Monday, February 20, 2017

295a Aitkin Public Library, Aitken, MN

[Because of my chronic misspelling of "Aitkin," I didn't realize that this was a re-visit. Therefore, I've retitled this post; rather than 438, it's now 295a, my standard way to indicate re-visits. Nowadays I take more pictures and spend more time, on average, so this post is rather more complete. The earlier visit was in November 2014.]

From Crosby to Aitkin is a short drive, about 15 minutes. Where Crosby is an independent library, Aitkin is the farthest northwest branch of the East Central Regional Library. With this visit, I've now been to all of the East Central branches.

The library building includes a large community meeting room which is accessible when the library is closed. I was told that it is very popular for all sorts of meetings, and is free to any non-profit. This is a not-uncommon example of a way that libraries serve their communities, in addition to "merely" lending books.

I was pleased to see that there is an active winter reading program for adults. The lobby displayed many cards with mini-reviews, including a rating (Great, Good, OK, Cold) followed by a two- or three-sentence review. One review was of a recent Lucille Penny book; I agree, it's a great one!

The children's area is outfitted for play as well as books. Puppets and Legos are featured here. A curved window wall provides storage and a long window seat.

At the other end of the curve is an activity cube. Behind it is what appears to be an unused desk, tipped on its side and designated as a cozy reading spot. What a great idea!

I took the picture below in an effort to show the carpet circles leading into the children's area. For some reason they caught my attention; the colors? the roundness? I can't say, but I like them.

I also like the adult-style upholstered chairs at the kid-sized table. So grown-up, and I'll bet kids like them.

This view gives an overall look. The children's area is in the right rear of the picture. In the foreground, a display of new books, and on the next shelf, a seasonal display. If you look closely you can see cards numbered 1, 2, and 3, indicating the location of the six public computers. And of course, the Community Room is in the background,.

I didn't notice this until I posted the picture, but I think the dark green sides on the overhead lights are very effective; they keep the ceiling from being a solid white expanse.

I don't usually have pictures of service desks, because they usually have staff, and I have a 99% "no people" rule for interior pictures. In this case, the sole Saturday staff person was busy with...oh, those things that always need to be done in a here you are!

Across from the service desk is an open area with periodicals, chairs, tables, and a jigsaw puzzle just getting underway. I wanted to sit and work on it, since two edge pieces were missing. (Edge pieces are my favorites.) I gave it a quick look with no luck because I also wanted to be back in St. Paul before dark!

I had several reasons to choose Aitkin for this trip. As I mentioned above, it completes the East Central Region. It is also just about at the limit for a single-day trip. And I saw someone with a library sign at a rally in St. Paul a few weeks ago. In the crush, I just managed to learn that she was from Aitkin. She wasn't working on the day I visited, but I asked the staff person there to please tell her hello.

By the way, Aitkin originally (1911) had a Carnegie library--I saw a picture of it, but I didn't chase down the building, which is now an art center. I swiped this picture from Wikipedia.

Aitkin Carnegie Library.jpg


437 Jessie F Hallett Library, Crosby, MN

If the weather serves up a warm week in mid-February, thus promising clear roads, the only thing to do is hop in the car and head for a couple of libraries to the north. I started with the independent memorial library in Crosby. The library is adjacent to, almost surrounded by, a wooded park. At one corner of that park is a gazebo with a "Little Free Library," one of a handful of cases where I've seen LFLs on or near library grounds. I learned that this gazebo was a project by a local Boy Scout--in eighth grade! If he can accomplish this so young, I expect he has quite a future ahead.

This handsome sign tells us that the Crosby Library was established on June 15, 1914, and was dedicated in 1978 by E. W. Hallett in memory of his wife, Jessie F. Hallett.

I always feel that a bench outside a library adds a welcoming note. Judging from the snow, Crosby has not had as much warm weather as the Twin Cities. Not surprising, since I've traveled about 100 miles north,

Welcome to the library! The vestibule holds shelves of books for sale by the Friends of the library, as well as assorted baby booties and doll clothes, More about the Friends and their entrepreneurial spirit when we get inside. There is also a glass case with pictures and memorabilia related to the Halletts.

I gave myself a tour around the library, starting to the left as I entered. I've seen many attractive rugs in the libraries I've visited, but I think this is the first place I've seen a braided rug, and one with such bright colors. Doesn't this look friendly and welcoming? I was told that it would shortly be redecorated for St. Patrick's Day and Easter; apparently the busy staff and volunteers here keep the decor in a constant state of seasonal flux.

One corner of the library is this well-lighted room with a piano and a dragon rug. Since some children's programs bring in 50 or more kids, this room is very busy. [Fifty is no big deal...I learned that the summer reading program serves about 150!] A long table and stacks of chairs indicate that the room is also used for adult programs.

We're up in lake and resort country, so of course kids would like beach chaises--with umbrellas! The play corner also includes a plastic boat and house, both large enough for toddlers to play in, plus a doll house, a Leapster Explorer handset with a suggestion to "Try Me...and put me back (on the charging station).

There are, of course, many books. I was pleased to see the picture book shelves marked "Everybody Books." The Assistant Librarian told me about a high school teacher who displays a few picture books in her classroom for the teens to read if they have just a bit of time at the end of class. What a great idea! Many picture books have wonderful vocabulary and mature concepts that are "wasted" on the younger set. (Think "Mrs. Marlowe's Mice" and others by Asch, for example.)

The clear plastic cases above the YA and J fiction shelves hold T-shirts from summer reading programs dating from 1988 to 2016, a different design every year. There is a "Curbside" teen corner with a zebra rug, a gaming system, and more. No picture, because it also held...teens.

In the center rear of the library there are nine public computers. An old card catalog appears to have a few cards in each drawer. Nearby is a station for coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, not too unusual in libraries these days, and a locked mini-fridge with cold beverages, an amenity I've not seen before.

A word here about the layout of the library. I've been touring around the edges. When you enter, the circulation desk and workroom/offices are directly ahead. This area also opens to the back, near the beverage center, providing good access and visibility to almost all corners of the library. This seems like a very practical design.

Back to the very active Friends of the Library. Not only are there items for sale in the entry, CDs and DVDs for sale just inside the door (where staff can keep an eye on them), a donations box (ditto), and this corner toward the back...

...there is also this separate room. Photographs and photo greeting cards, kitchen towels and aprons, signed books, special editions, 1 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica with its two-level bookshelf for $75 or best offer, a one-of-a-kind clock made from a Little Golden Book, and, well, you name it. If it might bring in some money for the library, the Friends are probably selling it! It's amazing.

Continuing around the library I came to this sunny spot where newspapers are available for browsing...

...and further on, to the front of the building, another "living room" waiting for readers who want to relax. Near here there are frames with "My Library Story," a project from 2012; each frame holds a document with the picture of a patron or family group and their library story. Sometimes a librarian has added a note.

When I was chatting to the librarian before leaving (it was hard to tear myself away), a gentleman came in with a repaired wooden car from the play area. I don't know whether he's an official "Friend of the Library," but clearly this library has many, many friends.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

13a. Shoreview Branch, Ramsey County Library System, Minnesota

It's always good to have a new library open. This brand-new building in Shoreview, Minnesota, is the third regional library in the seven-branch Ramsey County Library System. In addition to serving as a regional library, it also houses the administrative offices (inside the row of windows in the picture below) and Technical Services. [Disclosure: This is the library where I worked, in the building that this new construction has replaced, for about eight years as a page. Whether this makes me less or more objective is hard to say.]

The curved drive takes you up to the parking lot. When I was leaving at closing time on the day of this visit, two patrons were heading across the parking lot, clearly intending to return books. In each case I pointed out that the library was now closed. "The library closes at 5 on Friday?" [Well, yes, and always has. I can't think of any library in the Metro area that closes later than 5 on Fridays.] Next, I realized that I didn't quite know where the after-hours return is located. I pointed the first patron in what I think was the general direction; the second wanted to drive up, and I didn't know what to tell her. I think I spotted the book drop when I drove out, but it wasn't obvious to me, and I don't believe it is accessed from the parking lot. I'll check this out the next time I visit.

Most of the outside walls are glass. The vertical bricks forming this solid wall near the entrance are meant to suggest books on shelves, a neat design feature.

The vertical LIBRARY sign at the entrance requires a careful look to see the author names covering the entire surface.

In order to build this library, a significant number of mature oaks (some of them ailing or dead, some not) had to be sacrificed. Those of us who were bothered by this were assured that some of the oak lumber would be used in the library design, and here it is. This robust table for laptop use is very long, perhaps 16 feet. It continues as a bench for another long span. At first glance, I was thrilled to see hefty slabs of oak used in this way. At a closer look, I realized that it is really made of smaller boards and only looks four inches thick!.

A second quibble is that the electrical outlets so important to laptop users and phone chargers and what have you, are set under the front edge of the shelf. In the picture above you can see one of the signs that is provided to help people find the outlets. Personally, I'm not thrilled to be poking my fingers under a shelf in search of electricity; and I'm not limber enough to look underneath for them. But I'm sure everyone who needs them will figure them out at once. 

I was visiting on a busy day, so my picture-taking was limited by the "no people in the pictures" rule. For example, the glass wall visible in the picture above looks into the large Teen space. No picture of the teen space because it was being used by teens. That's a good thing!

Some other areas that were too people-filled for picture taking include:
  • To the left of the entrance is an area that serves as a vestibule for the community room and as the Friends of the Library bookstore. 
  • There are two "anyone" restrooms opening from this vestibule. [There are restrooms for men and women in another part of the library, along with a "hydration station" drinking fountain that allows convenient water-bottle filling.] A family restroom is in the children's area. 
  • The new community room has seating for 125 and is approved by the Fire Marshall for 200--plenty of room for all kinds of meetings. When I was there, two librarians were very busy preparing for a Harry Potter event the next day. This room has a glass wall into the children's area that can be closed for noise abatement, or opened for the largest programs. 
  • Stacks for adult fiction and non-fiction have attractive wooden ends on the shelves, Fiction stacks are five shelves high; non-fiction (the serious stuff) are six shelves high.
  • A fireplace corner has assorted comfortable seating and a tall display of Staff Picks. The fireplace is environmentally friendly: There is a row of orange light bulbs facing up, with some sort of vapor rising up past them, giving a fair semblance of "flickering fire. There is even a very soft "crackling" sound!
  • On opening day a fairly large room with easy chair seating was labeled "Book Club Room," and it appeared that people were avoiding it when I was there. When I went back for pictures, I did not see the sign, and a couple of readers were enjoying the quiet.
  • A conference room with glass walls on two sides might benefit from some visual cues; I almost walked into one of the walls as I turned a corner.
  • A total of five study rooms, two facing the children's area, three facing adults, are a wonderful upgrade from the two rooms in the old library.
  • Shelves for media, large print, and requests are in the central area, handy to the Circulation and Information service desks.
  • There are 24 computers in a block in the adult area. Nearby are two printers and print-release computers. Closer to the entrance there is a copier and fax machine. The latter should prove popular, as a common question in the old building was "Can I send a fax from here?" (Sorry, no. Not then.)
I've saved my favorite for last, the hugely expanded children's area. A picture I took on opening day (below) shows the clever "trees" displaying new books. These are very attractive, but tucked away; I hope they get their deserved attention.

The picture below looks across the bins and cubbies full of picture books. In the background are two catalog computers to the left, and six Internet computers for kids to the right. In another corner there are two computers for kids to listen and read Book Flix. Directly ahead are the two study rooms and a bright-blue seating area. Stacks for Junior fiction and non-fiction are out of camera range to the right.

There are three of these free-form tables in the children's area along the window wall.

 There are cubbies all along the wall under the cushioned benches, but of course the big attraction is the "hollow tree." I had to wait until minutes before closing to get this picture, since several groups of kids were reluctant to leave.

Looking down the central "street" toward the door I was amused by these hanging lights. And the high windows straight ahead give a preview of the weather you'll be exiting into--in this case, a very blue sky on an early February day. Here in Minnesota, that almost guarantees very cold air!