I was impressed with this handsome library sign!
Here is the picture of the plaque.
The children's area is to the right of the entrance, and the first thing I noticed was a barrier, maybe six inches high, at the entrance to this area. It has a sign reading "Watch your step. Emerson the tortoise is out cruisin'." Later, the librarian introduced me to Emerson, after locating her under a bookshelf near a heat source. The heat was not on, on this unseasonably warm day, but I guess Emerson has her habits! She is a desert tortoise and recently had her fifth birthday. She was au naturel when I was there, but wears seasonal costumes. Check her out on the Rushford Public Library FaceBook page.
Emerson is quite an athletic tortoise. She is able to climb onto the lowest bookshelf (three or four inches high) and tuck herself among the books. She has also been known to move the barriers that are designed to confine her to the children's area, although each of them is weighted with 10 pounds of rice! I learned that kids enjoy lying on the floor next to her, and she sometimes will climb onto a kid for cozy warmth.
OK, there is more to this library than a tortoise. Let's move on.
To the left of the entrance, near the front, is a large table holding some art supplies. Not sure whether they are left from a morning activity, ready for a later activity, or simply ready for "passive programming."
Adult fiction is shelved along the walls, with non-fiction in several stacks. The library's collection has outgrown its space: there are three full two-sided book carts at the back of the fiction area. Signs on the carts indicating which authors are shelved here are proof that the carts are being used as permanent shelving. The wooden shelves for non-fiction are designed with clever "saw-tooth" uprights that allow the shelf height to be adjusted. I don't recall ever seeing shelves quite like this. In another area, wooden boxes have been placed on top of shelves to provide more space.
Next to the librarian's "office" and service desk are seven computers for public use, plus one specially designed for little kids. Most of the computers were being used by a group of tween boys, owners of the bikes I saw outside.
I mentioned the bulging shelves. Not a bad thing, you understand; it's good to have a large collection. I learned that the library outgrew its space in 1998, and at that time plans were made for a new library. An architect's rendering of the proposed new building is on display. Sadly, funding was not available, and in 2012 the plans were officially shelved.
As have I visited libraries around Minnesota and from northwestern Montana to Thunder Bay, Ontario, to Bar Harbor, Maine, I have seen libraries of all sizes and conditions. What always strikes me is the loyalty of residents and staff, especially in the smaller libraries. There are those who think that libraries are the dinosaurs of the day, but I don't see it. Libraries support literacy through preschool and other programs, give people of all ages access to on-line resources (research databases, e-books and e-periodicals) that many could not afford on their own, serve as places to meet and socialize, and provide computers for public use. In addition, library staff are not only trained to recommend books for individual tastes, they can also guide users through the intricacies of on-line search, finding reliable sources and helping users become Internet-literate. And they even develop skills needed to help patrons use their personal electronics. Libraries are changing in their focus, at least on the surface. But if you look beneath the surface, you'll see that they are changing with the times, offering the same services in new forms. It's still true that communities thrive with healthy public libraries.
Learn more about the Rushford Public Library on their website at http://rushford.lib.mn.us/, and on their FaceBook page. You really should see Emerson in her "birthday shirt"!