Monday, August 31, 2015

366. Hanska Community Library, Hanska, MN

A historical marker stands on the corner by the Community center.

Walk to the right past the Library sign...

...and you will come to the entrance on the lower level. This totally reminds me of the library in Enfield, NH, that I visited last summer.
Inside, I found a tiny library with some very clever ideas. Perhaps the best is that all shelves that are not against the walls are on heavy-duty casters, allowing them to be pushed aside to maximize space in the multi-purpose room. [Go to the Facebook site, link below, to see these moveable shelves.]
My timing was fortunate, as a music program would start in about 15 minutes, and parents and children were starting to gather. I needed to head home (no music program for me!), but I had time to visit the back room, which houses four computers, the adult non-fiction collection, a selection of YA books, and shelves of plastic boxes neatly labeled for seasons and themes. One shelf holds high school yearbooks (The Viking) for 1941 to 1977 and Community School yearbooks from 1970 to 2003-4.
Back in the large room where musicians were preparing to perform and kids were gathering on the alphabet rug, I looked at framed pictures of veterans. I learned that the local paper had archives of these pictures at one time, but a special project had them all reproduced in the same size and mounted in frames, for display. Most are from WW2; others are from Korea and Viet Nam. I was told that a start has been made on preparing pictures from "more recent conflicts" for display. It was sobering to realize that so many men and women from this tiny town had been involved in war.
And with that, I headed back to St. Paul.

365. Comfrey Community Library, Comfrey, MN

As I've mentioned before, seeing kids' bikes outside a library always makes me glad, because it means kids are riding their bikes, not depending on a car for transportation. And, since they are generally unlocked, that I'm in that sort of community.

Near the entrance to the library I saw a collection box for "Soles for Souls," the first time I've seen one except at my favorite shoe store. Great idea.
Inside, I spotted a display of participants in the "1000 Before Kindergarten" program, which I think is great. The children's area has a series of framed nursery rhymes and pictures on the walls. Near the large windows you can see in the picture above are five square tables, each with four chairs--room for plenty of kids. Perhaps a whole class from the school? Reference books, including Encyclopedia Britannica, World Book, and others, are shelved under the windows.
A model of the Comfrey water tower with a tornado (made very realistically of wire coiled around a funnel shape of rough gray material), with the ground littered with broken trees, is a vivid reminder of the March 29, 1998, tornado that devastated this part of the state. This new library, I believe, is a result of that tornado.
Nearby are 29 VHS tapes of the Northern Lights Minnesota Author Interviews Series, a wonderful reference collection (for those who can still play VHS tapes). I noticed that non-fiction VHS tapes are shelved with the non-fiction books. I expect that non-fiction DVDs are also shelved this way, though I didn't spot any. I think it's a great way to get exposure for non-fiction material and meet the needs of people who might like to complement a book with a visual source, and vice-versa.

A corner of the adult area has large windows and comfy-looking chairs--and a sign that reads "Adults only in this reading corner." Periodicals and newspapers are nearby. Also nearby are reproductions of three old school signs: "Teacher's Rules 1972" (which sound much older than that!); "1915 Rules for Teachers" (including no smoking, no bright colors, and "at least two petticoats"); and a list of "Punishments," of which the most serious (10 lashes each) were "Playing cards in school" and "Misbehaving to girls." There is also a picture of Alma Neumann, 1887-1985, identified simply as a "Library Benefactor."
My favorite sign, however, is more contemporary: "Unattended children will be given espesso and a free puppy." Take that, parents who want to use the librarian as a babysitter!

I took this picture as I walked back to my car. The grain elevators reminded me of the wonderful course I took last spring at the U of Minnesota, "Geography of the USA and Canada," taught by Prof. John Fraser Hart who turned 92 during the semester--and retired at semester end. One of the most interesting courses I've ever taken.

Friday, August 28, 2015

364. Springfield Public Library, Springfield, MN

Entering the Springfield Library, I was greeted by two "library behavior" signs. First, "Backpacks must be left at front desk." I think of this as more a bookstore sign than a library sign, but local needs vary. The second sign said, "Please watch your children. Other patrons may need quiet"--a very reasonable request, gently stated.

A large poster in the children's area claims to list "933 Things to Be Happy About." I glanced over a few and decided that we are not all happy about the same things. Big windows along the front of the building provide plenty of natural light. A large window with a semi-circular top is flanked by two bow windows with platforms or window seats. The children's collection comes first with picture books and junior fiction. Periodicals and a browsing area are by the large center windows. In this area there is a sign asking that patrons please NOT cut recipes and coupons from magazines--a chronic problem in every library, I think. [I visited one library where a sign like this was accompanied by the suggestion that copies can be made, even offering that if a patron could not afford copies, the librarian could make an arrangement.]

Further along by the second bow window there are live plants and tables with upholstered chairs. A special bookcase holds books by Louis L'Amour and Zane Gray. I don't know whether these are complete sets, but each author's books are bound alike. A library-themed quilt is nearby, as is a map and atlas stand and a stand for an unabridged dictionary. I was glad to see the atlas stand; the library where I work is losing this piece of furniture, relegating the atlases to the oversized-books shelves, at least until they lose out totally to Google Earth, MapQuest, and their ilk.

There are three study rooms along one wall. They have dark woodwork and partial glass walls that give a classic look--and a shelf with three chairs along the back wall in each, a more modern-looking arrangement for laptop users. There is an Archives room with a microfilm reader. (The place where I work is losing that, too.) There are four computers for patron use.




Back at the children's area on my way out, I spotted a sign that says, "Hey kids! Did you know? You can read a book without a book. Check out an eBook." I wonder if this appeal works with kids who are willing to read but just don't like books?
On a wall near the door is a framed picture of Arlene Hartwick, "In recognition of many years of dedicated and faithful service as Librarian of Springfield Public Library." Talking to the current librarian, I learned that Springfield's first library was in a pioneer woman's home. Then it moved to its own building, before moving to the current site. This building was made possible by a significant donation, and was erected in m1991-1992.

There is also a large, handsome wooden rocker, provided in honor of Lucas Dale Fast. I was told that kids like to climb into this chair to read.

363. Gibbon Public Library, Gibbon, MN

The Gibbon library holds some interesting surprises inside a basic exterior.  My first surprise was in the lobby, where I spotted a box of free magazines and books. "Wonderful," I thought. "I'll get those magazines I have in the car, just waiting for such an opportunity." Ah, but no...this box is only for library discards--it's not a "share your periodicals after you read them" opportunity after all. That's a new one for me.

To the right is a computer lab, a glassed-in room with 11 computers. This is a larger collection of computers than I've seen in most small libraries, and having them in a separate room is also a bit unusual. It's very helpful, however, if you want to keep the sounds of a children's program from bothering computer users, or the sounds of a computer class bothering readers.

Inside the library I spotted a glass cabinet with books displayed with a very clever collections of related "real stuff." This was a preview of a series of displays on top of shelves against the wall, small arrangements of books and objects, done by someone with an artistic eye.

Speaking of an artistic eye, I've never seen a more handsome display marking the media area of a library! Don't miss the antique projector on top of the shelves to the left. There is a big table with chairs nearby, handy for browsing the periodical collection.

If you're looking for a comfortable place to read, settle into one of these couches, surrounded by the adult collection.
The kids area has all the types of books you would expect, with a long conference table and a collection of chairs. A group of obviously hand-painted metal bookends made me wonder whether this was a children's craft project, left here to dry. Perhaps someone from Gibbon will leave a comment and clarify this.  Please? It struck me as a really good way to use/recycle an excess of metal bookends! Adults might enjoy doing this, too.
Near the picture books is a large rug that looks like a pond, and there is a 1/2-scale red British-style phone booth.
I liked the big CIRCULATION sign above the service desk; sorry, I didn't get a picture.
The general library website is at For more information, check out the Facebook site,


362. Winthrop Public Library, Winthrop, MN


The Winthrop library is in a handsome brick building with some interesting architectural details, including the curved entrance that faces the corner of the street. It shares space in this building with a community center, which is upstairs. Perhaps partly because of this, and because it is near the local school, signs specify that "playing outside or in the vicinity of the library is not allowed." Also, children under age 8 must be with an adult; they cannot come in without an adult. I talked to staff about this a bit, and it's clearly a safety issue.

The lobby holds a very large quilt that celebrates the centennial of Winthrop, 1881 to 1981. It was created by "various women members of twelve area churches." There is also an aerial photograph of the town, but I didn't notice a date on it and there didn't seem to be a "you are here" indication. For those who know the town, however, I bet this is fun to study and "find the library" or "find my house."
Inside the library I was struck by the artistry of  signs high on the wall above shelves, indicating the location of various genres. I didn't get a picture of any of these, but the one above the fiction section had three goblet-shaped candle holders (I think) in different heights, a "RELAX" sign of a crafty type one might see at a summer cabin, a stack of three books, and "FICTION" in a large font on the wall above. Over the westerns, the sign said "Howdy, Cowboy." The whole fiction area is furnished with comfy seating, and there is a Young Adult corner for teens.
A sign near the eight computers says that the first three black & white prints are free; additional ones are 10 cents, and color prints are 25 cents. I've been seeing more and more of these "first few copies free" policies, especially in smaller libraries.


This attractive fish tank is built into the brick wall that partially separates the adult and children's areas of the library. I like the bold sign above the junior fiction shelves; there is no doubt where we are! The table and chairs for the little kids are painted very attractively, more so than shows in the picture. The librarian and staff/volunteers here clearly have an artistic vision and a desire to provide an attractive oasis for readers in Winthrop.

The library website is



Thursday, August 27, 2015

361. Gaylord City Library, Gaylord, MN

As I mentioned in the post about Arlington, seeing kid-sized unlocked bikes outside the library tells me that for sure I am in a small town! And that this is a library where kids are welcomed.

The tree is the library motif.
Here's that tree again, in the lobby, where it conveys thanks to those who support the library. The sign reads "Thank you to the citizens of Gaylord and the State of Minnesota for supporting this project. Your giving creates more, inspires others and makes dreams come true."
Down the hall to the left are restrooms and two meeting rooms. One is the Multicultural Room, sponsored by AgStar. This room has two computers and appears to be set up for on-going programs. The other is a community meeting room, sponsored by Michael Foods. A list of regulations by the door includes this intriguing restriction: "No red, orange, or purple beverages."
In the picture above you can get a glimpse of framed pictures down the hall on the wall to the left. They represent this spreading tree in each of the four seasons; very nice.

On entering the children's area, I thought this looked familiar. Of course...when I talked to the librarian, I learned that the trees and figures are from a large chain bookstore that was closing in Mankato. The timing worked out for Gaylord to get the makings of a very appealing story corner for their new library.

Here's another view of the children's area. I believe it's the sign above Frog's (or Toad's) head that says, "Please help us keep the children's area neat for everyone to enjoy by putting away puzzles, toys, and books with your kids before leaving the library. Thank you!" One shelf in this area, to the left in this picture if memory serves, holds "Picture Book DVDs." A cursory look led me to think that the collection truly is picture-book related, as opposed to TV cartoon series.
There are eight computers for patron use. A teen area has a tall "soda fountain" type table and chairs, plus a couple of easy chairs. Nearby are the junior non-fiction books (there seemed to be a lot), reference books, DVDs and other media.
In a back corner, adults have a cozy seating area with a corner fireplace. I wanted to take a picture, but (happily/sadly) a couple of adults were settled in to read the papers. And I don't take pictures with people except under very special circumstances. Nearby are the stacks of adult fiction and non-fiction. A wall display features New Adult Non-fiction, Fiction, and Christian Fiction. A chess board is set up, ready to go.
Assorted tables and chairs are available throughout the library. There is a Minnesota Collection with both old and new books. Spanish books are available, and a sign suggests that you "Check out our new movies in Spanish." One table held several copies of "The Maze Runner," included the audio book. A list nearby shows that this is the book club selection for August. 
The library website is
8/26/2015, car

360. Arlington Public Library, Arlington, MN

The Arlington library, as you can see below, is tucked tidily between two other businesses on the main street. The summer reading program had a motivational angle that was new to me: it encouraged young readers to "light up the city." The front wall, including the windows, was decked with black paper silhouettes of city buildings. For each book read, a "window" was lighted with a yellow rectangle including the book title and the reader's name or initials. I was told that this program was led by a teacher from the local school.
A table in the central area of the library was full of jars in which monarch butterflies are being hatched for release. Each chrysalis had a name. I learned that several have been released and there is one more to go. [Sadly, not all hatched successfully.]
In the browsing area by the media collection an old wooden tool box is being used to display DVDs, a  nice juxtaposition of the old and the new. Further back by the adult non-fiction, reference, and recorded books, two easy chairs await patrons who want to sit for a while.
The top of a filing cabinet holds a display of six editions of Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" in various formats and languages.
There are eight computers for patrons to use; a sign advises that there is to be NO printing unless you talk to the librarian first. I suspect that this rule is a cousin to the policies I've seen elsewhere advising patrons to use "Print Preview" before printing.
The library's website is
8/26/2015, car
A child's bicycle, unlocked, is a sure sign of a small-town library.

I've never seen this approach to a summer reading program.
I like it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Photo Phrustration

Those pictures I took on August 14, the ones I had to take with my antique cell phone? Finally, with the help of a tech-savvy librarian from Ramsey County, followed by more help from a tech-savvy T-Mobile clerk, I have the pictures on a thumb drive.

Before we all shout Hurray! we need to note that the pictures don't appear to be in any useful order. When I have a set of pictures from six libraries, as I have here, I use the date and time to attach the right picture to the right library. Three pictures taken right around 10:15, must be the pictures from my first stop, Sleepy Eye. Another few pictures from about a half hour later, next stop, Butterfield.

Without those clues, this is going to take some detective work. Eventually the sites visited on August  14 will have pictures. Eventually.


Addition after an hour of trying to match pictures to Traverse des Sioux Library System pictures and my notes: This isn't going well. I think I have things pretty well sorted out, but would someone please tell me which library has the statue of Linus (from Peanuts)?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

359. North Mankato Taylor Library, North Mankato, MN

This attractive library is tucked into a corner of North Mankato where it appears to have easy access from several directions. In the lobby are a paperback exchange and a magazine exchange (current year only, please!). 

A "living room" area near a large bow window is adjacent to newspapers and community literature. There's a coffee set-up, easy chairs, and a round table that looks as if it would welcome a (quiet) table game. Another "living room" area is near the periodicals and media. A sign by the DVDs says "Please do not steal the DVDs! They are FREE for you to use and you can check them out multiple times." The sign includes a pair of staring eyes; social psychology research claims that posting eyes like this near "honor system" pay boxes increases compliance, and I hope they do the same here. I do like the reasonableness of the "they're free, you don't have to steal them" approach.

I spent some time looking at the original cash register and scale from Mutch's Hardware, a North Mankato institution from 1926 to 2012. I like it when treasures of this sort are kept and displayed, connecting us to the past.

The teen area has YA books, magazines, a tall table with four stools and a counter that looks just right for laptop use. This area also has a "living room" ambience.

As I approached the children's area, I couldn't miss the large (2 x 6 feet?), two-sided aquarium. Nearby is a conference room with bay windows and a big sign outside, "Super Hero Headquarters." Many libraries are using the superhero theme for their summer reading programs, and it seems to lend itself to lots of fun activities and decorations. A mirror allows kids to "see yourself as a hero." A bulletin board caption states that Every Hero Has a Story. There are pictures of community heroes; some seem to be generic "community helper" photos, others are local people with names and roles given. It's very nice to bring the topic home like that.

There is a large white "Snoopy and his doghouse" sculpture with pictures and comics on it. There must be a story there! Nearby is yet another bay window with tables and toys. A sign announces that "Imagination Station materials were funded by a Library Service and Tech grant through the MN Department of Education."

I saw a poster showing progress toward 600 kids finishing the Summer Reading Program. That's a lot of kids! Why 600? Well, "If 600 kids finish the SRP by August 28, Miss Michelle will get slimed on August 31! Keep reading!" The count on August 14 was 469. I met Miss Michelle and learned that there would be a "movie in the park" that evening where she would exhort the kids to get that count up. Brave woman! Come on, kids, you know you want to see this!

Finally, a random list of things I enjoyed seeing: A desk for the children's librarian strategically located between the teen and kids areas. A window into the circulation staff work area. A table with two cups, a bunch of pompoms, chopsticks, and a challenge. And a well-placed shelf next to the book return slot, a place to put your backpack or bag while dealing with your books. [Are you reading this, Minneapolis Central?]

For more about this library, go to or check them out on Facebook at I hope that Facebook will keep us posted on Miss Michelle and the slime!

8/14/2015, car

209a. Madelia, MN, Public Library

This turned out to be a re-visit...note the "a" added to the number in the title of this post.

As soon as I entered I spotted a table with a calendar for August with an "almanac" entry for each day. Books were displayed with dates and "events"--for example, August 24 is Vesuvius Day, and there was a book about the famed volcano. August 14, the day I visited, is V-J (Victory in Japan) Day, and there was a relevant WW2 book with the note. This is a really neat idea; I'm thinking of the occasional month when one of the display cases where I work is not "claimed," and staff have to find something to put in it.

The children's area has everything you would expect. A table by a window was ready for a young patron, with puzzles and small building blocks all set to go.

Using the study room requires registering at the desk, a reasonable way to keep track of what's happening in the library.

Along one wall is a display of seven Duck Stamp pictures donated by Charles A. Haycraft.

In addition to eight computers for Internet use, there are two special computers that I remember from my earlier visit, one for games and one for Rosetta Stone language study. There's also an electric typewriter (once in a while they do come in very handy!), a cassette player with headphones, and lots of auto repair manuals.

For more about the Madelia Library, take a look at

8/14/2015, car

358. Lewisville Public Library, Lewisville, MN

I could really use my pictures now, to supplement my notes! When I have the pictures, I may write more here, so if you're a Lewisville fan, please check back in a few days.

As I entered, I saw a notice about an upcoming Battle of the Books, a trivia contest for teens based on four books. Sounds like an excellent idea, and I hope it goes (went) well.

Inside, I was drawn to a portrait of Mary Ellen Lewis, Patroness of the Lewisville Library, dedicated 12/17/1994. I have to guess, and should have asked: Was she a descendent of the founder of the town? Please, someone, add an enlightening comment!

The kids area has a sign exhorting them to "Be a hero...Read!  Pow!  Zap!" 

I made note of the Little Tykes computer, three computers for adults, and YA fiction, then my notes end. I think that's when I started chatting with the librarian! [I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but chatting and note-taking at the same time, well, that's beyond me!]

For more about Lewisville and other Watonwan County libraries, go to


Yes, that's my finger on the lower left. Not yet accustomed to where the lens is on my phone.

Be a Hero--Zap! Pow! Read!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

208a. Watonwan County/St. James, MN, Public Library

I wasn't planning on any "revisits" on this trip, but I didn't check my records carefully enough. This was my second visit here. It felt different, however, because I didn't have to negotiate around a high school homecoming parade! (If you put "208." or "St. James" in the search field, you can see my report of the earlier visit and some pictures of the parade!)

This library has a magazine exchange in the lobby, and I kicked myself for forgetting to bring some of my recent periodicals. The place I have been donating magazines no longer takes them, and I planned to put some in the car for just this sort of opportunity. Next time!

The first thing that caught my eye, and I'm sure it wasn't here before, was a craft table, about four feet square, with discarded books forming the legs! It's wonderful! I took a picture, and as soon as I solve my phone/camera issues, I will post it along with several others.

There are three large areas along the right side of the library. The first has two "Little Tykes" computers, a larger-than-life-sized cardboard superhero (Captain America, I think, but I'm not an expert in this area), an American Girls quilt with the names of the quilters along the bottom, and an easel with a sort of peg board I haven't seen before, with large plastic pegs that can be used to make pictures. A bilingual alphabet rug in shades of blue, green, and brown complements the early literacy posters: Describe, Imitate, Question and Describe, Imitar, Pregunta. A sign indicates that Accelerated Reader tests are available on library computers. I'm not a big fan of AR, but having it available here may keep some kids reading more over the summer.

The second section on this side of the library is a teen area with two couches and coffee tables, the collection of YA books, and a life-size cardboard telephone booth--like a Tardis, I guess, except that it's red. Judging from the foam blocks nearby, I'd guess that patrons younger than teens find this interesting!

Finally, there is a corner with Spanish materials. In addition to books and other materials and seating for adults, there are play materials for small children, a nice combination. One of the toys is a plastic workbench with tools; Pepin, WI, no longer has the status of "only place where I've seen a toy workbench"!

Shelves of adult fiction, non-fiction, and media are in the center of the library. At the edges are browsing areas, including two "living room" spaces and tables for laptop use. There are framed drawings of St. James landmarks on the outside walls. There is also a lot of framed art, which I suspect can be borrowed. I wish had asked about it; perhaps a reader from St. James will add a comment about this.

In one corner is the Sertona Room, a small study/conference room with a large monitor screen, tables, and four chairs. Nearby are files of St. James and Watonwan County history. One section of shelves in the non-fiction area holds volumes of 2014 Minnesota Statutes, 2013 Minnesota Rules, and a lot of phone directories, once a staple of library reference sections but now quite rare to see.

"Superhero Reader" forms from the summer reading program are posted throughout the library, especially on the ends of book shelves. And I spotted a poster with a list of "Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learner." I especially liked the reference to two different target audiences.

For more about the St. James Library, look here and try "St. James Library" on Facebook. NOTE: If there is a specific Facebook page for the library, please let me know; I could not find it.

8/14/2015, car

How about those table legs?

The little kids' area

Teen / Young Adult area, with cardboard phone booth

The corner with Spanish material; seats for adults, toys and a low table for kids.
The toy work bench and tools are out of sight to the right.

357. Public Library, Butterfield, MN

This small library was my second stop on a day trip. In Sleepy Eye, I met a librarian who just started there last February; the librarian here had a bit of a head start on him...she started last December! I think it would be wonderful, fun, and rather terrifying, not necessarily in that order, to come to a small town and be responsible for its library!

The first thing I noticed, before I even got inside, was two signs, for the Hours and Las Horas when the library is open. I expect that a decade or so ago, these small libraries in southern Minnesota would not have been bilingual.

Just to the right of the door, I spotted a small notebook that turned out to hold a list of memorials to the building fund; it's very nice to keep those records and keep them public. It appeared to be only names, no amounts.

Nearby, adults have a couple of easy chairs, a table for four, periodicals, and newspapers. I noticed that the library has an unusually large collection of back issues of periodicals, at least relative to the library's size; I wonder if there is a story there? (If there is, please leave a comment!) There are at least three computers available.

One wall has a collection of pictures of Butterfield landmarks, nicely framed. The librarian and I spent a few minutes identifying buildings that have changed over the years. This might be an interesting project for some of the older patrons; sit around that table and write a little interpretation for each of these pictures, while people still remember what used to be and what has changed.

A Young Adult area has s display of YA fiction with the invitation "Check it out: New books just for you." This display, plus the table, chairs, and large beanbags, indicate that teens are welcome and desired.

The children's area has junior fiction, readers, picture books, and a shelf of toys for the youngest. There is a small collection of books in Spanish and in Laos. A Little Tykes Young Explorer computer is available to the kids, too. I wanted to put in a link to this computer, but the only sites I can find are ads. If you enter "Little Tykes Computer," you can see what these are like. I see them quite often in smaller libraries.

For more about the Butterfield library, go to and use the right/left scroll arrows to find its address and hours. Or have a look at this site: Even better, search for "wahtonwan county butterfield library" on Facebook and find some neat pictures.

8/14/2015, car

I drove through Butterfield on my next library collecting field trip
and took this exterior picture.

356. Dyckman Public Library, Sleepy Eye, MN

When I set out on a day trip to visit a cluster of libraries, there's often a centerpiece...a library I've heard about in some way, that I want to visit, and around which I create a little itinerary. For my August 14 trip, Sleepy Eye was that centerpiece. First, the town name intrigued me. (Sleepy Eye was a Sioux Indian Chief, and there's an old map on the wall of the library that shows/tells about the Sioux uprising in the county.)

I had also heard that the library was having a craft/book/bake sale on the 14th and 15th, to start raising funds for next year's summer reading program. So, I thought I'd take a look. [I left with two books for Halloween giveaways, four excellent peanut butter oatmeal cookies, no crafts.]

The library comprises two buildings, the original which was funded, along with the land, by Frances Dyckman, a local banker, and a newer addition. When I visited it appeared that the Dyckman building is being used for an on-going book sale and the newer building serves as the library. Though there is a sign on an elevator-device for access to the upper level of the older building, something about if your stroller doesn't fit, please leave it downstairs--so it seems likely that story time is in the old building? I'm making this up, since it didn't come up in conversation.

Speaking of conversation, the librarian, who says he arrived in November to replace a long-term librarian, told me that this is "the only Dyckman Library in the country." [Or maybe the world, but I think he said or implied the country.] I enjoyed talking to him, partly because his library training included some history, so I could mention practices from my early library days, like using a wood-burning pen to put call numbers on book spines with special transfer tape, and at least he knew what I was talking about. [Yes, I do sometimes seem to be the ghost of libraries past.]

OK, what's here? Well, the adults have four computers plus one for the catalog, and a couple of wing chairs next to the coffee maker. The book and media collection seems to include some of everything, fiction, non-fiction, graphics, romance, sci-fi and fantasy. A glass-front bookcase holds books about local history.

Teens have a space near a bow window with a wooden window seat and a round table; it looks like a decent place for hanging out.

Kids are exhorted to "Get Carried Away With Books." Their area has beanbag chairs and easy chairs, an alphabet rug, three brightly-colored tables with chairs, and, like the adults, "a bit of everything," including books in Spanish and some kid-sized life jackets that can be checked out.

I always watch for interesting signs, and my favorite here is next to the button that opens the accessible door: "Think Green: Don't use the power doors unless you need them." YES!

By the way, if you are in the area you really should visit the upper level of the Dyckman building to see the incredible fireplace...I wish I had a picture. There is also a case of books that are from the original collection that started the library.

For more about this library, go here: or here: (use left-right arrows to scroll through the branches) or especially here:

8/14/2015, car

Linus is from Sleepy Eye. The guy Linus is based on grew up in Sleepy Eye and was good friends with Charles Schlutz.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

1a. City of South St. Paul Public Library

This is the first library I visited in 2012 when I started my "every library I can" project. At that time, I did not carry a notebook and my entries (which started life as FaceBook posts) were very short. Let's see if I can do the place justice this time.

The library has Carnegie-esque characteristics; note the tall windows with curved tops. But Carnegie had nothing to do with it. The older building seen to the left in the first picture below dates to 1927; it was built when the first South St. Paul library, started by WW1 vets, outgrew a temporary site. I did not get a date for the newer building, but I have a hunch. For a year or two, in 1979-1980, I lived in an apartment about 3 blocks south of this library, yet I have only vague memories of ever going to it...which would be odd for me. This makes me wonder if that is when the new part of the library might have been under construction. Perhaps someone reading this will know the answer and will scroll to the bottom of this post and leave a comment...please?

You enter the library into the newer portion. A large two-story space houses adult fiction, audio books, large print, genre books, and the Lions Club Memorial Large Print Books. Most of these are around the edge of the room on wall shelves, or on low free-standing shelves. Higher "stacks" for fiction are tucked under a mezzanine level to the left. This leaves room in the center for a browsing area with casual seating, newspapers, and periodicals, plus at least six computers for Internet access. I liked the list of "read-alikes" on the end of one shelf in the stacks: If you like this author, try these other authors. An added touch that I don't recall seeing elsewhere is a brief description of the type of books by these authors: horror, suspense, vampires, etc.

Moving into the older building, I noticed that the teen area is down about a half level. I could see long teen legs stretched out from chairs in this area, so I decided to let them be and headed upstairs. Upstairs to the left, after a U-turn, is a small mezzanine space overlooking the adult area below and holding fiction paperbacks on spinners. A right turn at the top of the stairs leads to the larger portion of the mezzanine and the adult non-fiction collection.

Straight ahead is the children's area. The theme for this year's summer reading program is "Every Hero Has a Story," and the first thing I saw at the top of the stairs was a display of "antique" computer games from a local game shop. The main room of the kids area has a fireplace with shelves on either side (they once had glass-front doors, I was told) and a slant-top reading table in front. Juvie fiction and non-fiction are on wall shelves and free-standing low shelving units. Newbery and Caldecott winners are featured in one area, with lists current to 2015 available nearby. It looked as if the collections are complete; at any rate, the collection includes the first Newbery winner, "The Story of Mankind" from 1922.

Paintings hanging high on the walls represent various children's literature, including an impressive Smaug from "The Hobbit." There are table games available to play in the children's area, some video cassettes in addition to DVDs, and various Storytime Kits. I saw a sign for a "Moo" play kit that said "Take me home." Apparently someone had, and I have mixed feelings because I would have liked to see it. A binder of Read-Write-Draw pages from the summer reading program was full of book reports of all types. I like the "What will you read next?" question at the bottom of each page.

The pre- and early-literacy crowd has a nice dramatic play area near the children's librarian's desk. When I was there it was set up with a post office and various manipulatives. The picture book room is visible to the right in the fourth picture below. Directly across from the desk are separate restrooms for boys and girls, a really good feature.

On a door marked "staff only" I saw many letters from young readers to various superheroes--and better yet, all of the letters have been answered. My hunch proved true: the responses are written by Amy, the librarian I chatted with. That's going somewhat above and beyond, in my opinion. Nearby is a paper mache figure (third picture); I learned that this is the elusive Bookawocky for whom the regional (MELSA) summer reading program is named. It's been around for several years now and is brought out each summer. That gaping mouth serves as a mail box!

For more about this library, check out their website at
and Facebook page at

8/4/2015, car

A view from the southwest
 A signboard in front tells the public what is happening at the library,
even if the public doesn't choose to go inside.

Meet the elusive Bookawocky!

For the youngest; picture books are in back to the right.

 The fireplace and study tables give the children's area a classic look.

Monday, August 3, 2015

25a. Columbia Heights, MN, City Library

I visited Columbia Heights City Library in the summer of 2012, when I started this project. I was driving then, as I was on my way to visit Anoka County libraries. Columbia Heights is a City Library, but it has a close enough relationship with Anoka County that I was able to request a book from Anoka and pick it up at Columbia Heights. That's service!

On that first visit, I only looked at the children's space on the lower level, so this time I started with adults on the main floor. The space is larger than it seems from the outside. Turning to the right, I found a large area that is very well used but still has a feeling of openness. Non-fiction books through the 600s and fiction, including genre collections, are in this room, with paperback fiction on spinners--lots of spinners.

There are at least five computers in this room, plus one or two for the library catalog.  The reference area has four carrels for laptop use...or, gasp, I suppose you could use them to read books! There is a fairly large collection of Chilton auto-repair manuals. A seating area by a large window is convenient for browsing newspapers (on sticks...someone should figure out a State Fair tie-in) and periodicals. Mini-blinds keep the glare off the computer screens.

To the left of the entrance is the service desk (no self-checkout here) and a model of the neighborhood, including... wait, I'll save that for the end.

Beyond the service desk is the East Room. Here I found the media collection and tables set up with Scrabble, chess, and a jigsaw puzzle. None of these were in use, but they looked welcoming. This room also houses non-fiction from the 700s through the 900s.

Next I headed downstairs to the Lucille Hawkins Children's Room, with a photo of Ms. Hawkins herself at the entrance. This space was as bright as I remembered it. Although it is windowless, it is very well-lit and definitely does not feel subterranean. The space abounds with signs of all sorts, including nursery rhymes and a bunch of riddles about cows, like "Why did the farmer give his cows pogo sticks?" (Answer is at the end of this post.) A paper "tree" on the wall at the end of the room is labeled "Poet Tree," and each of the green leaves sports a short poem. A set of large crayon cut-outs serve as the background for a series of "Itty Bitty Bookmarks" with lists of books about baseball, monsters, dinosaurs, jokes, flowers, fathers, and mothers. You can see both of these features in the second and third pictures below.

A sign I especially like tells the young patrons that "When you enter this library you are: Readers; Explorers; Important; Valued; Respected; A friend; The reason we are here." I haven't seen this wonderful affirmation at any other library, but it would be a great addition to any library, and not just in the children's area. From the far end of the room I could hear staff talking with children and parents, and I had the impression that they live the ideas behind this sign.

Back upstairs, I picked up my requested book and went to the desk to check out. I learned from the woman at the desk that in about a year there will be a brand-new Columbia Heights City Library a few blocks away, thus explaining the model and some architectural drawings I noticed on the wall. It is wonderful to see communities coming together not just to support an existing library, but to look ahead. I'll be back next year!

For more about this library, see their web page at or visit on Facebook at

8/3/2015, bus and walking

The front entrance

The Poet Tree is on the far wall.
Painting some of the shelves bright yellow helps make this space cheerful.

The white papers hanging on the "crayons" are Itty Bitty Booklists on various topics.
Answer to riddle: So they would make milkshakes (of course)