Monday, March 21, 2016

387. Spencer, Iowa

The Spencer, Iowa, library was home to Dewey Readmore Books, whose story has been told in adult, junior, and picture book formats. The statue here greets users of the library, just as the famed library cat must have greeted patrons in the past. I admit it: My whole Iowa road trip was planned to include a visit here.

In addition to many depictions of Dewey, the children's area is graced with what at first look appears to be an aquarium. But is a glass case shaped like a large aquarium, but filled with glass fish and plants. It's the creation of a local glass shop, and it is marvelous.

Beyond this display is a semi-enclosed space for the smallest kids and their adults, with a window wall to the outside, a number rug, and picture books arranged by topic: concepts, growing, rhymes, and so forth.

In another part of the children's area there is a "pond" rug with a large foam "lily pad" perhaps a foot tall for sitting or sprawling. There are three computers for kids, a collection of books in Spanish, periodicals and junior graphic novels, junior fiction, and picture books. All sorts of things grace the tops of the shelves, including a faux feathered owl, plants, small sculptures...all sorts of things.

A biography and reference section includes some classics, like the 1926 Index to Fairy Tales and the 1942 Index to Children's Poetry. I doubt that these are often used (I could be wrong about that), but I like seeing classic reference books still available.

The adult side of the library feels very spacious. Wall shelves plus shelves that are limited to three- and five-high provide good sight lines.The John Watts ICN Conference Room had closed blinds, A shelf nearby holds reference books and book about Iowa. There are "Living room" seating areas for browsers, and a large jigsaw puzzle was about 1/2 done when I was there. Near a genealogy section are three old glass-topped wooden tables with wheeled chairs, and a very large, very old globe on a wooden stand. Wall shelves in this area are seven-high, but the bottom and top shelves are not used, which is nice for access.

The teen center has a bright rug and a collection of fiction, non-fiction, and graphics.

An old file cabinet with shallow drawers is creatively used for music CDs, and a magnetic poetry set is available nearby.

But about that cat...  I was fortunate to talk to a staff person who grew up in Spencer and had known Dewey when she was young. She very kindly took me back to the staff room and showed me the cold, metal-lined book drop where the abandoned kitten was found. She was even kind enough to take a picture of me with the book drop and email it to me, since my camera was being difficult. [OK, Ellen, stop blaming the camera; it somehow got set on video, that's why it didn't appear to be working for taking still photos.] She pointed out the place where Dewey is buried, beyond that window wall in the children's area.

Tomorrow, March 22, I'll be sharing my pictures with a class of third graders in St. Paul, and reading them the first chapter of Dewey the Library Cat, which is at their level but too long for the time I have with them, followed by the picture book Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library. I am so glad that I can do this, and tell them "Yes, I was there"

Read more about Dewey and about the Spencer library at and find them on Facebook at

3/18/2016, car

Spencer, Iowa, Public Library

The sheltered entrance

Dewey's resting place

Looking into the picture book area from outside

Dewey's first entrance to the library, through the book return slot

A picture of Dewey inside the lid of the book drop. He was found huddled under books in one of the front corners, on a very cold morning. The book drop is insulated to protect the staff room from the outside cold; this, of course, kept it very cold for the books--and the 8-week-old kitten!
And yes, that old person is me.

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