Thursday, September 3, 2015

191a. Tomah Public Library, Tomah, WI

NOTE: I was looking for one of my older posts and made an interesting discovery: I visited the Tomah library before, two years ago, in August 2013! Does that count as short-term memory loss? Many of the things I commented on were the same on both visits. If you want to see the first post, search for "Tomah" or "191." I changed the number to 191a to indicate a re-visit, because this is my system for keeping track of how many individual libraries I've visited. No regrets; it's definitely worth a second look!


Welcome to the Tomah, Wisconsin, Public Library, a Carnegie library that will soon celebrate its centennial. From a paper about the library that I was given during my visit: "In 1911 Ernest Buckley, who was a successful geologist, left the city $12,000 in his will to be used as needed for a park and/or a library. ...   City leaders set aside $7,000 of Buckley's bequest for a library ... By 1915 they had received [a] Carnegie grant ... secured the services of Claude and Starck, who were well known in the Midwest for their library designs for small communities. ... The architects produced the last of the four Wisconsin versions of their 'Sullivanesque' design -- a two story (raised basement and main floor), red brick rectangle topped by a green-tiled hipped roof .... " In 1980, a flat-roofed addition provided needed additional space.


So what, you may want to know, is that cut-out thing leaning on the side of the library sign? I didn't know either when I took the picture, but I learned that it is a "place holder" for a fountain that will be part of the centennial celebration. You can see a model of the fountain at the library website (link below), but if you look closely here you can see silhouettes of a boy and girl leaning against a stack of books and reading. I have several reasons that I plan to head to this part of Wisconsin in a couple of years; one reason will be to see the fountain after it is installed.
The children's area is on the lower level. This fireplace is, of course, in the original part of the library. That over-exposed rectangle above it is part of an exterior frieze removed during the 1980 remodeling. You can get a much better view at the library website. This area has cabinets with pull-out shelves for CDs, a very nice way to store and display them. There are lots of media on wall shelves under the high windows. Children's non-fiction and the librarian's desk are nearby.
Murals fill the walls in the new space, including this one in a story time alcove...

...and this one over a bookshelf. This one goes beyond "mural" -- I believe that's a real stuffed fish. One mermaid seems to be enjoying the panoramic view in the mirror!
I've never seen this sort of display before and I like it. Plastic pocket-pages hold reading suggestions in the form of book jacket pictures, color-coded by grade.
The murals have a Peter Pan theme, which makes it very appropriate to have a pirate ship on display. This three-foot long model was carved by John F. Downs, who gifted it to the library.
One corner of the children's space has a study table with a "Quiet Please" sign and a vase of "placeholder sticks" for browsing. Many board books are shelved in their own bookcase, alphabetically by title. This may be the first place where I've seen board books kept in order, not in a jumble.

And just as I was putting the camera away, getting ready to leave, I spotted this remarkable table. I couldn't resist it!

I didn't take any pictures in the adult area upstairs, but I didn't neglect it. I like the way that shelves are labeled with authors' names in the fiction section, for authors who have multiple titles. Commonly-used sections of non-fiction also have shelf labels to aid patrons in quickly locating their interests. Bookshelves along the walls are 5 or 6 shelves high; wooden bookcases with adjustable shelving allow good use of space, with shorter shelves for many classifications and taller ones for art and craft books, which are often taller. Free-standing cases are four shelves high. Paperback fiction is shelved on spinners.

There is a "living room" area near the fireplace (above the one in the children's area) and another area of easy chairs and a study table. With assorted chairs throughout the adult area, there is a large variety of places to sit and read. Twelve computers are available for patron use.

A map/atlas case that looks quite old is used for...well, maps and atlases, of course. Another similar case is used for newspapers.

Finally, as I headed to the children's area, I spotted a picture of Caroline D. Voswinkle, Librarian from 1901 to 1945, and a photograph of her with children filling every seat at tables in the library. That kind of tenure is rare these days.

I'll be back in 2017 to see that fountain, folks; I'm already looking forward to it.

The library website is and they are active on Facebook at


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