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!


453 Crystal Falls District Community Library, Crystal Falls, MI

Well, this is the wrong kind of first: Apparently I did not get an exterior picture of this library! I'm not sure what happened; it's possible I was so struck by the county courthouse high on the hill that I simply forgot. More likely, the camera just didn't grab the happens once in a while. No matter, the interior can certainly stand on its own!

Take this corner of the children's area, for example. I especially like the googly eyes that are getting caught reading. And the carpeted steps give kids plenty of places to sit.

Step back for a wider view and you see the wooden cube with round openings on the sides and pillows inside plus the whimsical flower-shaped floor cushions.

Something I like in this library is the use of color on the walls and signs. And the large 3D letters on the signs designating different areas are very effective. Watch for them in other pictures.

At another part of the kids area I spotted some skinny signs, barely an inch high, on the front of a couple of shelves. One read "Snakes can't slither on glass," and the other "Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated." I can easily imagine kids coming in and looking to see if any new tidbits have been displayed; this is just the sort of trivia many kids like.

I like this "Good readers..." poster well enough that I jumped through all the hoops required to rotate it for legibility. You could base a whole course on "how to teach reading" on this poster. If I had the power (I do not) I would track down a copy of this and post it in the elementary school where I used to tutor kids in reading.

Teens get an extra twist to their sign with the contrasting colors. And teens alway seem to be the ones who get a big-screen TV for DVDs and gaming.

Adults are treated to a spacious living room setting for browsing periodicals and large print books.

Another view of the browsing area shows how steep the hill is on which the library is built. It appears that we are looking out a second-floor window, because the street is so far below. Crystal Falls is surely a city built on a hill.

What have I missed? Let's me check my notes.

  • A sign reads "Library staff has the right to restrict adult use in the youth areas." That's a nice flexible statement. Other places I've seen time restrictions, allowing adult use when school is in session, for example. But I like the flexibility here.
  • A scanning station is available with a laptop and a scanner. I know that patrons often want to use a scanner, but they seem to be rare. In one library, a sign asked patrons to please refrain from cutting pictures or articles out of periodicals; instead, they could ask staff to make a copy or scan the material needed. [That library also said that if the small price for scanning or printing was a problem, just ask.]
  • Barcodes are used for checking out material, but books still have date slips that are stamped with the date due. I've often wished that I had the date due at hand in a library book I'm reading; it would be much more convenient than going on line to check my account or looking for the checkout receipt. Larger libraries, of course, are moving to self-checkout with computer-generated date due slips. Larger is not always better.
Public libraries increase in importance when school libraries disappear. I learned that here in Crystal Falls, the high school library has been re-purposed as a computer lab and meeting room, as if the Internet could serve all needs for finding and evaluating information. The elementary school is doing better, with its library maintained by four volunteers, three former teachers and a former school librarian. In these days of tight budgets, that's a wonderful solution, and the school is fortunate to have such professional resources available.


448 White Lake Community Library, Whitehall, MI

I'm in the middle of a six-day trip to visit libraries, and I keep being surprised. In this case, I'd been driving and driving, following the instructions of my GPS, no sign of a library or anything else...and suddenly I turn and discover the White Lake Community Library tucked into the forest! It really felt like reaching a park or nature preserve. I parked the car, then walked to the beginning of a paved trail with benches. Not really the beginning, because it seemed to be the continuation of a longer trail. What a wonderful way to approach a library!

At a certain point, the library is suddenly visible through the trees.

I heard the wind chime before I spotted it. The day was slightly breezy and the chimes were wonderful, deep and calm. The sign indicates that this is WINDWAVE by Cara O Brien, from 2005, placed here by the "Continuity Foundation for Muskegon County."

The lobby provides access to a meeting room and accessible restrooms. The picture below gives an overall sense of the library's tone, quiet and attractive with classic design features like the desk lamp.

The children's area is to the left as you enter. As you can see, the local schoolchildren have been busy with art, creating a nice display for the library. There are multiple backpacks with themed contents, like Fairy Tales, Telling Time, and Geology; some have labels indicating that they were sponsored by the local Rotary.

It's possible to check out a pass to "the children's museum." A pass provides one day of free admission for up to six people, but don't try to abuse it: only one pass per family per year.

DVDs can be rented for $1.00 a day.

A small room adjacent to the children's area has a shelf/desk and four chairs. It's called the Quiet Time Room, and "the door must be open at all times." Several signs state rules for use of the library, prefaced with "In order to maintain a pleasant and secure atmosphere for all patrons..."

Picture books are labeled "Juvenile Easy" and shelves throughout the library have these handsome metal signs. I was told that these are made by a local business, which is especially nice.

It's pretty common that libraries near water provide a boat of some sort for creative play. Here, it's a tidy and handsome rowboat on a small pond.

The Teen area has chairs, tall tables, funky lights, and a nice corner view into the woods.

In fact, every corner of the library has views into the woods. 


This view out the window shows one of the benches available for reading (or just sitting) on pleasant days. I spotted a sign asking for folks to "help us feed the birds" by contributing to the bird seed fund.

Two fireplaces, back to back, add charm. In the left-hand picture, notice the doors to each side of the fireplace, allowing this room to be closed for quiet reading, or perhaps for a book club meeting.


A few more comments about the library:

  • Canvas bags called "Adult Vitality Kits" contain themed books, DVDs, and audio CDs. They can be borrowed for one week at a time, no renewals. These sound similar to "Memory Kits" available in my home library system. The idea, I believe, is to provide experiences for older adults and their caregivers to share. I expect to see more of these as I continue my library visits.
  • Adult mysteries have very helpful numbers on the spines, indicating the chronological sequence of the series. Very helpful if you are new to an author and want to read his or her books in order!
  • A study/history room has four carrels, two with computers, one with a computer for the library catalog and Ancestry Plus only.
  • One of the best ideas I've heard for Friends of the Library book sales: The local group looks up books (donated or de-accessioned) on line, then sells them for half the on-line price. This is a deal for the buyer and makes more money, in many cases, than guessing the value of older and special books. They shared with me the best place to look up these books: 

As I was about to leave, I fortuitously looked up and back and thus saw the ceiling details shown below.

I'd like to come back sometime to walk the trails and relax in this library. Now I must do some research myself to see why I wrote "Paddle to the Sea sequel" in my notes!