Sunday, July 31, 2016

157a. Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, Michigan

This was a revisit. I was here three years ago, and what stuck in my mind was the full-sized sailboat, the S. S. I Can Read--would it still be here?

I arrived mid-afternoon with time to spare, as this was my last library visit on the trip and I would spend the night in Escanaba. I brought my laptop in, caught up with this and that, and worked on a couple of posts.From where I sat, I could see the room with the Friends of the Library book sale, and I made a mental note to check it out before I left.

Suddenly it dawned on was Friday! Every library I know closes at 5 on Friday! (Well, OK, not university libraries, and downtown Minneaplis is open until 6, but was about 4:40!) I packed up the laptop and took a quick look around. Then I sought and got permission to take some pictures. No chance to chat with staff, as everyone was busy with the many tasks that surround closing. Been there, done that. OK, I'll let the pictures speak.

The children's area is "guarded" by a large plush snake, safely out of the way up a tree.
 I hope it has a name. End caps on shelves are used to display art and writing by children.

There are four iPads mounted on a child-height counter, looking somewhat like creatures with eye stalks. The curved counter where they are mounted surrounds what appears to be the children's librarian's office and work space. Nearby is the door to a separate Story Room.There is a Duplo table, and many large stuffed animals on the tops of shelves "For display only,"

I occasionally see these sloping, two-sided tables, 
and I think they must be wonderful for concentrating on a picture book 
without having to actually hold it.

I don't remember these fellows from my earlier visit, 
but they may have been there.

And indeed, the S. S. I Can Read 
is still sailing the library sea.

The teen area has two iPads and a faux grandfather clock in muted blue.

Just one view of the stacks, hinting at the spacious feeling that results from the sloping ceiling. Looking around in the adult area I was pleased to see that the genealogy section is as impressive as ever. I've told many people about the cards where visitors can leave their contact information and notes about the ancestors they are looking for. I haven't seen that anywhere else, and it seems so smart.

The circulation desk is handsome and practical with its curved design; I can't quite decide whether the lamps add whimsy or gravitas; perhaps a bit of each. I like the combination of high and low counters.

I'll also mention one nifty science feature that I saw right outside the library. There is a pole with a 1-foot diameter model of the sun. Spaced along the sidewalk are models of the planets with informative signs for each; Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are just a few feet apart. I learned from the sign at the sun that I would have to walk 1.25 miles to reach Neptune!


Saturday, July 30, 2016

428. Blind River Public Library, Blind River, Ontario

The Blind River Public Library has led an interesting life, being located at various times in the town hall, a hospital, and a portable classroom, until settling at its current location in 2000. The building also had a chequered past, at one time or another being home to the post office, Town Hall, Courthouse, jail, customs office, public health unit and a separate school board office. Ontario Heritage funds were obtained to renovate its present home at 8 Woodward Avenue. The Library opened for business in this location in July, 2000. [Information from the library web site at]

The yellow tape in the picture prevents accidents on the crumbling front steps, but the library is easily accessed through a door in back. Two bulletin boards in the entry hold notices for the community and the library.

To the right as I entered, movies, tables and chairs, and French fiction. To the left, adult non-fiction and biography in English and French. A number of signs say that "If you can't find what you're looking for, ask. There is more in storage." Perhaps Blind River could use a larger library?

Adult fiction in English has all genres shelved together with general fiction, with stickers on the spine to indicate the genre books. Lists of adult series (books by popular authors) are posted on the ends of book stacks, a nice convenience if you are trying to read an author's output in sequence, as I often do.

The children's area is to the left and runs nearly the length of the library. As you can see, the entrance is clearly marked and welcoming.

I think the soft curtains are a very nice touch, and one rarely seen. There are picture books, of course, plus children's fiction and non-fiction in English and French. There is a small rocking reindeer Oops, I've been informed that it is a rocking MOOSE--of course! What was I thinking?) for toddlers and the "staff only" door makes a good background for movable plastic letters. Two computers offer children's activities.

I don't know how I missed a picture of this, but there is also a very large set of  Lego base plates mounted on the wall. I estimate it at 4' x 9', 36 square feet. The one in Plattsburgh, NY, is bigger--but so is the library. And the one in Blind River is shorter and wider, perhaps a better fit for kids? The "Lego wall" phenomenon seems to be growing. It's a great way to use Legos without taking up table or floor space, though of course kids also want to build in three dimensions.

I noticed that rather than create bagged sets of recorded books and their paper counterparts, copies of books are instead shelved with the CDs, making it easy to check out one or the other or both. This is a nice approach for smaller libraries that might not be able to buy extra copies of books to create bagged sets.

I was fortunate to arrive during the summer book sale and bought a nice stack for Halloween.


427. Petawawa Public Library, Petawawa, Ontario

Well, it was tricky getting through the construction to the Arnprior library, but construction in Petawawa had it beat. It really wasn't too bad, if I'd only known a trick or two. After directions from a mom headed for the playground with little kids and some help from staff at the town office, it was easy. And in the process of locating the library, I got to see the "shortest downhill" in the world, with perhaps the finest view of any ski slope.

As in many towns, the library shares a building with the community center, and in this case the partnership leads to a special lending opportunity. Read on to see what that is.

One of the first things I noticed was a display related to a program new to me. In the USA, I frequently see a "1000 Books Before Kindergarten" program, encouraging parents to read to their children early and often. In Canada, what I see is "50 Books to Share Before Kindergarten." [I've seen this in other Canadian libraries, but this is the first place I've mentioned it, I think.] The program involves a wide range of 50 specific books for all kindergartners to be familiar with before starting school. They are shelved together; only three may be checked out at one time. I can see advantages to each program, and I even think that both could be used.

I didn't get any pictures in the children's area for the best of reasons: it was loaded with kids, mostly very young and on the move, which makes it hard to take a picture "without people." All of the types of books one expects to find are here, in English and French. There is a "floor couch" with a wooden frame. I don't know what else to call it. I've seen a seating piece like this one other place, but it is so popular, I can never get a picture!

A program room is to the side, behind an area that appears to be a combination office and ... perhaps a work area for preparing displays and story times? It has a nice big upholstered chair with a hassock. The children's area also includes 2 computers (speak to a librarian before using them) and backpacks loaded with books on a theme. Playaway Launch Pads are available to borrow; it wasn't clear to me, but I'll guess that they are for library use only.

Because of the activity in the children's area, let's look at what is on offer for adults, starting with this attractive corner. With the windows, fireplace, and furnishings, this is one of the most inviting seating areas I've seen. There is a community jigsaw puzzle underway on the table by the far window. Petawawa is a major military center in Canada, and the fireplace is "Dedicated to Our Peacekeepers, Lasting Canadian Imprints Around the World." It was donated by the Trans Canada Pipeline.

This method of honoring donors is attractive and flexible. There is a similar "bookshelf" on another wall of this area, to accommodate even more donors. Donor names are on the book spines. There is also a large, handsome "jade necklace" of stained glass "beads" hanging in a window. I thought I had a picture, but apparently not. The largest circle at the bottom explains that this honors long-term volunteers. Three of the "beads" have inscribed names, and there are plenty more for other volunteers.

Teens have an area with windows, four chairs that I call "IKEA chairs," and a couple of computers. I enjoyed seeing this sign on the teen fiction shelves: "It's OK. You have our permission, even if you are by no stretch of the imagination a teen. We read them and we encourage you to do the same." I enjoy many (not all) young adult novels, and this sign made me chuckle.

Now, about that "special lending situation" I mentioned. I saw snowshoes for borrowing in Grand Isle, Vermont, the day before, but still I was surprised to see bike helmets in a rack here. I was even more surprised when I read the sign on the rack and discovered that one can borrow a bicycle to go with the helmet! You need a library card or picture ID if you are a visitor, The bikes are in a corridor of the community center part of the building. This is truly a first for me in four years of library visits!

Finally, on my way out through the shared lobby, I bought a bright red Petawawa T-shirt, and I'm wearing it today on my way home to Minnesota. Thanks for a great visit to a fine library.


Friday, July 29, 2016

287a. Arnprior Public Library, Arnprior, Ontario

This was a re-visit...I was here about two years ago, August 15, 2014. I had driven up from New Hampshire and arrived in a very heavy rainstorm. My motel was only a couple of blocks away, and I had hoped to walk to the library, but I had to drive--or drown. This year, in contrast, the weather was beautiful, if a little warm. So I checked in and set out to walk to the library...and the city is in the midst of some major road work. I defied some signs and walked up the closed sidewalk, enjoying an impressive waterfall on the way.

There is a donor's wall in the lobby, a brick wall with mirrored plaques engraved with donor's names. Very classy and attractive. A good-sized meeting room opens to the lobby. When I arrived a meeting was getting underway. I have no idea what it was, but it involved women and a gavel.

The children's area was as I remembered it, with the bright floor and the summer reading program posters. I didn't remember the globe with Wild Things decoupaged on it, but the Brain Quest card sets are still on the non-fiction shelves, and again I forgot to ask whether the circulation staff has to count all the cards. We would have to do so at the library where I used to work, but fortunately we did not have the cards!

Teens also have bright colors but in a much more grown-up form. It's a very nice corner with windows looking out to a park-like area. There are carrels along the window wall, just to the left of the picture. A sign on one of the carrels says, "I will not use the workstation to obtain, create, or distribute any images, sounds, messages, or other material that is obscene, harassing, racist, malicious, fraudulent, libelous, nor use it for any activity that may be considered unethical." Then it points out that a firewall protects the library computers and the WiFi.

Adults have a more subdued palette, but they get comfortable chairs.

Signs on the stacks are very clear and attractive.

There were a number of book art projects on the top of one shelf. I've seen the kind where a conical shape is made by folding pages back, but this "plants in a book" was a first for me.

But the very best part of my visit was watching staff (in jammies) setting up kids' stuffed animals (stuffies) which had been left at the library by children for a "sleepover." I've been aware of other libraries that do this, but I've never seen it being staged. I strongly recommend that you go to the Arnprior Library page on Facebook to see what the stuffies got up to during their overnight stay.

The biggest surprise, however, was when the Director said she remembered me from two years ago. Yikes! That really made my day.


426. Plattsburgh Public Library, Plattsburgh, NY

At the New York end of my ferry trip, the library is very different from the little one in Grand Isle. This isn't surprising, since the population here, approximately 20,000, is ten times the population of Grand Isle.

The first thing I noticed in the lobby was a pay phone that has been disconnected, "Sorry for any inconvenience." It's rare to see a pay phone at all these days! A display of books on birding provided a cheerier note.

To the right, across from the service desk, is a long row of stacks holding large print books, audio books, fiction, and non-fiction. Paperbacks are on separate shelves and spinners. Genre fiction is interfiled with general fiction; stickers on the spine indicate which are the genre books. I spotted Fantasy, Short Stories, Local Author, Science Fiction, and Mystery. Large windows and 4 carrels complete this area--except for anything that I may have missed, of course. I always miss something.

I meant to get a picture of the music CD section, which had a very nice tree and leaves painted on the wall. But getting pictures involved an extra step (permission from the Director), and I focused on the children's area, never making it back upstairs.

As I entered the Reference Room, I saw an 1899 map of Plattsburgh, then a map from 1852. Those 47 years certainly made a huge difference! A Reference Desk is by the entrance to this large space, a savvy location to serve people with questions. The spacious room has a fireplace, study tables, assorted other tables and chairs, and a card catalog of recent history.

And here I have a little glitch in my notes. There is a large curved window area with frosted glass bricks to moderate the light, another fireplace (or did I write "FP" twice in my notes?), biographies, and periodicals. Well, the library has all of those things, whether they are in one room or two. If you live there, you know; if you don't live there, you'll just have to take my word for it, Or go take a look!

There is also an area with new releases and best sellers, and about 18 computers for public use.

And then I went downstairs past some very unusual art by Erik Wilson.

The children's area is large and bright. An indoor story walk is based on "I Love My White Shoes" starring Pete the Cat. The two-page spreads have been photocopied and placed around the room, with a ribbon to guide from one page to the next. Paper "shoes" plus glue and scissors are available to take along and decorate along the way.

A big dome tent is set up as a cozy reading spot or general hideaway. Nearby is a very large array of Lego base plates mounted on the wall; I estimate that they make a 7-foot square, with bins of "unsorted Legos" on the floor nearby. That "unsorted" label puzzled me for a moment, until I noted a tall set of plastic drawers of Legos sorted by color. I checked the first few drawers, and they really were!

Nearby is a table with a checker/chess board printed on the top. Pieces for both both games are at hand, and other table games are on a handy shelf .

Junior fiction is shelved along the wall under the windows. "See Also" signs on the shelves are a neat idea. For example, near some Nancy Drew "easy readers" is a sign saying "See also J Fic KEE." So many books are coming out in editions that will be shelved apart, this should be very useful.

Another corner has brick-pattern vinyl flooring and a large rug with a "campfire" and "logs," a really nice design I don't recall seeing before.

An active play area for toddlers has blocks of many types and related toys; I saw some vehicles, building parts, and at least one boat.

I was a bit ahead of schedule, which almost never happens on my "library collecting" trips, so I was able to accept the invitation from Anne, the library Director, to stop in her office and chat. This was a high point of my two-week trip, Anne. Thanks!


Thursday, July 28, 2016

425. Grand Isle Free Library, Grand Isle, Vermont

On my way back from visiting family and libraries in NH to home in MN, I took the ferry across Lake Champlain from Grand Isle to Plattsburgh, and visited the library in each town. It was a study in contrasts!

Grand Isle's library was purpose-built in the 1920s. According to Wikipedia, the town of Grand Isle had a population of 2067 in 2010. It always amazes me, in a good way, to find these tiny towns supporting libraries. [Another library in the county is in North Hero, which you can find in the blog.]

The 800 or so square feet here are packed with books: Books for sale in the entry, just make a donation. (Make it a big one, OK?) Inside to the left, recorded books; to the right, large print, biographies, and non-fiction. At the back to the left, adult fiction; to the right, the children's collection. There are some older books in a glass-fronted case. There's even a fireplace!

There are three laptop computers that are popular during the summer with folks from a nearby campground who come to the library in the evening to stay in touch with the "outside" world instead of communing with marshmallows and campfires. Of course, they can't drop in just any time, as the library is open Tuesday 1 PM-8 PM, Wednesday 9 AM-Noon, Thursday 4 PM-8 PM, and Saturday 9 AM-3 PM. Twenty hours a week isn't bad for a library with one librarian, and no other staff!

Grand Isle Library has a lively Facebook presence where you can see pictures of some of the program offerings for kids; it's worth a look. The library is starting to offer movie nights on Mondays, at the library (small crowd) or at the Methodist church next door (larger crowd). This is off to a slow start, but hopefully attendance will pick up. Notice that Monday evening is not a regular time for the library to be open. The librarian is obviously giving an evening in order to do this. The specific day might need to change, but it can't be Tuesday or Thursday, since it's impossible to be showing movies and registering new users, helping with research, and so forth.

I had to ask about a book cart full of --snowshoes! These were donated by RISE, a Vermont company that is giving snowshoes to libraries around the state. They can be found in the catalog and requested like books. I think this trumps the cake pans I've found for loan in several libraries! (Check out

The library can (or could) be divided front and back with sliding "pocket doors," and there is a concrete bunker once used to store town records. And the book drop is a tiny house by the library door:

This last picture is not library-related, but it's located right next door, where an artist decided to get creative with a clump of trees that otherwise would have been removed.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

424. Harvard Public Library, Harvard, Mass.

My library hobby has now taken me to Cornell and Harvard, how about that? Of course, what I mean is Cornell, Wisconsin (tiny) and Harvard, Massachusetts (not tiny). It's been a long day today in Vermont, NY, and Ontario, but I'm going to get a post in here or I'll never catch up.

This library has an interesting history, including being a school at one time. A plaque near a quiet reading room says, "Mrs. Margaret Bromfield Blanchard founded this school in 1878 for the higher education of youth and to perpetuate the memory of the Bromfield family from which she received liberal bequests that enabled her to accomplish this beneficial purpose". The new part of the building was dedicated on April 7, 2007. I was allowed to go up to the top level, where the headmaster once had his office. There is a nice auditorium here that is still in use for programs.  The space totally reminds me of every private school novel from "a certain era" that I've ever read.

This is the older part of the library...

...and this angle shows the newer part.

It would be easy to get lost here, and I'm sure I missed some nooks and crannies, perhaps whole rooms. Here's what made it into my notes:

To the left as you enter is a "living room" area with large windows and many easy chairs. A bay or alcove to the side has more chairs and tables. This area includes large print fiction, audio books, lots of music CDs and DVDs, and mystery fiction.

I went upstairs and found the non-fiction area. On the way up, I saw this posted in the stairwell: "Gentle reminder, all conversations in stairwell echo."

There are four study tables by windows that look out on a patio. No one was there, as the temperature was very hot. There are four computers for Internet access. A rounded window area has easy chairs, and there are two quiet study rooms that can seat four and four easy chairs for relaxing. A sign reminds users that "This is a SILENT work area. No conversations." But it goes the next step and lists places in the library where quiet conversations are welcome. That seems to me to be very positive and respectful.

Fiction is in the older part of the library. There is another quiet reading room here, with a fireplace and the periodical collection.

Now, the children's area, which is downstairs in the newer building. My first impression was of color, color, color. If you told me the list of colors used, I would tell you "That will never work." But it does work, and the result is fantastic.

The wooden train set and one of the large window seats

Secure display cabinets for interesting little objects at kid height

The program room is behind the yellow wall.

The auditorium on the top floor

A casual seating area between the old and new parts of the library

Wooden shelves and cabinets from the old library

A program that intrigued me: The Battle of the Beach Reads!

Looking at the old entrance from a different angle


423. Bigelow Free Public Library, Clinton, Mass.

The Bigelow library is diagonally across the street from a large park with a fountain and bandstand. An indication that this library does a good job of using its local resources is their "library laps in the park" program: meet at the library, walk and talk, track steps. Tuesdays at 5;30, and I'm sure they'd love to have you join them.

Clinton's library started as a subscription library in 1846. In 1902 it opened to the public in this Carnegie building.

One unusual feature of the library is the first-floor ceiling, which is made of tiles or bricks laid in a herringbone pattern. I was told that this is the same as the ceilings at the Boston Central Library. It's very unusual and eye-catching.

When I entered, I immediately noticed a very large table with new books displayed on individual easels. I think this table must be about 12 feet by four feet. Beyond it to the left are large print books, non-fiction, local history books, a portrait of John F. Kennedy, and another very large table, this one clear for use as a study table.

Back to the central area inside the door, where there are DVDs on spinners, six computers for patron use, and the service desk with its very friendly staff.

From here I headed up the stairs to the children's area. The stairway was brightened by fingerpaintings done by kindergarteners. At the top of the stairs was an easel with large chart paper and the beginning of a cumulative story titled "On the Road to Rio." Each sentence was in a different handwriting; it wasn't clear who was doing the writing. Perhaps it was the teens, who have their space right here at the top of the stairs. And by the way, that space is theirs alone from 2:30-6, Tuesday through Friday and 9 to 1 on Saturday. (The library is closed on Sunday and Monday.)

There is a display about the Rock and Roll Reading Marathon. The marathon takes place all day on Wednesdays. Kids can sign up for a 15 or 30 minute session to sit in one of the rockers and read aloud to family and friends. The librarian told me that the goal of 15,000 pages has already been met. That a lot of pages, a lot of reading. Three cheers to the readers of Clinton! The marathon theme relates to the upcoming Olympic Games, of course.

Before entering the preschool children's area, I walked through a room that holds the children's non-fiction and fiction collections along the wall. It was interesting that classic fiction books have their own section; among others, I spotted books by C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain. This large room had obviously just been used for a craft project of some sort. All sorts of material was lying around, including a large cushion that was shedding stuffing. What on earth? The puzzle was quickly solved when the librarian explained that the morning's program had involved packaging raw eggs so that they could be dropped from some height without breaking. And I understand that three teams actually accomplished this goal. I wish I had been there earlier to see this.

The picture above shows an array of cut-and-colored birthday cakes. If a birthday child comes in, she or he can color a cake and receive a free book!

Some of the resources available for preschool

The aftermath of the egg-packaging project.

Kindergarten finger paintings along the stairs

One more program mention: a sign at the landing invites carers to bring children two to five years old to the library at noon on Fridays for Lunch Bunch. Participants bring their lunches, and I assume there are stories and games and such.

I was given a list of the Summer Reading Program activities, and it is long and varied, ranging from movies to trivia to an obstacle course, a scavenger hunt, and more. Very impressive, Clinton!