Sunday, November 6, 2016

433. Chatfield Public Library, Chatfield, MN

Foliage season is past, but still it was a beautiful day to head back to southeast Minnesota and visit a few libraries. I started the day in Chatfield, where I discovered a Carnegie library that celebrated its centennial last year. A 32-page booklet is replete with articles by many of those connected with the library over the years. It gives details and insights about every aspect of the library's long life, and augurs well for its future.

In the picture below, you see mainly the original Carnegie library. Chatfield was granted $6,000 to build the Prairie School building. In 1996, a very generous gift enabled an addition to the back of the library. This artfully increased space and modernized the building without compromising its status in the National Register of Historic Places.

The accessible entrance to the library is at the left as you face the building. A patio area outside the door provides seating and umbrellas, a pleasant place even on this November day, with its record-setting temperatures in the 70s. I laugh now when I look at this picture; until I put it in here, I had not noticed the "face" on the brick wall! Perhaps someone will leave a comment and explain those four white rectangles.

The welcoming children's area is in the new part of the building. When I glance at the picture, I worry that I have inadvertently included a child; then I realize that I am looking at the tall stuffed penguin! There are plenty of picture books and readers, of course. I did not see "J" (junior or juvenile) books, but "Y" books are plentiful on wall shelves nearby. I meant to ask about this, as some of the "Y" (youth or young adult) books looked like those that are usually intended for younger readers. I'll hazard a guess that with the increased maturity of content in books typically classified as "Y," those books are shelved with the general fiction collection, and younger fiction is given the "Youth" label. If someone will confirm or explain, I'll make any needed revisions here.

Near the librarian's office and service desk there are eight computers for public use, and most of them were in use when I was there. Thus, no picture.

The Carnegie space is large--after all, it was once the entire library. The picture below shows one end of the room, with the non-fiction collection on the wall shelves and the periodicals just out of sight to the right of the picture. Floor and table lamps in a style that matches the architecture are turned on when the library is open, creating a warm and welcoming ambiance.

When the library was remodeled, the original pressed-tin ceiling was discovered beneath a more modern dropped ceiling at the height of the brown trim in the picture below. The Carnegie library had stained-glass windows. In that spirit, modern stained glass panels were created for the new wall between the old and new spaces. These were designed by a high school art teacher, and some of them were created by high school art students. There is a card catalog, still full of cards but not maintained. There is also a larger cabinet, shown below, origin and purpose unknown to me. [When I get home from a "collecting trip," no matter how careful my notes there are always questions I wish I had thought to ask....]

Early in my library visits I thought I had deteected a regional pattern: grandfather clocks in the northeast, quilts in the midwest. I have been disabused of this notion after finding either artifact, in either location. Not shown in the middle of the Carnegie space is a large table, once the circulation desk. When I was there, it was being used for the construction of a large jigsaw puzzle. As I write this, I realize that one thing seems to be missing: every Carnegie library I can recall has had at least one fireplace! Could I have missed it? I don't think so, but please let me know.

The librarian, who has been here 22 years, was a delight to talk to. From her I learned all sorts of tidbits that I haven't fit in here, like the plans for the entrance way, to make it fit better with the Prairie School design. I also learned that there is a large meeting and program room in the basement, typical of Carnegie libraries. A history museum is also housed in the basement.

I strongly recommend looking at the Chatfield Public Library page on FaceBook for many pictures and programs.



  1. Thank you so much for visiting our library, Ellen. I really enjoyed talking with you! I am happy to address some of the questions you thought of while writing your blog post. The 4 white rectangles: we had to laugh because we had never noticed that it really does look like a face! The rectangle in the center (the "nose") is actually our outdoor book return slot. The "eyes" and "mouth" are just cement features that match the trim on the original Carnegie exterior.
    Classification of our Youth books: Our classification is a bit different from most libraries, but will make sense when I explain it. It is as it always has been here, as far as I know. We use "E" for early or "easy" picture books, "Y" for youth books, and "T" for teen or young adult books.
    Stained Glass Windows: Bless your heart for assuming the Prairie School style stained glass windows on the north and south ends of the original building are original. It confirms that they are prefect for the space! They were actually added AFTER the more modern stained glass windows on the wall between the addition and the original building! Another local high school teacher, Chris Grutzmacher (Mr. G) commissioned Mark Nass (who designed and did the more modern stained glass windows) to do the 6 Prairie School stained glass windows in honor of his mother. They are merely attached over the original clear glass.
    The Larger Cabinet: I have to admit that I do not know if this lovely cabinet has always been in the library, but I would not be surprised if it has. The drawers are not the easiest to open, so we store items that do not need to be retrieved very often in it: back issues of the local newspaper, library memorabilia, some items of local historical interest, etc.
    Fireplace: To my personal disappointment, our Carnegie never had a fireplace.
    Grandfather Clock and Quilt: Our Grandfather clock was purchased with memorial money given in honor of a valued patron, Allen McCook, by his family soon after our addition/remodel was completed. The quilt hanging in the children's area was created specifically for the library by our beloved "Sassy Quilters" who regularly meet in the library to quilt.
    I love our library and I love to talk about it, so if you have any other questions, please ask! :) Monica Erickson, Director/Librarian

    1. Thanks for the kind words and the details, Monica. I wish everyone who reads a post in which I wonder about something that I either didn't ask about, or only thought about when I got home, would write a response! I especially enjoyed hearing about the 'new' prairie-style stained glass. Chatfield is a town of many talents


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