Saturday, October 24, 2015

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.

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