Sunday, September 4, 2016

429. Spring Valley Public Library, Spring Valley, MN

I had a picture in my mind of Spring Grove, a southeast Minnesota town I've visited a couple of times. What I put in my GPS was Spring Valley. And when I got here, it didn't bother me at all that it wasn't what I expected, because I found a truly wonderful library. [And I'll catch Spring Grove on my next road trip!]

Supporters of the library are recognized with polished stone plaques in the lobby, very handsome.

On entering from the lobby, I first saw the very convenient service disk...then my eyes were quickly drawn to the circle of book shelves that define the children's area. And what an area it is, with a genuine tree trunk up to the ceiling--with fake leaves attached to each branch. Brilliant: the ambiance of outdoors, with no watering or fallen leaves to deal with! And beneath the tree, two colorful, kid-sized pup tents to provide "hiding places" for readers, or perhaps for pretend campers.

By the window, a cozy chair large enough for an adult and a kid (or two) to share, plus a colorful rug and a selection of toddler toys.

This being a Summer Olympics year, sports and gold medals are a popular theme for summer reading programs. The program is over, but the motivation lingers on. I think it's very clever to cut the rims from paper plates and paint them to create the Olympic rings.

Beyond the kids area are stacks for the J books, DVDs, Large Print books, and the YA collection. Teens have a section of the library with a large bean bag chair, a tall table, a bench and a bright rug. There are a few carrels for studying. On a shelf nearby I saw an interesting collection of "Table Talk" cards, with provocative questions to use as conversation starters. Two that I noted were "If you could shop for free in one store, which story would it be, and why?" and "What's not being taught in school that should be?" I like the second question especially. I'd love to hear teens, or even younger kids, discuss that.

Paperbacks are shelved by themselves, which makes very good use of space. I spotted westerns, science fiction, romance, mystery, and general interest books.

An alcove for local history holds an unusual, rather old , wooden desk, some old photos, and a collection of books.

At the end of the building there is a semi-circular space with tall windows, the periodical collection, and "living room" seating. US and Minnesota flags in stands might suggest that civic meetings are held in this space.

There are six public computers near the service desk.

I was tempted to sit down and work on the puzzle. I see jigsaw puzzles quite often in my library travels, but this is the first time I've come across one that didn't have the outside pieces all put together, my favorite stage in puzzle construction. But I moved on.

A surprising alcove holds this kitchenette with tables and chairs that look ready for a cup of coffee or a snack, perhaps a good place to visit with friends.

Two things about the picture below: First, I like how the utilitarian metal shelves are softened and jazzed up with the handsome wooden ends. They are a real touch of class. These are the non-fiction stacks, but fiction stacks have the same feature.

Second, notice the row of posters along the wall. There are others throughout the library. They are from a series with titles like "We all use energy..." "We all need good health..." and "We all need a home." Each poster has a group of pictures from various cultures illustrating the theme. Hanging by each poster, in page protectors, is a set of pages providing information about each picture. This suggests a community with a broad world outlook, which is very nice to see.

Finally, I took a picture of this chair because I like the design. At first glance, it looks like a rocker, but in fact it has three positions: slightly forward, straight up, and slightly back. A chair like this allows restless students to change position a little bit, but not too much.

After I had made the rounds with my camera, I chatted with a librarian for a bit. We got on the subject of programming for children, and I learned that they had recently done a "stuffed animal overnight" program, where kids bring a favorite stuffed animal, which stays overnight and has adventures. Those adventures are captured in photographs. Here in Spring Valley, each child got four or five pictures; the logistics of getting the right number of different pictures of each animal are awe-inspiring. The library website shows a picture of all the animals (or it did, the last time I looked). Look for the post about the library in Arnprior, Ontario (where the critters are called "stuffies") for more about this kind of program.


371a Kasson Public Library, Kasson, Minnesota

I first visited Kasson Public Library on November 9, 2015. [To see that entry, put "Kasson" or "371" in the search field.] At that time, the library was located in a downtown building, a former store, I think. But they had just broken ground on a brand new building. In fact, I was able to get a picture of the early earth-moving stage. I've been following construction news on line, and now it was time to go see the results. It's amazing!

Start with the overall shape, the shallow dome. Pretty neat, isn't it? I forgot to ask, but I'm guessing that this shape contributes to the building's secondary role as a storm shelter for the community. It also allows for a spacious uninterrupted interior design

The lobby has a strikingly blue floor (that's a compliment). There are a couple of storage closets, restrooms, and a "hydration station" -- a drinking fountain that encourages the use of reusable water bottles by a) making it easy to refill them, and b) showing the count of how many have been filled. These are starting to be common in newer construction, and I think they are a great concept.

A sign informs us that shoes are a must, no Rollerblades, no running, and children must be supervised at all times. [That small red Porsche by the door? I watched a couple of preschoolers arrive in that and deftly back into an unmarked parking space. They were supervised, from a distance.]

As is my custom, I walked all through the library and took notes before asking permission to take pictures. When I got back to the service desk, ready to make my request, I discovered that I was not the only person taking pictures that day. This local gentleman with his well-traveled horse had just returned from the Grand Canyon, and was preparing to pose the horse for pictures throughout the library. (I'm sorry, I did not get his name; would someone please tell me in a comment, so I can add it?) UPDATE: I've just had an email from Don Vaughn from Kasson and his horse, Virgil. I've asked him for the story of his travels with Virgil, and will update further with his information or a link.

In the picture above, you see a corner of the service desk, the windows into the Library Director's office and other offices, and at the far right a window into what will soon become Maker Space, with a 3-D printer and other goodies.

Below, the bright yellow corner is part of the Teen area, with a "diner booth" and a tall counter with stools.

I'd been fascinated by the ceiling since seeing it in pictures on the library's website. The lighted rectangular panels are referred to as"clouds" by Art Tiff, the Director. He showed me a small control panel on the wall that controls a whole light show that is available with these panels. They are very cool. In the center, an 8-bladed fan turns slowly and quietly. This modern design and technology is a wonderful surprise in such a small town!

The curved walls are lined with shallow adjustable-height shelves. In the first picture below, they hold DVDs in a way that makes excellent use of space. Various seating is available. To the right of these shelves is a fireplace and a very nice "living room" area, which I can't show here because people were using it. Two study rooms are located nearby. I spotted a small quilted wall hanging that I remember from the old library: Ten Ladies, Ten Books, Kasson Public Library 1899-1999. As is true everywhere I have visited, libraries are not new to the scene, and they are always proud of their early roots.

After the fireplace area, there are more wall shelves. Here they are used cleverly for recorded books on the top three shelves, a good height for adult browsing, and children's DVDs on the bottom three. Looking at the furniture one might guess that some tables are in the future, but the "conversation circles" seem just fine without them.

I never got a picture of the fiction and non-fiction stacks, but they certainly are present. Another feature not pictured is a conference table with seating for ten, right behind the service desk. There are also six public computers; several of them were being used by school-age young people. These youngsters are apparently attracted by the new building, as I was told they rarely showed up at the older library.

KidSpace is in one corner, the mirror image of the Teen area, with a couple of computers, rocking chairs, shelves of books, puzzles, and toys, and a Little Tykes computer. A quotation from Dr.Seuss is on the wall: "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" Why, indeed?

In the spirit of the "Corridor" in the Arnprior, Ontario, library, the hallway from the entrance to the library proper is used as an art gallery which will have changing displays.

So there you have it, the new Kasson Public Library. From the entrance with its bright blue floor, through the short hallway and art gallery, to the service desk right where you can't miss it, and on to the spacious interior: treats for the eye and the mind, friendly staff, comfortable seating of many types. Kasson has built a treasure.