Wednesday, May 13, 2015

317 Mason City Iowa Public Library

Off on my cross-country library tour for 2015. My first stop, the library in Mason City, Iowa, is an amazing building. Staff explained to me that it is almost a half-circle, and follows the line of a wooded ridge that goes down to a stream. This creates a very interesting space. If you go in the main door (behind the white car in the first picture) and turn right, you find study rooms and meeting rooms on your right, fiction stacks to your left. The building is "thin" from front to back, so there is natural light in all of these areas. Interior lighting is motion-controlled for economy.

I saw a display about a reading program for adults in which you can write a review of any library material and be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card to a bookstore. It appeared that the bookstore and the local newspaper sponsor this with the library. Neat idea! There were even handouts with tips for writing book reports.

A centrally located reading area has two-story-high windows that look out over the ravine, into the woods. What a nice place to sit! I saw at least six public computers, five of them laptops. Moving to your left as you look at the building there is a large browsing area with media, periodicals, and easy chairs. A neat touch is a photo of this room as it looked in 1940! There is also a display of "book art," art objects made of recycled books. The classic tables and chairs look as if they have come straight out of the 1940 picture. Another nice touch is a table of wrapped books for "a blind date with a book." For some reason I usually see these only around Valentine's Day, but why not year round?

The teen area has a brightly-colored curved couch, other comfortable seating, a listening center with headphones, and views into the woods. A windowsill holds a large collection of Boy Scout merit badge manuals, something I rarely see. A sign in this area asked for gently-used, unwanted T-shirts for a summer craft program. If only I'd known...I weeded my collection of T-shirts the evening before the trip, and could have brought a dozen!

The children's room is on the end and extends to the back with a nearly-circular Story Time Room. [See the last picture below.] There is a large oval rug that has, instead of the usual alphabet around the edge, a selection of Dewey Decimal categories, like "Planets 523.4" with a picture of a planet, and "Whales 599.5" with a picture of a whale.  There is a fireplace with seating. Stuffed animals ride in a series of wheeled carts of graduated sizes; the lead cart has a "bug face" on the front, very cute. A few other details: lots of Playaways, another 1940 picture, two children's restrooms, a small alcove, perhaps 8 feet square, with large floor cushions, bundles of five related books ready for checkout, and two computers for kids, with interesting software; on one I spotted had a piano keyboard on the screen. The whole space is very bright, painted white and light blue above the wooden shelving.

I didn't go upstairs to see the non-fiction area, but I did note the picture of Lydia Margaret Barrette, Librarian from 1920 to 1955.

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

The building curves almost into a half circle, following the lines of the driveway.

The wonderful story room and program area

Fireplace area with child-sized easy chairs.
The Story Time room is visible on the left. 

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