Friday, May 20, 2016

402 Portage Lake District Library, Houghton, MI

At one time, this handsome Carnegie library was the home of the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton.

But times have changed. If we go down that very steep hill, about three blocks, we will come to this building.

I looks pretty nice, right? Well, let's go inside. This building is filled with creative touches and programs that blew me away.

This gateway to the children's area is elegantly simple. One feature of this area is a good-sized aquarium. I like the adjacent plaque: "Dedicated in honor of Dr. C. Dexter Lufkin, lover of fish and quiet children." I wonder what he would have thought of the two large groups of preschoolers who had been in earlier in the day to plant seeds in small milk cartons. The plants that grow will later be planted outside in a children's garden. The tarantula mascot will stay inside in its cage, I assume.

This corner of the preschool area welcomes kids with everything from games to the large plush pony from Wells Fargo, plus plenty of books and media. By the way, that tree? and the gateway pictured above? the bookshelf ends that have local pictures routed into the surface? the circulation desk? All are the work of local craftpersons.

Two other items of note on top of shelves in the kids' are are a barred owl (Take note, Angela from Thunder Bay.) The owl starved during an especially bad winter a few years ago. There is also a telescope with a fanny pack of accessories, which can be checked out.

Moving to the other side of the building, you see that it is built right on the edge of the Portage Canal which provides a shortcut across the Keneewah Peninsula. It also provides a pleasant, relaxing outlook for patrons choosing to sit along the generous windows. The farther end has a comfortable "living room" feeling. Teens have their own area by the windows, with a computer, couches and chairs, and YA books. Media are shelved nearby, including the music CDs, which seem especially right for teens.

Patrons were asked to "bring in your favorite stone," and these stones were used to build a unique two-sided fireplace. Fireplaces are very popular in new libraries, but I haven't heard of another library that collected building material in this way. What a wonderful way to help patrons feel ownership in the library.

A couple of computers have features I haven't seen before, keyboards with extra-large, extra-visible keys. A sign indicates that the computers are connected to both the regular and adaptive keyboards, so either can be used seamlessly. Wonderful!

A librarian gave me a lot of the information here, and I hope I have accurately captured all that she told me. When I was leaving, she walked me to the door and made sure that I knew how to find the old Carnegie building. In the lobby, I took one final picture, of the unusual way to acknowledge contributions. She explained that each of the wooden "books" is held in place with Blu-Tac. Just as with a real bookshelf, perhaps in your home, books are added and others must be rearranged.

The patrons of this library should know that they have a very, very unusual and special library. Treat it well!


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