Wednesday, June 7, 2017

457. Webber Park, Hennepin County Library

There has been a library in this neighborhood since 1910. It was remodeled in 1954 and renamed the John Deere Webber Memorial, erected by his parents C.C. and Mary Harris Webber.

I first visited Webber Library in the summer of 2012 when I started my quest to visit all the MELSA libraries. At that time it was a small, older building in Webber Park. There were some issues with the building, I don't recall exactly what, and the library moved temporarily into a storefront nearby. And now, ta-da, the new Webber Library opened a few weeks ago. What a wonderful addition for the neighborhood!

The exterior is warm and inviting, with a great use of wooden accents on the mostly stone building. I was intrigued by the details shown on the right, below, the way the wood is supported above ground level.

The overhanging roof provides a shaded spot with benches, while the various textures of stone provide visual interest.

Inside, this delightful mural backs the service desk. 

There are many spots for sitting and visiting, reading, or using a laptop. This corner of the building holds a conference room and the non-fiction, periodicals, and a casual seating area. I noticed that all non-fiction books, for adults and children, are shelved together, a very practical approach for smaller libraries.

I first saw this kind of storage and display for periodicals when the Walker Library opened in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. I like the way back issues can be stored while the current issue slips into a display pocket on the front.

Moving clockwise around the library, the next feature is the extensive community information board and literature display. This is close to a second conference/study room and the fiction and large print collections, plus westerns, science fiction, graphic novels, and teen fiction. The collections are small, but staff pointed out that the library was built with the idea that collections will grow; there is plenty of shelf space. Also, patrons have access through the catalog computers to the entire Hennepin County Library System collection, of course.

In order to keep patrons out of the picture, I could only catch one corner of the computer area. There are 24 public computers for Internet access, and many of them were in use.

Children's areas in libraries are full of surprises these days. This giant lighted pegboard is one. The plastic pegs can be moved to make wonderful patterns that glow with the light from below. Nearby shelves hold children's fiction and media, and there are bins of picture books, of course.

A major feature for children is this Nature Station. It features sturdy magnifying lenses and various specimens to study. A poster nearby models for adults the use of this activity: "Look at the tiny spots and veins on this leaf," and explains its value from a child's perspective: "When I use a magnifying glass, I am learning to use science tools."

Another sign nearby encourages tidying up after play: "When you make cleaning fun, you are teaching me to be considerate of others."

For some reason, it is rare to see special displays of early readers, like the one below. This display includes handouts for parents of children in kindergarten, first, and second grades from Reading Rockets, a really fine website.

As I was leaving, I decided to walk around the outside of the building rather than go directly to my car. I was rewarded by this calm area of natural features and benches. The water garden (dry on this day) is designed as a stream through the property, rather than the more common pond; very nice. An interpretive sign explains the plantings and purpose of the gardens.



Note: This site should have a number below 100, but because I can't find the post from my first visit here, I'm assigning the new number, 457. With this brand-new building, it certainly deserves one!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

456 Hawkins Area Library, Hawkins, WI

This was my last stop on a six-day, sixteen-library road trip. Many of my trips involve crossing some portion of Wisconsin, and I choose towns from the map to fill in gaps in my travels there. This time: the town of Hawkins.

Most of the way the weather had been good, but at home May showers were bringing...overgrown grass. But I don't have to face it yet.

A sign read "All computers will be turned of 15 minutes before closing. There are times I wished for that, but the policy where I worked was that the computers turned off (automatically) exactly at closing. Then certain patrons would dash to the media area to choose their DVDs.

There's a lot to see in the early literacy center. I like these green chairs with their knobby legs. I expect that they slide nicely on the carpet. The attractive display has plants (painted on the wall), books, and the framed picture. I thought the picture might be Peter Rabbit at home, but at a closer look there are more than Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail in the domestic scene.


The early literacy center has the usual kitchen for dramatic play, and the unusual plastic workbench and tools for more dramatic play. Three carpeted steps create a small amphitheater setting.

More toys are ready for play, including a market, bins of plastic food, and more. And look at those great wooden trucks on the bottom shelf, just waiting to be driven across the floor!

I was looking for the "J" fiction books when I got a big surprise. All fiction (other than adult) is labeled "YA" and shelved together. This results in some strange shelf mates, in my opinion. For example, the early chapter book series Rainbow Magic by Daisy Meadows is adjacent to the teenage Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. I do believe that kids should have access to whatever books they like, but this did surprise me.

Adult books are on the stacks and along the walls. There are plenty of audio books and other media, and a large screen TV is available. The perennial tree is now decorated for spring. Yes, the ornaments change with the seasons. Why not have an all-year tree? I think it's a great idea.

I took some time to visit the adjacent History Center and was rewarded with a look at a metal dollhouse very much like one that my sisters and I had back in the day. OK, way back in the day.

This Singer sewing machine has a cabinet fancier than my mother's was, but otherwise it's totally familiar. In addition to the wide variety of assorted objects, there are rich collections related to railroading and logging. All items appear to be labeled with "what it is" and "who donated it."

Two pictures showed the Hawkins Elementary School students and staff for 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Each year there appeared to be about 45 or 50 kids and about 9 adults. I wonder how the school's headcount has changed? Aahhh, a quick Google search tells me that the school closed in 2007. That explains the importance of these pictures from its last two years.

So, farewell to Hawkins, farewell to my road trip. It's time to pick up the cats, Frankie and Jerry, from their boarding place and get on home.


455 Tomahawk Public Library, Tomahawk, WI

Long, low lines draw the visitor up to a sheltered entrance with a sturdy bench. Can your sharp eyes spot two more similar benches in one of the later pictures? I wasn't dressed for 45-degree weather so I didn't check out the wooded side of the site, but I was told that there is a perennial flower garden maintained by a troop of Girl Scouts. That is indeed a good deed.


The lobby gives access to a meeting room, allowing for its use even when the library is closed. A display of posters and books, especially town histories, reminds us to "Preserve the Past."

The library is nestled in woods, with a walking path and campfire circle in back. These floor-to-ceiling windows draw the outside in, helping to create a relaxing atmosphere.

AV material, including many recorded books on CD, line the wall to the left of the entrance. A browsing and reading area with periodicals and tables wraps around the back of the service desk and work space.

These plush chairs and puzzle pieces would fascinate just about any child. I've seen seats like this in teen areas at other libraries; it's nice to see that the little kids get a chance to enjoy them here.

Books in the children's area are shelved in solid wood bookcases with compartments that are nearly cubes. Juvenile fiction and non-fiction are shelved in cases four shelves high; picture books are in cases three shelves high, with many books perched on top for eye-catching color and interest.


I like the unusual two-side foam bench. The children's area overall has a spacious feeling; I'd love to see it filled with children, but a) then I wouldn't be able to take these pictures, and b) school was in session.


Walls in the children's area hold many pictures based on classic children's stories. These two represent The Wizard of Oz and Heidi. I forget to ask, but I'm pretty sure these were done by a local artist.

A sign nearby reminds us that "For their comfort and safety, children under age 8 must be accompanied by an adult."

Also for their comfort and safety, a restroom is near the kids' area.

A glass display case held an array of spring-themed books. I'm sure this changes with the seasons.

Adults have access to six computers. Signs indicate that "All computers will be turned off 15 minutes before closing. Please plan accordingly." Other seating and study areas are nearby.

In the adult area, shelves are set on a diagonal on each side of a central aisle.

Fiction shelves are marked with the usual letters identifying authors' last names, and also with signs that show popular names found in that row.

Non-fiction shelves display the predominant Dewey Decimal "hundred," along with a word cloud identifying some of the topics shelved in this area.

Some shelves also have "honor plaques" for donors to the library.


The YA books are at the end of the adult stacks, along with the Tomahawk Teen Zone, some interesting seating options, and a computer.

 I noticed that the bookends on the shelves here are color-coded. At least, I think that is the case. It appears that YA books have bright yellow bookends; large print books and non-fiction in general, blue bookends; science fiction, green; and assorted colors in the fiction collection. Paperbacks must get along without color coding; they are in spinners at the end of each fiction row.


I think this picture is great, and I'm sorry I couldn't get it without glare. It shows the Charter Members of the Tomahawk Women's Literary Club from 1895. All of the names are listed below. Many libraries trace their history to a town literary club of some sort, often a group of women. I think this is the first time I've seen a photograph of one of those early groups.

Here is a view of the campfire circle behind the library. Story programs are sometimes held here, and occasionally stories are told around an actual campfire. Did you spot the benches?


Saturday, May 20, 2017

454 Walter E. Olson Memorial Library, Eagle River, WI

Are libraries going out of style? Not in Eagle River, Wisconsin, where a new library is currently under construction. I started my visit with a short stop at the construction site. Even at this stage, it's clear that the new building will be handsome!


What do you do while a new library is being born? Find a temporary home, of course. In Eagle River, that home is in a former medical building, where every inch of space is being used creatively. Let me show you.

Book return? Check!

This visit was a bit different from most of my visits in that the library director, Nan, gave me a tour. It's a good thing she did...I would never have found all the nooks and crannies on my own.

The tour began on the lower level which holds the adult stacks and the media. I enjoyed the fact that the media is in the farthest corner of the lower level, "Like milk in the back of a grocery store, you have to at least see the the other stuff first!" A collection of cake pans is here, also--adjacent to the baking books, of course!

Shelving is fitted into every square foot. Nan laid out the plan, marked the floor with tape, and coded each shelving unit so that it would be placed correctly. Hands on!

Back on the main floor I saw many examples of creative space use. A STEM project area with a large Snap Circuits kit shares a closet with paper towels and other supplies. Popcorn, coffee, and tea, all free, take up minimal space on a cabinet. A large screen TV high on the wall displays nature pictures and other soothing imagery. An old card catalog case houses the Seed Library. Six computers share space near the window in what would once have been the waiting room.

The corridor leading to the examination rooms (You remember that this was a medical office, right?) has displays on the wall for "1000 Books Before Kindergarten," a program I see in almost every Wisconsin library I visit, and "On Beyond 1000 Books" for kids who have completed the first program. That I haven't seen before. I mentioned the Canadian program in which families are challenged to read a specific set of 50 books before starting school, and we agreed that there is value to that approach, also.


A cubbyhole space in this corridor has equipment for kids to make stop-motion movies, with staff support. They are expected to come in with a story line worked out and the needed props ready to go. I've read of stop-motion projects in libraries, but hadn't seen one myself.

The three examination rooms plus a room at the end of the corridor comprise most of the children's area. Here are the easy readers...

...and here is the story-telling  room at the end of the corridor. The other exam rooms hold picture books and a family play room. There's one computer available for the little ones, with preloaded software, no Internet connection.

Around the corner is space for the older kids, ages 6 to 14. This room was once the surgery for this medical building. Nan mentioned that her son once got stitches right where that table is!

There's more. The corner of the corridor near this room is set up as a photo booth with curtain backdrops and assorted props. Kids can set up and take a picture; I believe Nan said that staff will email the picture for the kids.

The corner office, once reserved for the doctor, of course, is now a media conversion room--I think. At any rate, there is a media conversion room with everything you can imagine, including movie projectors and a turntable. This equipment is becoming quite common in larger libraries; I was surprised to see how complete the Eagle River setup is. And remember, this is all in temporary quarters!

Finally there is a tutoring room which is also used when students studying on-line need to have exams proctored.

Libraries are changing, yes, definitely. Libraries are dead? As Pete the Cat would say, "Goodness, No! And it's all good!"

I'll be back next year to see the new building and the programming allowed with the new space!