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.
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!