts. I had the impression that there had been a program earlier in the day, or perhaps there would be one after Memorial Day, in preparation for the Summer Reading Program.

Straight ahead is a large commons area with tables, chairs, windows to the roof (see the picture of the entrance), periodicals, newspapers, and a stand with maps and atlases.

There is a similar space to the left, with the reference collection and non-fiction stacks. Oversized books are shelved flat on the bottom shelf near where similar call numbers are shelved, a practice that I think is very civilized. Unfortunately, where I work there is not enough shelf space to do this (even if I could get anyone to agree to try it...).

All of the windows in the adult area have deep cushioned window seats. A couple of study rooms are available; they require photo ID for use.

The Teen Zone is in a glass-walled room, perhaps once intended as a meeting room. There are a couple of tables, various seating including a window seat, and an Internet computer.

The children's area has a large preschool space; here, the windows start at floor level, a nice touch for little kids. There are tables, toys, and many board books. I spotted a "daycare collection," and a "Prescholar Bag" from a state agency. See what this is about at It looks interesting.

The J non-fiction collection seemed quite large. Dewey Decimal aids are on the shelf ends. There is a kids' reference collection, and of course plenty of fiction.

For more about this library, visit or

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The sign...

...and the entrance

341 LaPorte Indiana Main Library

Yes, it's another Carnegie. I did not go in search of Carnegies for this trip, but I certainly found a lot of them!

As I entered, I saw a notice about some recently approved funding for the library. Inquiring, I learned that LaPorte will be upgrading all of its library branches and replacing a couple of them. Way to go, LaPorte!

A large area to the left of the entrance has four study tables and the Indiana Room for history and genealogy. There are extensive non-fiction stacks in a space that seemed to be an irregular polygon; I had a bit of trouble getting oriented! Fiction is on the upper level. I like the way fiction paperbacks are shelved on slanted shelves lining the edge of a balcony overlooking the main floor. I drew a sketch in my notebook, but I can't explain it well. You'll just have to go see for yourself. Twenty-five empty bays in the stacks looked alarming, but staff told me that they're just an artifact of some rearranging that is going on.

To the right of the entrance are big windows, easy chairs, and the periodicals and newspapers. Twenty different newspapers...amazing! I noticed that "Bookclub in a Bag" kits are in clear plastic totes. I sometimes have to check these items in where I work, and I thought of how much easier it would be to count the volumes in these bags, not the black canvas ones I'm familiar with.

The Young Adult area has "living room" seating for enjoying books, magazines, and graphic novels.

Entering the children's area, I saw a playroom with a glass door and a collection of books and toys. A dad (I assume) was in there with a small child. The room is labeled "Play  Grow  Read" and is sponsored by several local organizations. Another part of the children's area has a set of large painted wooden cutouts of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs mounted on the wall; these were donated by F. Meyer in 2009.

"Big Books," the kind teachers like to use with class groups, are propped on top of a bookshelf, held in place by a cute white "fence" made of wood. Tall windows help light the area; there are eight computers, some with the colored-coded keyboards that help kids figure out what is what. A sign says that you must be over 18 to check out DVDs, but staff told me that this had recently changed, and I think someone headed off to remove the sign. Wii games are also available to check out, and I realized when I saw them that I didn't notice video games at any other library on this trip.

Two quilts hang in this area, with panels representing all 50 state birds and flowers. The squares were made by fifth graders after considerable research. They are in crayon which was then set by ironing. Then the quilt was pieced by Mary Ward and machine quilted. I think it's neat that this information is provided.

I like that recorded books are shelved along with their paper versions in the children's area. I don't know whether this is also done in adult fiction, because I only thought of this just now. A few other places I have visited do this and I think it makes sense. There are toys and games to use at the library, and of course everyone is gearing up for the Summer Learning Adventure!

For more about this library, visit or visit Facebook,

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The handsome Carnegie building is still in use.

A view along the side of the newer addition

340 St. Joseph County Public Library, South Bend Indiana, Centre Township Branch

Who could resist a library with a garden, water, and a bridge on the way in? And in the lobby, a unique flowing-stream fountain of stone. Lovely touches and a delightful introduction.

The welcome of the garden and fountain are partially offset by "We reserve the right to inspect all packages, bags, and briefcases." Sadly, I've generally found that such signs are based on bad experiences; I am carrying only a notebook and my camera, and I enter.

There is a large meeting room accessible from the lobby, allowing for meetings when the library is closed, and a smaller meeting room inside. A glass cabinet in the lobby displayed a collection of Japanese items; inside, the display of new books seems unusually large.

I walked through the library to the end opposite the door, past about a dozen public computers and at least one for catalog access. Large windows provide views for two sets of couches and tables. At the far end, a bow window curves around a set of three cushy-looking chairs in front of a fireplace. On the fireplace mantel are two carved birds, skillfully done.

Moving clockwise, I came to more chairs, these looking out at a patio. No one was out there (it was a chilly day for late May), but there was a door with wedge-shaped (sort of) cushioned seats on either side. I was now near the fiction stacks and a row of six one-person study tables; not quite carrels, they have low edges part way around to keep you from pushing your work onto the floor in the throes of study!

The children's area is full of wonders. There are three columns designed to look like trees (see picture). Sets of coat hooks, those most prosaic of accessories, are shaped like a bookworm and a tree, both formed of metal with colorful round knobs. A large square area with windows on two sides is lined with child-size couches and cushioned benches. J fiction lines one wall, non-fiction is on the free-standing shelves. There are at least two Gallileoscope telescopes that can be borrowed. And, wonder of wonders, a large round space in the ceiling is a planetarium! I didn't quite figure it out, but I first saw a panel with names of constellations with a light beside each name. Then fortunately I had the sense to look up and see the night sky overhead. Each library I visit has something I haven't seen before, and this was it for Centre Township!

A final display was a poster of old pictures and the question "Do you remember?" Each picture had a brief memory written by, well, whoever. The person who provided the picture, I assume. A large roll of white paper on the floor came up and over the table in front of this poster, and patrons had been adding their own "I remembers" to this paper. Nice.

Nearby is the book return with a window to the automated materials handling room. That's the way to do it, in my opinion. If you're going to have AMH, let people see it in action. Surely I'm not the only person who thinks it's cool to see books get sorted automatically into the various bins!

For more about this library, visit and

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The welcoming garden

A view from the garden to the lobby entrance

Water trickles down the grooves in the rock.

Three of these column-trees enhance the children's area.
A fourth circular space in the ceiling houses the planetarium display.

339 LaGrange County Public Library, LaGrange, Indiana

This is the main LaGrange County library. It was market day and six or eight wagons were in the street in front of the library. I'll bet the whole block is packed once crops start coming in. I walked past the horses tied in a "wagon parking" area. They seemed calm and friendly, but I just looked and said hello to each one; didn't want to push my luck.

This is another Carnegie library with a newer addition. To enter, I walked along the side of the original building. Just before the door I saw the Adirondack chairs shown in the third picture below. I was surprised when I saw the picture later. In the picture I think they look quite small, but in fact they are so tall, I think my feet would reach the footrest, not the ground. And I'm tall.

Entering the Carnegie lobby I saw extensive materials building excitement for a Superhero-themed summer reading program. There are periodicals and newspapers by the windows, and some of the media collection. The rest of the media is up a half level.

Teens have an area with a "diner booth" and some interesting green rockers, plus books, audio books, and graphic novels. Six computers are nearby.

I went up another level to Adult Services. Here I found a "living room" seating area with a free-standing brick fireplace, chairs, and a couch, with windows nearby. There are a couple of study rooms available. The new part of the building has touches, like brick details, that refer to the design of the Carnegie building. 

Five study tables, one with a chess setup, march down the middle of the non-fiction area. Five computers (three out of order) line the wall.  The fiction area has more casual seating, set off by a couple of area rugs. There are round tables with chairs; one table had a deck of cards waiting for a game to begin. Then I found still another casual seating area, this one with a sign I like: "We can hear you now! Please turn off your cell phone while you are in the library." It was illustrated with a picture of the guy in the "We can hear you now" commercial. (Not a very effective commercial, as I have no idea which company he represents.)

The children's area is to the left of the lobby. The first thing I spotted here was a very unusual reading table. Look at the last picture below;  it's a bit hard to see, but there is a flat square top with four sloping sides and a slight lip at the bottom  to hold a book in place. Can't you just see this table surrounded by youngsters looking at nice big picture books? I'm glad there were no kids at the table when I visited, because I can't/don't take pictures with people in them.

There are tubs of toys on various themes along one wall. I think they circulate, but I'm not sure. Several of these sets, including the one labeled "Vet," are in pet carriers; others are in plain plastic tubs. And of course there are many books. I noticed that the kids also have five computers, like the adults, but all of the kids' computers seem to be in working order.

Not a first, but quite unusual, is the Tween Hideout Station for the upper elementary kids. It's a little space, holding just a single tall, round table and two matching stools, but it's so nice to give these "in-between" kids their own space.

Finally: One good thing about my library visiting hobby is that every library has a restroom, and in my experience they are always clean. But this is the first place I have seen a restroom with a baby-changing area as a built in feature (as opposed to a Koala fold-down plastic tray) AND a sink immediately adjacent. Nice touch!

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

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Buggy Parking Area with the library in the background

A closer look at the Carnegie building

It's an optical illusion...the chairs are actually taller than normal, though they look small here.

Best table yet for looking at picture books;
not so much for puzzles or games!

338 Chapters: LaGrange County Library, Shipshewana, IN

This branch of LaGrange County Public Library is in a small town in northeast Indiana. As it says on the official website (, "the area is defined by its surrounding Mennonite and Amish communities and the small town character that make our town so attractive to residents and to thousands of visitors from around the country."
The first thing I noticed on entering was the enclosure for two guinea pigs, Scooby (colored like a calico cat) and Shaggy (who was sleeping in an enclosure, but seemed to have dark fur). I'm always looking for "something I haven't seen in a library before," and that something here is: guinea pigs!
The adult section of the library holds both "Adult Fiction" and "Christian Fiction," to meet the needs of its patrons. The non-fiction selection is quite small, but of course this is a branch library; many more resources are available through the county. A brochure from the Indiana State Library asks "What will your book club read next?" and offers Book Discovery Kits and databases. Nice.
Lutheran Ministries of Indiana and Kentucky are offering a 2015 Reading Camp this summer. I've heard of all sorts of summer camps: sports, computers, riding, sailing; but this is the first reading camp I've come across!
Crafts for Kids is a program offered on Thursdays afternoons, and News Notes for Parents are available from the Purdue Extension Service.
The children's area of the library has tables and chairs, stuffed animals, picture books, easy readers, and series books, including Dick and Jane, Barbie, Bob the Builder, Sesame Street, Search and Find, among others. There is a Lego club, and they are looking for more Legos, if you have some you no longer need.
The DVD collection clearly labels each case with the movie rating, G, PG13, R, and NR.
Finally, ten computers are available. And I learned that Shipshewana is named for a Potawatomi Chief. 
This is the second library I've visited that is in a log cabin; the first is in Cable, Wisconsin.
For more about this library, go to .
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337 Defiance Ohio Public Library

There are many ways to expand an outgrown Carnegie library, usually by building extensions that to a greater or lesser degree carry on the architectural design of the original. I've heard of one that basically wrapped the original building in glass--must see that one some day! Defiance, perhaps living up to the town name, took a different approach, bookending the original building with two stark white cubes that could not be more different from the original. And in my opinion, it works. See the first and third pictures below.

Once inside, I experienced some disorientation, so I hope someone will help out with comments if I make any significant errors here. On the main floor of the old building, to the right of the door, are the periodicals and papers for browsing, media including recorded books and adult Playaways. On the far side of this space, looking out toward the river, is a fiction area. Free-standing wooden bookcases are four shelves high; those against the wall are six shelves high, and those below the windows facing the river, three. Non-fiction stacks are on a mezzanine level. A half-round room with a river view holds historical material and photographs.

A short flight of stairs marked with Mylar streamers leads to a teen area. This area is exclusively for kids in grades 6 through 12, with library staff supervision, from 3-7 Monday-Thursday, 3-6 Friday, and 10-2 Saturday. (Perhaps this changes for the summer?)

The new building to the right appears to house archives and genealogical material; it was closed when I was there. I was offered a chance to see it but opted not to.

The lower level of the new building to the left of the entrance houses the children's area. The original red sandstone walls now provide part of the interior wall in some places, to very pleasing effect. [And this is where I feel a bit confused, because I know there were offices and support services down here, too. This blogging goes better when I can keep up with the entries on the same day I visit.]

A room set up with a table, sink, and basic craft supplies invites kids to "Stop in and make a craft." There is a large space with picture books and toys and a sign on the wall inviting caregivers to bring children for a "Play Day" here or at the branch libraries nearby. Apparently there is a revolving collection of toys so that some things available for play day will vary from week to week. There are two computers for kids to use. A sign makes it clear that children six and under must be supervised by a caregiver at all times, while those seven through  nine must have a caregiver in the building.

Two features of the J area of this space are the purple tendrils painted on the walls, and the display of American Girl dolls on the top shelf (see picture below). I was told that the dolls are all of the historical characters from the American Girls series books, and are provided by the Friends of the Library.

When I left the library, my third and last stop for the day, I took a refreshing walk on a path that took me across a bridge and through an extensive park. When I returned I was so taken with the late afternoon light on the red sandstone walls that I had to take the close-up picture you may see below.

For more about this library, visit its website at or its Facebook page at

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The Carnegie building and one of the newer gray "bookends"

A sculpture of children reading

Another view of the Carnegie building with the right-hand "bookend,"
which makes an effective backdrop for the flowering tree

The purple tendrils and (along the top of the right-hand shelf) the American Girl dolls.

Red sandstone in all its variegated glory

A clearer view of one of the new additions

336 Mentor on the Lake Ohio Public Library

I chose to visit this library because it is not too far from where I lived for a year or so about 50 years ago. I also worked one summer at a "fresh air" camp, Camp Herrick, in 1961. Of course, nothing even vaguely resembles anything I remember from those experiences.

The library features a shape reminiscent of a Lake Erie lighthouse with windows on all sides. Elements inside, like square tables with lighthouse-shaped corner posts, carry out the theme.

The preschool area has a wooden train table, puzzles, board books, and a sign with this message: "The most important 20 minutes of your day...Read to your Bunny." The picture, of course, is of a bunny mother and child.

In a sunny corner is the Sandra G. Schudel Memorial Room. That name is carved on a wooden sign above the door, and down from the right side of the sign are relief carvings of a sailboat, spinning wheel, loom, basket, and books. What a lovely way to indicate the interests of Ms. Schudel. It made me stop and think what a similar sign for me might have. How about you? Take a moment and think what items would best represent your life.

The children's area also has a couple of attractive two-step stools, not the ubiquitous round ones with hidden wheels that retract when you step on them. Not a big deal, but a small indication that someone involved with this library seeks out the not-quite-ordinary.

In the adult area, periodicals are shelved in an open area surrounding a round table with four captains chairs. I did not notice a specific area for teens, but there are four bays with six shelves each of YA books.

Finally, see the last picture below for a very nice example of relaxed "living room" seating with a fireplace.

For more about this library, visit or

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The "lighthouse tower"

The building is also reminiscent of a barn;
once upon a time this would have been an agricultural area.

I could imagine spending an hour or so in this cozy area, perhaps with a fire on a cool day.


335 Ashtabula Ohio Public Library

I knew I would like this library as soon as I saw the announcement that the teens' summer reading program would kick of with sidewalk art and root beer floats! Yum! [Well, OK, yes, I DO like all libraries. And I like root beer floats. Your point?] Also, it's a 1901 Carnegie building.

An upcoming addition will just about double (or depends who you talk to) the floor space here. Naming rights are available, if a reader of this post is sitting around with spare cash and looking for a good place to use it! I hope to return in 2017 (or late in 2016) to see the changes.

 A clever use of space is shown by the shallow shelves that line the walls between windows. Just big enough, they provide more shelf space while allowing the most walking space possible. A sign suggests that you "Revisit long forgotten romance authors," and lists six names. A friendly reminder...or a way to stretch the collection by urging the circulation of older books? Either way, good job. Is it working?

Perhaps my favorite feature is the book- and reading-related quotations posted on the end of every shelf I saw. Top shelves in stacks are about 7 feet up; a set of rolling steps is "for staff use only." Actually, I saw some even higher shelves in one area, holding bound copies of Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report from the 70s up by the ceiling.

There are some study tables that look venerable; rather than simple rectangles, they are shaped with a slight arc on the short ends. I can't recall ever seeing any quite like them.

The print reference section is larger than many. It includes EPA and Superfund Depositories (?), and large sets of books, like Poetry Criticism (98 volumes), Short Story Criticism (122 volumes), Contemporary Black Biography (71 volumes), Contemporary Authors (278 volumes, plus 75 volumes of the New Revision series), plus Who's Who for 2005, 06, and 07, Who's Who Among African Americans, Women in World History, and more. There is also a shelf of Chilton automotive manuals. Whew! I bet there is a story behind this reference collection. Perhaps someone will leave a comment about it.

A windowless door marked "Stairwell for Employee Use Only--Caution--Potential Hazard--Open With Care" opens outward; the sign is enhanced by a cartoon drawing of a person being knocked over and presumably down the stairs. Might inspire a library-based murder mystery!

A unique pay phone bears this sign: "Please READ instructions before using pay phone. We are not responsible for lost money." I didn't study it in detail, but it did look tricky, and I've never seen another like it.

A small area with upholstered chairs has shelves labeled "Classic Literature," but I spotted Pilgrim's Progress on the regular fiction shelves. Misplaced, perhaps?

OK, now you are wondering about services for kids, right? They are located downstairs, as is common in Carnegie buildings. This level is partly below grade, but it is lightened by large windows. The space is loaded with artwork by kids from an after-school program called Strive for Success. You do great work, kids!

All of the usual materials are here; the ones I jotted in my notebook include recorded book kits, lots of series books, shallow shelves along the walls (like upstairs), World Book for 2013 and 2014 (that's unusually up-to-date for a small library, by the way), Parent and Child Together bags, lots of games that are labeled as if to circulate. (I wonder if they do? I meant to ask, but forgot.) An open area by the picture books is probably the home of story hour for the little ones. The meeting room / program room was once the bookmobile garage. Debbie L told me that it's crowded with even 50 people, so the library really needs its upcoming enlargement.

 For more about this library, go to and check it out on Facebook at

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

334 The Skaneateles Library Association, Skaneateles, NY

This library is in the middle of a very busy downtown area that will probably be even busier in a week or so when the summer tourist crowd arrives. In that respect, it felt like an eastern version of Bigfork, MT. One reason I chose to visit here on this trip is that Rachel Madow recently talked about Skaneateles and discussed how to pronounce the name. "Skinny atlas" comes pretty close.

There is an area with a fireplace, chairs, and periodicals for browsing near the front windows. Another fireplace is near the back window corner, with some tall tables and chairs/stools. In one area, a jigsaw puzzle was in progress.

And perhaps someone can add a comment and tell me why I wrote the word "Fennel" in my notes at this point? I haven't a clue!

At least five computers are available for Internet access.

This is the first library where I've noticed that Dewey Decimal numbers are used without the second line, the Cutter number. Instead, the author's name is used. I read up on this a bit and learned that it's fairly common in the Northeast and New England; I shall have to watch for it.

A well in the children's area is whimsically painted; my favorite part is the cat on the flying elephant! Easy readers are designated levels 1, 2, 3, 4, and color coded.

I don't know what I missed by not going upstairs, but it was the end of a long day. Comments are welcome--what have I missed or overlooked?

For more about this library, go to or

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Because of traffic, I couldn't back up enough for a good picture of this fascinating building.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

333 Town of Chester Public Library, Chestertown, NY

This library shares space in a former high school with various town offices, a real estate office, and the Historical Society...and perhaps more that I didn't see.

A couple of programs caught my eye as I entered. One is a "Read 10, take one home" for the parents of preschoolers. The other was "Adopt an Author," which is like one I saw in Vermont last year; Barre, perhaps? The idea is that you buy a new book by your favorite author, read it, then donate it. It's a nice way to save the budget from at least some of the bite of paying for new books, especially best-selling fiction.

The hallway into the library was lined with life-sized self-portraits of Headstart kids, some painted and some actually dressed in real clothes. Their faces were photo enlargements, drawn or painted. It was a really cute display.

The children's area is light and large. There are several chalkboards available for creativity, one on the wall and a couple on easels. There are two computers for kids, the usual books for the school age crowd plus CDs, VHS movies, and DVDs.

Preschoolers have a train table, toys, two cute rugs / mats (a dog and a sheep, I believe), and plenty of picture books.

Near the local history area, there's a homey living room area for those who like to settle in for a bit of reading. (See picture below.) For someone not feeling that social, there is a wing chair with a reading lamp in a quiet corner. If reading isn't ones preferred activity, a jigsaw puzzle is standing by. And the whole is brightened by a wall with windows from about 3.5 feet above the floor, all the way to the ceiling. These windows look out on the high school playing fields.

Shelving for AV material and Young Adults was donated in 2008 by the Marv Cole Golf Tournament, Susan Arnold Jensen, and Friends of Chester Library.

This library is in the Adirondacks, prime vacation country, so I was pleased to learn that visitors can use the library so long as they have a local address. Nice policy.

For more about this library, visit or

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No doubt at all that this was once a high school.

A new entrance with a ramp meets accessibility requirements.

Make yourself at home here!

332 Rockingham Free Public Library, Bellows Falls Vermont

This good-looking Carnegie library is one of five still in use in Vermont. Although the Carnegie Foundation did not specify the design of libraries, there were guidelines, leading to a "family resemblance" in many of these buildings. The prevalence of windows is one clue; another is the "ceremonial steps" leading to this source of knowledge. And I think every Carnegie I have seen, including this one, has a fireplace or two (or more), though often these are no longer working.

This library has a comfortable reading area with a living room ambience. Here, it is to the right as you enter, and old card catalog files are being cleverly used as end tables.

Near the reference section there are five public computers and a microfilm reader. A man worked at his laptop in the periodical section by the fireplace. Fiction is shelved in the other end of the building, to the left of the entrance. There are study tables by the windows, a catalog computer, and a copy machine in the alcove by the elevator. In my experience, all Carnegie libraries still in use have made at least two changes: the addition of an elevator and an alternate entrance (minus those ceremonial stairs) for ADA compliance.

The children's area is downstairs. There are five computers for the kids, and a meeting / project room.  A sign I like says "Keep YA weird...because normal is boring." This is accompanied by a shelf of YA books and graphic novels.

A couch, chair, and rug designate the picture book and board book area. One corner houses the J collection. Biographies have their own area, which I think is helpful. An active Lego club is represented by some good models.

Although this space is partially below grade, it is kept light by windows and window wells.

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

The classic look that says "Carnegie"

Thursday, May 21, 2015

331 Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH

This 1996 library is housed in a handsome building that fits well in its Colonial town setting. If you look at the cupola in the third picture below, you'll appreciate how light and bright the lobby is. As I walked to the building from the parking lot, I passed two picnic tables and was amused to see signs that indicate these table are "Reserved for library staff 11:30-1:30. Nice! This would indeed be a pleasant place to eat lunch during some parts of the year  Inside, behind the circulation desk, a flat-screen display is mounted on the wall. In the rotation with library program announcements was a display of staff members and their dogs. I learned later that there is another with cats, which I never saw--just wasn't looking at the right time. A book sales room is off the lobby, next to a large grandfather clock.

The upper level holds the adult collection. Each end of the space has a large bow window with chairs facing in. (Look at your book, please; don't be staring at the scenery!) One of these areas has this sign: "You asked, we listened. This is a designated quiet area." A group of tables and carrels near the reference and non-fiction shelves is designated a quiet study area "For reading, studying, researching, thinking deep thoughts, and daydreaming."

I noticed that non-fiction books have Dewey Decimal numbers in the standard manner (641.2 but instead of a second line with a Cutter number (A25B) simply has the author's name. I don't recall seeing this system in use at any other library. It's certainly effective and in many cases would make shelving and finding easier than the full Dewey/Cutter system.

The lower level houses the children's area. It also has a lobby and an entrance directly from the parking lot. In the lobby is a large display cabinet that held, at the time of my visit, an extensive collection of everything Harry Potter, including Quidditch uniforms, books, wands, name it! This collection, and a collection of bells upstairs, are both in memory of Rosemary McLaughlin.

Then there is the train display. When the librarian upstairs told me to be sure and see the train, I pictured a wooden train set as is often seen in children's areas of libraries, so I was surprised to see a model electric train set up. There is a second layout visible on the other side of the wall. I had the pleasure of watching a small boy, probably 3 or 4 years old, make a discovery. He was looking at the larger layout, pressing a button on the wall to make the train run, then dashing to the other side of the wall to look for it. No luck, it was never there (the two layouts are separate). Then he discovered the buttons on the second layout and learned he could make those trains move, too. It's a wonderful display, and the interactivity is terrific.

Inside the children's area, tables and chairs line the walls to the left. An unusual item is a child-sized map case with a sloping top and pull-out shelves below. A map of the United states is mounted above and several atlases were on the top. I also saw a floor-mounted globe. As a fan of maps, I was glad to see these.

An area for the smallest library patrons includes a Duplo table and an unusual rocking "fire engine." There are seats for adults and children and a collection of books for parents and teachers. A bow window area holds picture books.

The largest feature of the children's area is the Storytime Castle with a barred gate. Inside is a program/craft area with tables, cabinets, and a sink. A sign on the "gate" warns "Halt by royal decree. The Storytime Castle is currently closed. Please do not enter." ["Royal decree" and "Please" are an interesting combination!]

The media collection includes some Playaway-and-book kits that I have not seen before. I saw shelves of books for teens, but no designated teen area per se.

Talking to the children's staff, I learned that in a few weeks the summer reading program will start and is expected to serve 1000-1200 children! There is also a summer program upstairs for teens and adults. These programs will help relieve the crowding on the fiction shelves as everyone chooses books for summer reading!

There were a couple of bookshelves of children's books for sale downstairs. I bought a stack of books for next Halloween (instead of candy), then I bought a very nice Bedford Library tote bag to carry them--and to add to my collection of library tote bags.

Finally, as I left by the lower level door to the parking lot, I saw a pay phone mounted on the wall. I didn't check, but it appeared to be working, a true relic of the pre-cell phone era.

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For more about the Bedford NH library, go to or visit them on Facebook at

Upper and lower bow windows facing the lower parking lot;
the lower level entrance is to the right....

....under the Library sign.

The cupola that fills the upper lobby with light

A glimpse of one of the train layouts.
It's behind glass, and buttons on the wall control the trains.

Halt by royal decree!

Don't even think of scaling the castle walls!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

330 New Hampshire State Library

The New Hampshire State Library, founded in 1894, is the oldest state library in the United States. Trying to report on a state library is very different from reporting on a community library. To start with, it serves a very different purpose. Here is the Mission Statement from the library web page:
  • Promote excellence in libraries and library services to all New Hampshire residents;
  • Assist libraries and the people of New Hampshire with rapid access to library and informational resources through the development and coordination of a statewide library/information system;
  • Meet the informational needs of New Hampshire state, county and municipal governments and its libraries;
  • Serve as a resource center for New Hampshire.
Those are not "missions" that are visible to a visitor. Instead, I saw the surface: marble floors, many fireplaces, old books, a very neat vertical filing system for microfilm, patrons coming and going to use study tables. There are many historical books, of course, and materials for genealogical research. A poster on The Care and Handling Guidelines from the Vermont Historical Records Advisory Board was clear, thorough, and not condescending, and at the same time it looks attractive. I would suggest it for any library that maintains historical documents. At the same time, there are racks of literature about the role of parents in early literacy and education.

Both floors I saw have ceilings high enough to accommodate a mezzanine level of stacks. A few special items that caught my eye were an original brick from Independence Hall, a copy of the State Seal perhaps 8 feet in diameter that looked as if it might sometimes be used for an outdoor display or parade float; and a relief map of New Hampshire that must be close to 20 feet tall. A very large card catalog bears a sign that it was "closed" in 1990; since then the catalog has been computer-based.

Walls, floors, and ceilings are elaborate and classical. On the stairs to the second floor, the landings are of tile that reminds me of pictures I have seen of Pompeii.

There is a children's area with historical books and children's books with a New Hampshire connection, as well as winners of various State book awards. I did not see this area, but if I come back I'll be sure to allow time and make the needed arrangements.

The staff persons I spoke to were pleasant and helpful. If I were a resident of New Hampshire I would be looking for reasons to come here, just to sit at the venerable tables and feel a part of the on-going history of the state.

More information about the library is available at and there is a Facebook page at

5/20/2015  car and walking, with Mary


329 Rice Public Library, Kittery, Maine

There is always something new under the sun and in this case, it is a library with two addresses. No, not a main library and a branch, but two separate buildings. The original library, a handsome brick structure from 1888, was built with money that Arabella Rice received from her uncle, hence the name "Rice Public Library." But what do you do when you outgrow the original? In Kittery, the solution was to expand into the old courthouse across the street. The collection is split between the two  buildings.

I started in the newer, smaller building, which houses fiction, media, and the children's area. The building is a bit of a maze, with every nook and cranny put to use. The main floor has areas for mysteries, westerns, new books, media, large print books, and general fiction. The collection is not huge, but the shelves are full to the point where some books are placed horizontally above the row of books on a shelf. There are three public computers and a small sitting area for browsers. One set of shelves, the mysteries, I believe, was given in memory of Kenneth H. Paisley.

The children's area is down a vertiginous set of stairs (or in a side door). A "kitchen" by a window is available for dramatic play. One area holds J books, media, and two computers. Another has picture books, easy readers, and books on parenting. There is a model castle on a shelf in the corner. I saw one "Ready to Learn" backpack with parenting books, picture books, and a "resource pack," ready to go. A small space has been creatively turned into a cozy seating area, almost like a window seat without a window. I could readily imagine two or even three kids curling up there with books. A table for reading or projects is next to three round "porthole" windows--see picture below.

And I have to give a shout out to the staff in this building, who seem to have a lively and friendly relationship among themselves and with patrons. This is a group that enjoys their work and each other.

Now, across the street to the older building, which proved to have even more nooks and crannies, spread across at least three levels. I found it easy to visualize how this library once was, with a circulation desk and the stacks behind it, accessible only to the librarian. Now the stacks are open; the space is half-round, with the stacks set like spokes with windows at the end. The windows, like others in the building, still have narrow wooden shutters on the inside. These stacks hold the non-fiction collection from 000 to 699. There are also six computers providing Internet access.

The lower level was down more steep stairs, though when I got down I discovered another door from the parking lot. This level houses the staff kitchen, rest rooms, non-fiction 700-942.9 plus biographies. [943 to 999 are upstairs], and periodicals. The Howells Room provides seating.

On the top level, I found a Young Adult room in one corner, with table and chairs, beanbag chairs, and a decent collection of books. Diagonally across the building from YA is a room with a fireplace and a classic portrait of George Washington, the same one as in all my public school classrooms through the years. There is also the "Maine Room" and on the wall in the stairway a World War II Kittery Honor Roll.

The main space upstairs has two corner stairways leading to balconies with more stacks. I learned from staff that about 30 years ago a dropped ceiling was removed from this space, revealing the elaborate original ceiling with stained glass skylights. This is altogether an amazing building, where metaphorical new wine lives fairly comfortably in an old skin. Would Kittery be well-served by a shiny new building like the one up the road in York? No doubt the answer is yes. Is the town now well served by what it has? It appears so to a visitor.

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

5/19/2015  car, with Jean and Mary

Entrance to the "new" building, the former courthouse

Kittery is on the coast, so this nautically-themed corner of the children's area is very appropriate.

The Arabella Rice building, 1888

One corner of the upstairs, showing the mezzanine stacks.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

328 York Public Library, York, Maine

I've been trying for a couple of years to get myself from St. Paul to New Hampshire (family), then to York, on a day and at a time when the library is open. Finally, today, success--and worth the wait.

This handsome building dates to late 2001. From the lobby, I first chose to go up a half level. The Teen area is close to the entrance. It has tables and chairs, of course; some small round tables have very fancy paint jobs--done by teens, perhaps? There's a good collection of teen books, with new books highlighted, and a spinner of manga. Chess and Scrabble are available.

I enjoyed the display of buttons (sewing, not political); it made me think that I should get out my grandmother's button box, now in my keeping, to see what I have.

Across from the teen space is an area with a fireplace, a grandfather clock (almost standard in New England libraries), and two study rooms.

As we walked the perimeter of the room, my sister and I wondered if the handsome wooden furniture might have come from the older library. Chatting with staff later, we learned that our guess was wide of the mark; the chairs, tables, ends of the stacks, and study carrels are the work of a local woodworker. I have seen this sort of thing before, where the most handsome woodwork in a library is local and reflects care and a well-justified pride. Stacks and shelves are often labeled as "a gift from..." or "donated by...," signs of community support of the library. Some shelves have been "adopted" by library patrons who keep them in good order.

The far end of the adult area is a "living room" with comfortable chairs and the periodicals nearby for browsing. There are at least 12 public computers. Near a librarian's desk are reference works and books of Maine history.

Next I headed downstairs to see the children's area. The lower level also houses the Book Nook for an ongoing book sale and two meeting rooms. One of those rooms had a display of very creative work from the second annual York Middle School "Trashion" show, clothing created from recycled material. The displays here showed major creativity, a lot of hard work, and care in production.

On this day, the Old York History Display featured antique musical instruments, including violins, bagpipes, and a Melodeon.

The first item that greets a visitor to the children's area is a large playhouse, currently set up to be used as a florist shop; this is a great chance for creative play. More creativity is shown in the displays on top of the book shelves, including wonderful creations made from Legos or recycled material. A Craft Area to the side has a hard floor, tables and chairs, sink and cabinets. Directions about leaving material in this area and not taking things from the cabinets suggests that at least some of the time there may be "passive programming" for the school-age crowd.

At the end, under the adult's "living room" area, kids have a couple of sunny areas with cushioned window seats. Next is a "quiet time corner" that provides "a comfy, peaceful place to read or be read to." Close to the children's librarian's office and desk are a couple of wooden train sets on tables and other playthings. A sign asks "Keep the trains and toys in this area. Pick up before you leave."

Finally, there is an almost life sized paper mache elephant that I could not resist--I had to take a picture!

One of my sisters walked around outside and reported a path through gardens to a pond.

 For more about this library, go to or check it out at

5/19/2015  car, with Mary and Jean

I took this picture to give a hint of the length of the building.

The elephant!

Monday, May 18, 2015

327 Enfield New Hampshire Public Library

This was a serendipitous stop. My sister and I were headed to Enfield to have dinner with one of her daughters and two grandkids, and we were running early. I didn't have my "collecting notebook" with me, but I did have my camera and a pen. Libraries always have paper. Let's find the library! With directions from a young woman at the local ice cream shop, we headed down the road.

A sign in the parking lot indicated "Future Site of the New Enfield Library." I have to agree that it is needed. Enfield has a small library with an eager staff and very much in need of more space. Much that a library needs is here, but almost every corner is full and crowded! One exception is the room in front with the bay window. This area has a stained glass window with the name Cumings, a pair of very experienced upholstered chairs, periodicals, newspapers, and media, including a good-sized collection of audio books. There is no extra space here, but it does have a comfortable ambience. No patrons were there, but I could readily picture people relaxing in those chairs, reading the paper and comparing opinions.

The space adjacent to this "reading room" is for the youngest kids, with picture books, board books, and stuffed animals. Shelves line the space and many picture books are on free-standing four-sided shelves that I often see; I call them "ABC123" shelves. See the picture below with the "rocket ship," which we moved from a place in the stacks so that I could get the picture. The rocket was built by an adult. (I didn't get the name in my notes, but if someone will leave a comment, I'll update the post.) I wasn't surprised to hear that kids love to huddle in the rocket and read! I wonder if the library has the picture book Rocket Learns to Read?

The rest of the library holds books, books, books. Easy books are on lower shelves in one area, with Shaker Books and New Hampshire Books above them. Several stacks hold fiction and non-fiction; in places, fiction books must be laid horizontally across the top of other books. A sign in the Mysteries section says that more mysteries are available in storage and can be retrieved if desired. Paperback Western books are in several low boxes, spines up. There are sections of J and YA fiction and non-fiction. Two or three computers are available for public use; two for sure, and a third that might be catalog access; it was being used for solitaire when I was there!

There is room for one study table. There is an attractive quilt on the wall. One corner has a microfilm reader and a cabinet of microfilm, including local newspapers.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, but I've seldom seen a library more deserving and more in need of a new facility. I wish you the very best in your fundraising, and I'll be back to see how things are coming along.

For more about this library, visit the website at I haven't been able to find a Facebook page. If there is one, I hope someone will send me the url so I can add it here.

5/18/15  car, with Mary

Lower level entrance

The cardboard rocket ship and the ABC123 bookshelves

Sunday, May 17, 2015

326 Niagara Falls NY Earl W Brydges Public Library

I have already decided that I will visit here again next year, because I could not do this library justice in my short visit. I was tired, it was raining, construction projects ruled the roads. But I had promised a class of third graders that I would make this visit. Each year I read Queen of the Falls to a third grade class in St. Paul. They love it! So here I was.

From the outside, the library looks like a prickly fortress. Inside, however, is a different story. I spent most of my time in the children's area, a long, rather narrow, space that is as light, bright, and attractive as any I've least, any that do not have the advantage of windows. The picture below gives just glimpse of the mural that welcomes visitors to this area and a teasing look at the wonders inside. An enormous papier mache bird hangs from the ceiling. Books abound, and I saw many that were not familiar to me. (I took notes, and they will soon be on my request list back home.) All along the left wall the shelves are five high, but the bottom shelf is not used--a blessing for those who shelve books! Above these shelves are large cabinets, some locked. I wonder what treasures wait inside?

There are tables of various sizes for users of various ages. A rocker with a large ring of couches and chairs indicates where storytime programs must be held. Separate girls and boys restrooms are clearly marked that they are for children and parents only.

I studied the rules of the children's area. A "traffic light" reminded kids that they could go ahead and use the space (green), might be warned (yellow), or would have to leave (red). A specific rule stated that it is NOT OK to run in and out of the area: "After leaving you may not come back in, so choose wisely." While I was absorbing this and picturing the behavior that must have led to it, a staff person offered help. I explained my purpose in being there, and asked if there is any site in town commemorating the first successful trip over the falls. There is, of course, and we found a second person who helped give directions. I was so tired at this point, however...and the rain, and the 2 1/2 hour drive to my resting place for the night...that I demurred with thanks. I will be back next year with plenty of time, I promise!

I spent a very brief time in the adult area, noting balconies that indicate two other levels, windows high on the walls, handsome shelves with copper ends (really nice), the diagonal positioning of the shelves that seems to add a burst of energy to the space, tall shelf spacing for ease of shelving larger non-fiction books, and unusual triangular columns of rough concrete. There is also a display of fire-fighting memorabilia, from horns to a really old wheeled contraption that I think is a pumper.

For more about this library, visit their web page, or see them on Facebook at And check back next year to be sure that I keep my promise!

The "fortress" belies the friendly interior.

Just a peek at the mural and the interior of the children's space.