Saturday, October 24, 2015

370. Silver Bay, Arrowhead Region, Minnesota

With my visit to Silver Bay, I've now been to all of the Arrowhead District libraries along Route 61 and Lake Superior. You can see from the pictures what a beautiful clear day I had for travelling; I wish I had turned 90 degrees to my right and taken a picture to show you how very dark blue the lake was this day.

My GPS had a little trouble with the address here in Silver Bay; I had the correct address, but the GPS took me to the middle of a residential area with no sign of a library. A stop at a nearby shopping mall, a visit to the local bank at the mall, and I discovered that I was within walking distance! So I got my notebook and camera from the car and walked downhill a bit to the brick building you see below.

To the left of the door is a small seating area (you can see the window in the second picture) with a round rug, two easy chairs, large paintings on the walls, and a small table. The periodicals and newspapers are nearby. I imagine that this is a popular spot with some people at some times of day.

Beyond this area is a long table with chairs--and a collection of coloring papers and colored pencils, for adults! I've seen jigsaw puzzles, checkers and chess set ups, and other games, but a chance to color? That's a new one, and I like it. It's a fun "passive programming" addition that any library could implement for very little cost.

The non-fiction area has assorted study tables adjacent to the stacks. There are racks of paperback books, CDs, and DVDs; I learned that recorded books and DVDs are part of a "floating collection" within the Arrowhead Region of northeast Minnesota. A floating collection is a great way to provide sites with variety without having to buy many duplicate titles. Of course one does not have to wait for a title to "float" in--items can be requested from within the region and beyond.

In what appeared to be a "history corner" I spotted bound copies of Silver Bay News from the 60s. There are also two large ring binders of history by senior citizens, with pages of newspaper clippings, photos, and what appear to be memoirs. This is a nice way to collect memories and provide continuity in a community. They are up rather high (for protection and space reasons, I would guess) but can be lifted down to a sloping table for perusal.

The children's area and adult fiction collections are to the right of the entrance. A sign on the wall in the children's area says "In Memory of Margaret S. Davidson, Founder and Librarian, Silver Bay Public Library 1953 to 1963."

There is a good-sized rug with a "pond" and a "footbridge" printed on it, wonderful for imaginative play. All sorts of objects line the top shelves along the wall, including a 3-D jigsaw puzzle of the White House. On the walls above are pencil/charcoal drawings of children of various cultures, perhaps by a local artist? I wish I had asked. Children's books include picture books, fiction, and many, many Nancy Drew books. I like the bookends that have been made with beaver-gnawed branches, and the decorated paint-stirring sticks available for use as shelf markers.

A small teen area has a soda fountain-style table and pair of chairs, as well as a collection of young adult fiction.

It's not a library program, but I noticed on the bulletin board in the entrance a poster about an October 31 event in the town: an attempt to set a world record for "most bat houses built in one day." If I lived closer, and if I didn't have to work on the 31st, I'd be tempted to participate in that!

[This is where I would normally put a link to the library website, but I could not find one. The link from the Arrowhead District page appears to be broken. My attempt to find a Facebook page led only to a generic "placeholder." If someone reading this can provide working links, I'll gladly include them here.]


Silver Bay Public Library

A closer view, showing the small deck and bench at the entrance

369. Grand Marais, Arrowhead Region, Minnesota

I've been trying for weeks to get to the Grand Marais library. The problem? It's just a bit too far for a one-day trip, so that meant a Wednesday afternoon--Thursday trip with an overnight in Duluth. And that had to be a Thursday when I did not work (alternate weeks), when the weather was decent, and when I had no dental or furnace emergencies. So this has been in the works for a while and it was worth the wait. The sky was blue, the lack of colorful foliage (although disappointing) meant better views of Lake Superior, and traveling mid-week meant I pretty much had Rte. 61 to myself. I hadn't been this far up the North Shore for 20-plus years!

So, I finally arrived at the library that earned the American Library Association's 5-star rating five years in a row.

The lobby welcomes one with a pair of couches and a lovely nighttime photo of the library. There are shelves of books for sale and a paperback and magazine exchange, making this a fine place to relax and maybe wait for a ride or a friend,

Entering the library proper, the circulation desk is to the left of the doorway, the reference desk to the right. It seems that this gives excellent coverage by allowing staff at each desk to see each other, and giving two broad views of the interior.

The early literacy area for little kids is beyond/behind the reference desk. There is varied seating for adults who bring kids, including a couch in front of a large window. A wooden castle with toy figures is in the center of a bright carpet, and the space is surrounded by bins of picture books and board books. Nearby is a shelf of toys that can be checked out for two weeks, and there is a bookcase of parenting materials.

A map case with atlases and topo maps stands outside a Quiet Room with periodicals, large windows, and a variety of upholstered seating and study tables. Rooms like this seem to me a good compromise between the current practice allowing normal speaking voices (of adults and kids) and the need of some people for quiet.

Fiction and non-fiction stacks have attractive vertical signs on the ends indicating what is in each bay. A catalog computer is conveniently located in the back of the stacks, and there are chairs at the end of most bays. An "In Remembrance" book on a small table hints at the community support that helped earn that five-star rating from ALA.

A long, windowless wall hosts six Internet computers on small tables, plus a microfilm reader.

At about this point, I realized that I had not seen any "junior fiction" -- and there it was, near the computers and the service desk, a good place for subtly supervising kids who are too old to need a parent nearby but still in need of a watchful eye. When I only saw fiction here, I went back to the non-fiction stacks and discovered that (as in many other libraries) non-fiction of all levels is shelved together.

As I was leaving I noticed (it was impossible to miss) a Makerbot Replicator" with many examples of objects that have been made with it. Talking to staff, I learned that this 3-D printer belongs to a patron who periodically comes in to run it, to the delight of any kids who are around. I believe that the library Director is also able to use the printer.

After leaving the library I walked around the town a bit. The "season" is over for now so the town was very quiet. I walked to the edge of the lake and heard the mild surf, enough to get a bit of an "ocean fix," then headed southwest to my next visit.

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


The library entrance

To the right of the entrance, the toddler area is in the near corner,
the quiet room for adults in the far corner.

Not a library picture, but I couldn't resist.
One bear cub is watching the lake, the other is keeping an eye on the town.