Saturday, November 28, 2015

375 New London, MN Public Library

Fortunately the librarian in Spicer had tipped me off that the New London library was in the lower level of a building. Even so, my GPS and I did some extra driving around town, and I even inquired of a young man out with two dogs, before I spotted the library...which I had passed at least once. The library shares the building with a dental office, an interesting combination.

My trip was going so smoothly that I arrived in New London before the library opened. Fortunately, it is across the street from McKale's Family Restaurant, where I had a tasty hot roast beef sandwich served by a very nice young woman.

The library is entered through a lobby shared with the dentist's office, and is reached down a flight of stairs. At the request of my knees I looked around for an elevator, but there is none. No accessibility? There must be an alternative that I hadn't spotted. I managed the stairs.

The library is one of the smaller ones I've visited, but it has all the basics: a corner for kids and teens, an alcove of picture books, three "stack" shelves of fiction and one of non-fiction, plus a small reference collection. I didn't mention any computers in my notes, but there must have been one or two.

I always look for "something new" at each library, and here it was a sign on what appeared to be a back door, stating that library staff should under no circumstances use this door. I couldn't resist, I had to ask the librarian, "What about a fire?"  Well... "And what about access?" I asked. I learned that there is a ramp outside that door that could provide access, but "under no circumstances..."

I've visited libraries that have minimal accommodation for people with mobility issues. Perhaps a lift that will raise a person in a wheelchair to another level, or a small elevator tucked into a corner of an otherwise-intact Carnegie library. But this is the first library I've visited that has not addressed accessibility at all. At least the town has a library, and that is good. this even legal?

And if, Heaven forfend, there is ever a fire...the heck with the sign on that door, just get out!

The library website is at; I couldn't find a Facebook page.


374 Erickson Memorial Library, Spicer, MN

After I left Willmar, a short drive of 10-15 minutes got me to the town of Spicer. Another ten minutes of confusion with my GPS finally had me facing the very obvious library sign. I totally rely on my GPS on these library visits, and every once in a while, it doesn't work as well as I would like. As you can see in the picture, this is the Erickson Memorial Library. On my way out, I noticed a picture of MABELLE ERICKSON; I didn't ask, but I assume the library is in her memory.

I was immediately impressed with the display case of banned books, with the caption "We Read Banned Books." Libraries should exist to meet the needs of all readers, and it's good to see this proudly displayed. [As I took the picture below, a patron entering the library gave me a look that suggested I was engaging in odd behavior.]

The children's area welcomes one with a banner "Dream Big -- Read." Then...well, you know that I always look for something I haven't seen anywhere else. Here, that "something" was a large gazebo, it's lower walls and floor well-cushioned for cozy reading and its outer walls covered with racks and shelves for books. What a great idea! I was sorry that it wasn't full of kids...but on the other hand, if it had been, I couldn't have taken the picture.

Another feature that I see at a few libraries is the two-sided slanted table, perfect for looking at large picture books.

I didn't really neglect the adult area. There are a half-dozen study carrels and stacks with fiction and non-fiction books. I like the use of sliding bookends that extend down from shelves (though they don't seem to work too well with shelves of short paperbacks). There are are a couple of cozy places with cushioned chairs for browsers to sit and read, one with a large plant. Plants are always a nice addition to a library, if you have staff or volunteers who are committed to their care.

There are, I believe, five Internet computers available. DVDs are not kept in their cases, but must be requested at the service desk.

A nice practice that I see occasionally is inviting patrons to adopt a book; that is, to donate the purchase price of a desired book, and dedicate the book in Honor or in Memory of the person of your choice. There was a small box of slips of paper with book titles and cover pictures, along with the purchase price, a convenient way, I would think, of keeping track of what has been donated and what is still desired.

The library website is at There is a nice article about the library here:

I couldn't find a Facebook page.


373 Willmar, MN

I visited Willmar on "Black Friday," the shopping day after Thanksgiving. Why? I don't shop all that much, and certainly not on this day. Minnesota State Parks offered free admission to encourage people to get out, rather than shopping, so I looked on my map for a cluster of towns with libraries--and a nearby state park. Willmar and two others (you can guess, or read the next two entries) got my vote.

The building has a one-story "older part" that now houses the children's area (it once held the entire library!) and a two-story "newer part" with the adult library on the first floor and the headquarters of the Pioneerland Library System and a large meeting room upstairs.


As I often do, I headed for the children's area first. Two display cases held models of buildings in NYC and Washington. Some appeared to be paper models; I've built some like these, but simpler, and mine never come out looking this good! There is also an alcove with a display of new books and media, posters about upcoming programs, and table seating for browsers

As in many MN libraries these days, there is an extensive play-and-literacy area provided in coordination with the Minnesota Children's Museum. Those that I've seen have each included a boat; we are the land of (at least) 10,000 lakes, after all. Here, the boat has an "outboard motor," a "tackle box," and a couple of real life vests. Next to the boat are a "cooler" that can be used with two "fishing poles" and some letters to make word families. The poles and letters are not in the picture--they must be requested.

To complete the imaginative play scenario, there is a picnic table with supplies and a "grill" for cooking. Nearby, not pictured, is a "Farmer's Market," in case some last-minute products are needed.

If fishing and picnicking are not to a child's liking, there is also a clever castle/puppet theater. I call it "clever" because it is fastened together in a way that would allow it to be disassembled for storage or to gain the space.
Or perhaps Zuckerman's Barn, with its large animals and wall painting is more appealing!

At the far end of the space is this delightful windowed corner with a curvy bench, child-sized chairs, bright carpet, and bulletin boards.

There are also two "Little Tykes" computers and several other computers for kids to use. 

The picture above shows the circulation service desk and the long view into the adult part of the library. The information/reference desk is around the corner to the right, at the far end. The fiction stacks are to the left in this long view, non-fiction to the right. Between these two is a generous Teen Space with four carrels, two booths, a shelf of table games, plenty of books--and a clear sight line to the Information desk. I like that the teen area is in view, but is somewhat buffered from adult oversight by distance.

The adult area feels very spacious. There are easy chairs by windows in two areas, for pleasant browsing. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be carrels or study tables, and there are six study rooms for individuals and small groups. Twelve spaces at study tables are "Reserved for Study Center Monday and Thursday 5 - 7." I counted at least a dozen Internet computers for public use, plus two others limited to 15 minutes for quick reference. Finally, a windowed room beside the information desk serves as a combination conference room and genealogy center, with books, a computer, and a micro-reader.

For more about the Willmar library, go to or check them out on Facebook at


Monday, November 9, 2015

372. Rochester, MN, Public Library

Happy 150th Birthday to the Rochester Public Library--I missed the party by two days!

After the most recent libraries I've visited, including little Kasson less than an hour before I arrived here, Rochester was almost disorienting in its size. I knew what to expect--the library website even provides a pdf of the floor plans!--but even so, I came to a full stop in the entrance area. Wow!

I started out to my right, the kids' area. This space is carpeted in subdued blue, green, and yellow, reflecting the water, grass and trees, and ripe fields. If you choose, you can enter by a small arched bridge over blue carpet, an option clearly enjoyed by the smaller patrons I saw.

There are ten Internet computers to the right of the entrance and four aquariums to the left. I won't try to describe their interesting shape, and I was unable to take interior pictures because the place was jumping. Kids everywhere!

I saw signs indicating that "Book Map is coming soon." I talked to a children's librarian about this and learned that it is a way of shelving books that I've only seen at much smaller libraries, so far. Rather than Dewey numbers, books will be labeled and shelved by "neighborhood," like Space, Animals, and so forth, then by progressively more specific word labels. I found an article about this here:  When I expressed regret over the loss of Dewey, the librarian pointed out that with the loss of school librarians, kids aren't learning the system any more, and the new way is more intuitive. Sadly, I can't argue with that. [In a couple of small libraries I've visited, I've been told that it means organizing books "like a bookstore."]

The children's area is perhaps the largest I've seen, at least equal to Minneapolis Central (not counting the compressed stacks). One wall, about 36 feet long, has a mural of common Minnesota animals. There is plenty of room for programs and a Play Spot in collaboration with the Minnesota Children's Museum. These Play Spots are becoming ubiquitous; this one includes a post office, a writing table, a puppet theater in a gigantic "hollow tree," and half a canoe that seems to be coming through the wall on a blue plastic platform of "water." Many picture books are shelved by category, like alphabet, shapes, nursery rhymes, and numbers. There are plenty of others shelved by author, also.

A large room with windows on two sides seems to be the teen space. I didn't go in, but I did make note of a sign outside: Last summer, 355 teens completed 18,060 hours of reading, which was 4180 hours more than last year. That's a lot of reading!

The other end of the first floor is the adult fiction area. There is a windowed seating area near the new mysteries, followed by many rows of stacks. At the far end is a space that fooled me into thinking it was round. In fact, it is rectangular, but has a round design in the carpet topped with a large round table. Yes, I admit it, I was fooled and slightly disoriented for a minute.

Since parking ramps are free on weekends, I decided to take time to visit the second floor, the non-fiction collection. On the elevator on the way up (favoring my knees) I saw this sign: "Please do not leave children under 10 unattended." I wonder how many times that has stopped a parent from heading upstairs and leaving the little ones in the children's room?

Upstairs I found rows of tables with reading lights; many newspapers; a computer lab; a case of flat drawers for topo maps, next to a globe with the directive "Abuse it and lose it;" a series of vertical pamphlet files; and many periodicals shelved on spinners designated A-B, C-E, etc. Older periodicals, it seems, must be retrieved from the "Periodical Room." A fairly extensive International Languages section reflects Rochester's role as the home of the internationally-famed Mayo Clinics.

The Dewey Decimal system still holds sway on the second floor. Would that ever change? "Not in my lifetime," was the heartfelt response of two librarians! I also learned from these librarians that the library is starting to look into adding a third and fourth floor, in order to house their growing collection. To those who think that libraries are dying dinosaurs I simply say, "You need to look around,"

Learn more about the Rochester library at and visit them at

Now, I think, to be fair, I should visit the Rochester, New York library on my trip to New England next summer!

11/7/2015   car

I couldn't find a good angle for a "front door" photo, so I settled for
this bookshelf mural near the drive-up book return.

371 Kasson, MN SELCO (SELS) Region

I knew what direction I wanted to head on Saturday, so I checked the map for towns of interest. There was Kasson, so I went to the website to check their hours. While doing that, I saw that Kasson is building a new library, and that sealed the deal. That, and the tag line "The place to go when you need to know."

The dynamic tone of this library comes through in many ways. A bright bulletin board in the entrance features color copies of audiobooks and DVDs "New in November." The end cap of shelves near the service desk is covered with paper and bears the question, "What are you thankful for?" Markers are available and the paper is filling up. A framed sign bears this quotation from Barbara Stripling of the American Library Association: "A library is an invitational space. Anybody--everybody is invited to come in and you have the freedom to explore ideas." These are three wonderful and significant ways to start a library visit.

The current building is not fancy, but it is working. There is a very nice "living room" by the windows, close to periodicals, newspapers, and media. A good selection of large print books is nearby. The collection is understandably limited, but all of the resources of the South East Library System (SELS, formerly SELCO) are available to patrons. The non-fiction collection includes the 1997 Laws of Minnesota, 2112 Minnesota Rules, and 2014 Minnesota Statutes.

The children's area has a non-fiction corner with a bright carpet, seating, and a Little Tykes computer. All the "truck" books have been given their own space on the shelves, perhaps in honor of the construction of the new library. I like the two rectangular tables, one with red trim and eight red chairs, the other with blue. A sign above the media collection says "Videos are not for public performance unless specifically stated." I have not seen this mentioned before, although I have seen variations of  "Copying music? You're breaking a Federal Law. Stop it. Now. Really."

Before leaving, I chatted with the librarian and got directions to the new construction site. One thing I thought very interesting is that the building is designed to serve as a community shelter in case of tornadoes, a very important and realistic approach to design. I've included one picture of the construction site below. You can see many others at the library website, The library is also active on Facebook at

Finally, a big "Happy Birthday" to the town of Kasson, founded in 1865 and thus 150 years old this year!

11/7/2015   car

The present building, close to the heart of "downtown."

Not far away, construction has started on the new building.
 I'll be back!