Saturday, June 20, 2015

3b. White Bear Lake Branch, Ramsey County Library, after remodeling

I get to the White Bear library from time to time--it's part of the county system where I work. I had a brief look at the recent major changes before the building reopened, but this was my first chance to see it in action.

The entrance is through a lobby with restrooms and a separate door to the large program room; it seems that this will allow use of the program room when the library itself is closed, which is nice flexibility.

On entering the library proper, my first impression was of the many DVDs on display, with books in the background. To me this seems backwards, but I am an old fuddy-duddy and I do know the realities of what people are looking for at libraries these days, so...what the heck.

To the right of the entrance are two self-checkout stations and a wall of sloping shelves that allow new books to be displayed face-out for good visibility. There are many bins of picture books and shelves of J books beyond. The main feature of the children's area is the large sailboat. Boats are a big deal in Minnesota libraries (and others), but this is the first place where I've also seen a bit of "dock" with rope details and a large cleat. No children were playing here when I arrived, so I was able to take the picture below.

The meeting room that opens from the lobby becomes part of the children's area when it is not otherwise used. During my visit a girl perhaps nine or ten years old was enjoying a feature I had heard about but not seen in action: a moving "game board" is projected onto the floor. I asked for an explanation, and the girl told and showed me that the "bubbles" that appeared to float on the floor turn into popcorn when she stepped on them. Since they move fairly fast, this took some concentration and agility, making this a really cool addition to the kids area. (It's called Eye Play, in case you want to look for it online.)

So, I was pretty impressed with the children's area, with a couple of qualifications. First, I wish that there were tables for the elementary school age, intermediate between preschoolers and adults; there are not, and the two computers for kids' use are on full-size tables with adult-size chairs. These computers are used with Book Flix and have touch screens, suggesting that they are intended for kids who would be more comfortable with smaller furniture.

Second, and more seriously, I realized that the restrooms in the lobby require one to leave the main part of the  library. This is not a problem for adults, of course, but at what age would a parent be willing for a child to go to the restroom alone? And what does this imply if caregivers have several children to deal with? Also, since the restroom doors are in a recessed alcove, there is no sight line from the staff to this area. I've been to a number of libraries lately that provide children's or family restrooms within or adjacent to children's areas; seeing these has made me more sensitive to what can be done for kids' safety and independence.

OK, moving on past the children's area between the fiction and non-fiction stacks and a windowed wall, there are some nice chairs with round "arm tables", then a corner area with seating and a table. Turning left brings one to the attractive fireplace with "living room" seating. Over the fireplace is a stone from the original White Bear Lake library, "Presented by Andrew Carnegie 1914."  [Photographs in the lobby show "Library 1" (the Carnegie library, c. 1920) and "Library 2" (the building on the present site, before the new addition)]. Near the fireplace is a display rack for periodicals and newspapers of a type I haven't seen before. Curved racks allow the display of current issues with "Library Use Only" stickers. No plastic binders or jackets are used, which must save money, space, and processing time. Back issues are in Princeton files on shelves nearby.

On the other side of the stacks are three study rooms for two or three people, plus two larger meeting rooms. According to the Grand Opening brochure, there are 38 public computers, plus 15 laptops that can be borrowed for in-library use.

A single service desk is used for reference and circulation. I like the large "Ask Us" sign that hangs over this desk. Guidance for patrons is added by signs on the desk: "Ask here to: * Get a library card, * Pay fees, * Get help with checkout" and "Ask here to: * Request an item, * Get help finding things, * Get computer help." I talked to a staff person who said that these signs are proving quite effective and circulation and reference staff are pretty flexible about helping each other out with routine matters.

Finally, one good-sized corner of the building is for teens. There are two more study rooms, shelves of teen fiction (YA and adult non-fiction are shelved together), and a curved sectional couch facing a large flat-screen TV for movies and game play. Unobtrusive supervision can be provided easily because this space is near the service desk and shares a window-wall with library offices.

For more about this library, go to the Ramsey County Library website at or these Facebook sites: and

6/19/2015, car

The town of White Bear Lake is patrolled by many polar bear statues
like this one in front of the library.

It appears that something will be added to this sign.

The entrance

The sailboat, "dock," and seating area for caregivers

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