Amiable Amsterdam

Conveniently situated next to my hotel and a short jaunt from the busy tourist district and main train hub where everyone seems to wind up, I encountered Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA).

Amsterdam's Pub;lic Library

Amsterdam’s Public Library

An intriguing concrete structure with short open passageways on each floor providing views, its seven flights tower above the metropolis.  This is the central facility so it’s open until ten every night (except for a few holidays) and has eleven levels accommodating its 28,000 square meters (a whopping 301,000 square feet).

OBA has solar panels on the roof and uses renewable elements.  Underneath, free 24 hour covered parking can shelter 2,500 bicycles, the preferred mode of transportation here.  Out front an umbrella shaded café and a sunny plaza offer relaxing places to watch the movement of the cranes and ships at the port.

Ascending into Jorge Luis Borges' heaven?

Ascending into Jorge Luis Borges’ heaven?

Entering via a big revolving door I found a very modern building with gleaming wood floors and sparkling silver elevators.  Escalators are set off by glowing pillars and multicolored light panels on the ground.

Free up to age 19, a variety of memberships are available, from 20 euro to 100, depending on what resources you desire, though even the most inclusive pass charges 1 euro for each AV unit, game or hold placed after the first ten.  Cleverly, the most expensive card includes a yearly donation of an additional 45 euro to support the library.  Though usually materials are borrowed for 21 days and can be renewed twice, in summer patrons can take ten things for six weeks so as not to interfere with a wonderfully long vacation.  They have self check and you can go to any location or items will be sent to your home branch for 50 cents.

Snake lamps draw attention to old tomes in attractive glass displays trimmed in shining pine.  Changing TV screens embedded in the sides of these variously shaped pieces catch the eye.

Platforms and walkways encourage close inspection

Platforms and walkways encourage close inspection

Other exhibitions reveal dolls in mountainous black dresses from a young fashion designer, photographs of kisses taken all over the planet, miniature handmade books and innovative cooking implements.

The teen area on the second floor has video games, comic books, audiotapes and CDs, but Children’s is at the bottom and is overlooked by higher balconies and corridors strewn with paintings.  Lit by radiant abstract mobiles, phantasmagorical paper mache creatures watch over the round stacks.

Venturing into the youth area

Venturing into the youth section

A see through storytime room is brightened by a multihued vine creeping around its white walls.  Two tiers of cushions face a grand chair obviously meant for the tale teller.

The Kinderlab, where classes are brought, has rolling silver stools stowed under a transparent ledge hosting juvenile artwork and a red secretary in a corner houses a listening station.  One side of the space holds a long, recessed glass-fronted cabinet presenting a colorful array of suggestions.

A nook papered with Jip en Janneke (a popular Dutch series) cover illustrations has scarlet pillows and vats for books. From here, steps lead up to a raised stage with illuminated pamphlets and titles on parenting and at the other end, a huge polar bear gives Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too, a ride on his back.

An uncomplaining ursine gives his pals a ride

An uncomplaining ursine gives his pals a lift

Nearby, adults can stroll through a small exhibition then gossip at a booth or sink into fat red sculptured forms surrounded by ubiquitous marshmallow blobs perfect for diminutive behinds.  I like the idea of a youth area striving to please both guardians and their charges.

Parents can relax in comfort as their offspring enjoy the offerings

Parents can relax in comfort as offspring enjoy the offerings

Chinese dragon kites and drawings from a classic picture book about a crocodile deck the walls.  A teepee inspires play and a wavy oversize cubby hole decorated with tree branches and Janneke crawling in invite the smallest to explore this dark cave.

I was mesmerized by this marvelous mouse mansion.  With more than 100 recesses stuffed with tiny old fashioned furniture, it attracts all ages – my favorite scene is a messy study so chock full of volumes a ladder is needed to reach many of them.

You can spend hours gazing at this amazing assemblage

You can spend hours gazing at this amazing assemblage

Recommended books are arranged face out on a Smart Car facsimile and spine out in a container that evokes a tall Amsterdam dwelling.

The shelves here form numerous alcoves, each with its own theme.  In the biggest one, a red and white circular metal staircase leads up to an overlook – big people are discouraged by steps made for petite feet.  In a second, a teal ring envelops a big black puff and you can push a matching ottoman over if you want to use one of the workstations.

Interior of one of the stacks

Interior of one of the stacks

OBA has twenty five branches not counting an outpost at the airport that we stumbled upon on our way to South Africa last year.   Other ingenious sites include a tram depot and a gigantic church.

Some of the locations have features like courtyards or specialize e.g. one focuses on information on Suriname and the Antilles, has a three hour tech skills clinic on Fridays and an infants and toddlers collection.  Another concentrates on youth and has software to help with elementary school courses while a third has 25,000 graphic novels.  Buitenveldertbaan has a computer for those with reading challenges.

Margie, Medewerker informatiedienstverlening

Margie, Medewerker informatiedienstverlening

Over in Periodicals I talked to cheery and helpful Margie, whose title translates as information services employee.  She told me that she went to library school, which is usually two years, and that everyone who works here must have a library certificate.

The building has two radio studios they rent for long periods that provide income, as do the leases for the café outside and the terraced restaurant and the 260 person theater on the seventh story.  Audiences are welcome at the live broadcasts from the first and fourth levels – OBA airs a daily interview and Public Amsterdam FM covers culture.  The penthouse auditorium is currently staging a musical version of Stephen King’s Misery and a play derived from the kid’s book The Gruffalo.

So many options

So many options

I took a winding set of stairs up to an enormous media area where customers flip through racks loaded with audiovisual materials and scan curvy partitions full of films near clusters of shimmering tubes sticking straight up from the tiles.

Users can choose from 500,000 CDs, 300,000 LPs and 30,000 music DVDs owned by OBA.  Online, use MuziekwebLuister to pick from six million free music tracks and find info about your favorite genres and groups.  A separate room being constructed where you can watch videos should be ready by now and under a wall adorned with gold textured strips, an upright piano stands ready to entertain.

Friendly Riet

Friendly Riet

Though I didn’t get the names of all the staff who answered my many questions, they have my profuse thanks.  Everyone seemed to speak English fluently – Riet and I chatted for a bit and she was so nice.

OBA acts as a depository for EU documents and has dedicated references spaces devoted to Amsterdam, libraries of the world, gay literature, the piano, sheet music and Hispanic youth.  Tell the Wall has oral histories and tales of the city.

Residents who can’t make the journey in can get home deliveries and the library charges 7.5 euro per hour for tutoring in primary school subjects.  There are poetry contests, literary festivals, political forums in advance of elections, guest authors, weekly movies, reading clubs and you can volunteer to help seniors learn about their tablets and laptops.  Recently they gathered landscaping professionals to advise on garden construction and held a workshop to help freelancers increase their business.

In the multimedia section, a display of album covers and a pink neon sign direct you to a stand up terminal with speakers.  People perch on cubes of piled 33 rpm recordings at other computers with headphones and chrome keyboards or on high chairs at angled Apples resembling cyborgs.

Kiosk puts you in a lyrical mood

Kiosk puts you in a lyrical mood

The library has five conference spaces for rent and study rooms.  The Gerard Reve Museum on the second floor honors one of the country’s most famous authors and has manuscripts, first editions, personal possessions and even relics like a wisdom tooth and fingernails.

Five thousand people come daily and Centraal has had well over ten million visitors since it opened in 2007.  The system has at least 700 PCs and 200 iMacs and travelers can use wifi or search the internet on one of the 490 terminals here for one euro per half hour.  Outlets for powering your devices are everywhere and a computer area is festooned with abstract art.

Foreign language items come in Arabic, Russian, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish, Urdu, Turkish and Frisian (one of my brother’s favorite sayings about that obscure language is Es hat eigenskip das de Fryske bydrage ta da Americanske literateur ta bienske is. (this may not be a totally accurate spelling…) which means “It stands to reason that the Frisian contribution to American literature is a modest one.” ;)

Watch the boats sailing by

Watch the boats sail by

The cream cases in fiction are bordered by orange (the color of their royal family) and white fairy lights.  Large letters announce categories and end caps hold tastefully positioned volumes enclosed by glass.  By the English books, boxes showcase vibrant jewelry assortments and square cushioned benches afford city vistas.

Lots of pleasant distractions

Lots of pleasant distractions

OBA’s web site links to a Twitter feed and gives you the chance to win prizes if you agree to answer quarterly surveys to improve services.  Pages highlight energy, sustainability, music, cuisine, religion, design and the heritage of Brabantish speakers and there’s a selection of 5000 downloadable ebooks and eaudiobooks.  Databases cover a wide range of topics from data for immigrants, language learning and grants to Dutch journals and tutorials on basic skills and browsing.   Creative sessions to develop children’s imaginations, summer reading suggestions and tips on how to avoid web bullying and harassment are here as well, and other links let you know about events in the region.

Local canal

Local canal

As this wonderful and monumental place confirms, Nederlanders obviously know how important libraries are to their communities.

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Brilliant Brugge

A few train stops after Poland, we found ourselves in Brugge where just a short walk from my hotel through an alleyway…

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Passage from our B and B to the library

…I encountered a parking garage serving a smart brick and dark glass and metal edifice.   Parked on the cobblestones close by, a small van with the slogan “de Bibliotheek komt naar je toe” (The library comes to you!), indicated I’d found the right place, which a stylish mint and coral sign emblazoned on the rear door confirmed.

Hoofdbibliotheek Biekorf (HB) is the main library for the city, but there are twelve branches, not including a seasonal location in a cabana at the beach!

Helpful staffers made me feel welcome

Friendly staffers gave assistance

Under a sign declaring onthaal (welcome!), I found the main help desk where I chatted with three employees who spoke fluent English.  They told me that people switch around and work at different stations, and that you must have a library certificate to work here.  It takes one year to get after finishing a three year university course, and some professionals also go on and get higher degrees in librarianship.

The structure has two stories and was built in 1986 then renovated around 2009-10.  It’s a roomy place with a funky flair evident in the grape floor and overhead banners and contoured concrete ceiling.

Cushy seating by the comics

Near a display on vampiers – just can’t get away from them these days ;) – select an item from the bins of graphic novels then lounge in fashion on ebony and violet armchair cubes under a gilded chrome and CFL diagonal light fixture.

By the front entry, a clear Lucite newspaper rack lets you see the entire front page and magazines are featured in an intriguing cream tinted hard plastic blob – a style also seen in the framework enclosing the Pacs, checkout stations and the informational brochures.

Magazines by the front entry

Magazines by the front entry

Perch on black and white bar stools at high tables to sip drinks chosen from a well used coffee machine or settle onto fuchsia hassocks at the big screen computers.  Stand alone lamps providing ambient lighting for all the little reading nooks scattered about.

An independent store selling new books right off the lobby catches the impatient who came for a title that was out.

At the back lies a pretty courtyard where the “Cultuurcafé” occupies a typical Belgian construction.  A statue amidst verdant foliage and curved metal seats lends this patio the air of a sculpture garden.

A lovely sanctuary for a sunny day

A lovely sanctuary for a sunny day

Inside, a convenient chartreuse toned corner allows users to make cell phone calls away from inclement weather and other patrons and an exhibit of one week “sprinters” showcases hot offerings.

The low tiered red legged cases in the huge music and movie section let materials stand face out for easy browsing.

Media galore!

Media galore!

Triangular towers with slots for returns are sandwiched between the shelves where you pick up your own reserves (which cost one euro each to place).  Internet PCs are free to members (17 and under don’t pay, but it’s five euro for one year for those 18-65 and 3.75 euro for seniors) and some have word processing.  There’s a borrowing limit of eight things with a four week checkout and customers must return materials to the same library.

Besides home delivery for the infirm, HB has daisy books – audio CD Roms played on special machines that can be adjusted to accommodate physical and mental challenges – as well as large print and Braille titles.  Online you’ll find tips on how to choose appropriate items for your learning preference.

Rooting for Belgium!

Rooting for Belgium!

A solid wood staircase leads to the second level and the Children’s Department where, when I visited in July, I was greeted by a facsimile of the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks Rio hovering above a World Cup display with relevant titles, trophies, competitor’s flags, an empty wine bottle and soccer ball decals next to an easel with an up to date scoreboard.

Children's Desk

Children’s Desk

Teens to age 14 and children can use the computers and books are in French and English, and Flemish, of course.  Stuffed animals abound and there are mini checkout terminals and sheets of brainteasers for kids below a swarm of cheery bumblebees.    Glowing bunnies are scattered about, and plush versions sit next to backpacks called snippertas containing selections of reading materials about animals, sleeping, sports, going on vacation… that cover issues and interests for tots up to age six.

View from the upper level

View from the upper level

And the vista of medieval rooftops and spires from the windows reminds tech obsessed youngsters not to forsake their formidable cultural heritage.

I asked Sophie from Children’s about a carved wooden piece similar to what I’d thought was a puppet theatre when I visited Fukagawa Library in Japan and she gamely demonstrated Kamishibai, literally “paper drama” for me.

Sophie demonstrating Kamishibai

Sophie with the Kamishibai contraption

HB makes a point of accommodating teachers – they can borrow extra items with longer lending periods and bring classes in for visits and events such as Literature of World War I and Book Tasting.  Third grade classes get to interact with visiting robots.

I like their idea of storytimes using children as storytellers and the session on ancient documents that lets kids test their skills with quills and become familiar with parchments, pigments and gold leaf.

Great spot for kids

Great spot for kids

The room is brightly painted with low tables.  Lime and cyan elephant stools and wavy chairs providing ample seating are surrounded by board book bins on wheels while floor to ceiling glass panes lets natural rays in.  A spacious storytime area has colorful oversize cushions and beanbags stacked against one wall while a retractable partition that keeps noise contained is folded into another.

I was taken by the vivid decor of HB.  Over in the adult part, there are curved midnight and pink benches and matching geometric forms show off newly acquired films near lockers for personal possessions.  A black rug with plum tinted streaks echoes the shades of purple found throughout the building.  I kept discovering unique touches – under a label stating “zonder inspanning zoeken” (effortlessly search), a color coded chart lists subject divisions and they created an outlook onto the cloister from a toasty window seat above an interesting looking radiator.

Warm bench with a view to inner plaza

Warm bench with a view to inner plaza

Along with DVDs, audiobooks and CDs, the library has manga, graphic novels, some older video games, anime, a local history collection and English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese volumes on the international shelves.  A pilot project that had been going on for two months is introducing ebooks.  Databases include historical archives, foreign newspapers and literary reviews for all ages.

HB has an elevator, selfcheck and free wifi.  From the web page you can make purchase suggestions, arrange for a guided tour, propose a program you’ll lead on your personal passion, read library news or link to the Twitter account.   Program topics include making jewelry from recyclables and finding out about sustainable foods or creating a climate neutral city.  You can attend photo exhibits, author interviews and a Flemish fish celebration!

The facebook page has pictures of patrons at the seaside kiosk and retiring employees. There are promotions for poetry nights and guided walks around the city.  Solicitations for volunteers to supervise kids’ book discussions and reminders that they now have ebooks pop up here too.

Note the subject plaques on the end panels

Note the subject plaques on the end panels

Frosted plastic end caps join cherry colored frames and blond planks to form the stacks and pictures on the ends show what’s there, e.g. the ouders kinderen (parents, children) icon has a small figure watched over by a larger one and onderwijs (education) shows a child carrying a school valise.  Photography uses a camera and the familiar comic/tragic mask indicates theatre.  Ingeniously, craft periodicals are housed by the craft volumes and sport DVDs by the sports tomes.

Smiling Sabine at your service

Smiling Sabine at your service

Up here in nonfiction, I got a chance to meet Sabine, who was very helpful.  She works in cataloging and one of the smallest branches in the system as well.

Truly the bibliotheek is an enormous asset for this enchanting region.

A nearby square looks like it's from a fairytale

A nearby square looks like it’s from a fairytale

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King-Size Krakow

Wojewódzka Biblioteka Publiczna w Krakowie

Wojewódzka Biblioteka Publiczna w Krakowie

While we were in Krakow, Poland in June, visiting our friend Danuta Glondys, Director of the Villa Decius Association, she graciously contacted her colleague, Anna Wiśniewska, from the regional public library, Wojewódzka Biblioteka Publiczna w Krakowie (WBP), who gave us a tour of this splendid facility.

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Anna Wiśniewska p.o. Dyrektora in her office with Danusia

Anna, deputy director here since 1996 except for five years when she was the director, told us that WBP was created in 1945.  Taking up the entire block, it’s an older building which was headquarters for the Austrian Army during World War II.  The four stories contain a hefty 15,000 square meters (161,459 square feet) and it’s just 200 meters from Planty Park, the beautiful green belt that rings the old city center (which is within walking distance).  Accessible by public transport, it’s a great location, which is good as this is the only public library in Krakow.

Out front, large sculptures resembling crumpled paper balls sit on the grass between the edifice and the wrought iron fence fronting it and inside there’s a café in the lobby and a defibrillator in the hallway for emergencies.

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Entrance to the main reading room

We started out on the busy top floor at Czytelnia Główna (main reading room) where a huge checkout desk is lit by natural light from slanted attic windows.  There’s ample space for customers as this building has 400 seats and 40 computers with Microsoft Office.  They have wifi and all the tables have electrical outlets for recharging laptops.  Blond wood furniture and plush red chairs provide a comfortable place to read or do research and though you can now search for all items online they’ve kept the old card catalog which reminds us of how complicated it used to be to find what you need.

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My husband Michael in the stacks

WBP has 500,000 items, plus the Malopolska Digital Library containing 80,000 digitized documents about the history and cultural heritage of the area.  They use the Universal Decimal Classification, security tags and gates and people can freely peruse all the collections.

With books, music, audiobooks, CD Roms, and documentary and classic films (some are 16mm), residents have a plethora of choices and can also access online databases, some the library subscribes to and others they create.  If city dwellers need anything else, interlibrary loan is available.

Like Anna, the younger reference librarians have MLS degrees.

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Reference Librarians at your service

Patrons can reserve books and pick them up the next day if they are not checked out
and anyone living in Poland can get a card here, even foreigners and the homeless.
Magazines, e-readers and media can be borrowed for two weeks while other materials go out for a month.  Depending on the format and department, they’ll loan between three to five things and most items can be renewed three times.

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The corridors give you an idea of the length of this enormous place

Nicely appointed with brass fixtures cradling globe lamps and plants adding a splash of green, pretty touches abound like a flowered cloisonné glass table and a black and fuchsia stand sporting tiny pamphlets on local attractions.

Paintings are everywhere, some with scenes of Polish peasants or typical country houses.  There’s an exhibition room with winners from an important Polish photojournalism contest and the long hallways on each floor provide further room to show off artwork.

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One of the dazzling walls painted by students from the Pedagogical University of Krakow

The library has an office for people in their “third age” (School for Active Senior Citizens),
a compilation of literature where the text is as beautiful as the words, a foreign language collection, music section, art library, a Business Information Center and they are slowly digitizing materials so people can view them from home (currently there are 1500 titles).
WBP also oversees local libraries in the Malopolska area around Krakow and helps with training their staffers and organizing book clubs for all ages across the region.

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Elżbieta with a Braille map of the Americas

Elżbieta Sawicka is in charge of the Braille Room for visually challenged people.  There are a number of offerings, from Braille books and older recordings on cassette to newer audiobooks on CD.  Volumes of Braille pictures let you feel the images and raised maps of Krakow and in atlases allow sensitive fingers to explore the city and the world.  Films here have audio descriptions since it can be hard to tell what’s happening when there’s no dialogue.

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Section for adolescents

The Division for Youth has graphic novels and a presentation of great origami bugs fabricated at a workshop for older kids.

This structure has four separate spaces seating between 30 and 100 people that can be rented for a nominal fee and laptop projectors and screens can be provided.  One conference room even has simultaneous translation capabilities.

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One of many stunning displays from local artisans

Computer training for seniors, photography workshops for young people and WBP hosted soirées and literary contests, often in conjunction with other organizations, are just a few of the library programs.  There’s the Malopolska Region Reading Out Loud Contest, Książka za książkę, (where people with a used book to hand in can get a discount coupon to buy a new one), and they run Strefa Bibliopatów which allows participants to swap books.  In another program, volunteers from Spain, Italy and Germany promote their cultures and teach their native languages and also helped seniors learn English.

A long term project “Generations – Creations.  Art in the dialogue of generations”, lets orphans and older folks enjoy activities together.  Forgotten Books introduces youngsters to treasured tomes and among many other activities, has sessions where each age group talks about why materials produced by their generation are worthwhile.

This year, WBP is honoring Nobelist Czeslaw Milosz with unique celebrations at various locations like “Five o’clock Miłosz” a poetry reading tea party and “Miłoszowskie Bugle Calls” where his work will be read out loud for fifteen minutes from the library windows by staff every day at noon. There’s even a Milosz scavenger hunt planned.

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Children’s Room

The vibrant Department for Children (DC) is equipped with low shelves, colorful sturdy stools, storytime mats, an easel for budding artists and wicker baskets of flowers by the radiator.  A firetruck, toys stowed in practical rubber bins, a shelf housing board games and stuffed animals in a cloth dragon that’s reminiscent of the fire breathing one in the royal castle’s dungeon give kids plenty of playtime options.  Framed children’s pictures brighten the walls and the space is decorated with a rocking horse, wood toucan and duck mobiles and a hopscotch mat.  A pegboard holds reading suggestions while a smiling tiger trash can below encourages tots to be tidy.

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The table shows children’s clay creations from Pracownia

A couple of months ago children attended Pracownia, a pottery workshop, and DC has competitions and animation, creative writing and theater programs and one where kids are encouraged to illustrate their own books.  Reading events may feature athletes or children’s authors and artists.

DC has many children’s storytimes and two technology stations with educational software teaching reading, writing and math.  There are displays from the physically challenged children’s week and youths did a wonderful painting in here of Krakow legends.

I loved the tree of opinions – young people write reviews of books they read and collaborate with publishers who give awards for the best review.

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Opinion Tree

Arteka, a magnificent, award-winning glass and steel structure that holds the arts part of the library opened across the street in the Małopolska Garden of Arts in 2013.  Its holdings include DVDs, CDs, board games, audiobooks and art related periodicals in print and digital form as well as the Malopolska Comics Studies’ collection and there are plans to build a digital archive of street art.  Patrons can search Theatre and Dance In Video databases here or use one of the 34 touch screens computers, five tablets or 30 e-book readers (another 30 can be checked out).

This spanking new building has a theater, mirrored and chrome talking elevators and in front of an upholstered couch and floor cushions, a big screen to watch films or TV.  PC’s are loaded with a multitude of special software for graphic design and creating and editing music.  There’s a Blu-ray player, a digital piano and a clock shaped like an old LP labeled Spinning Time.  Just outside eye-catching graffiti adorns the cement walls surrounding a garden filled with geometric shaped benches, deck chairs and white patio furniture.

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Media display in Arteka

WBP’s website has lots of pictures from events like their annual Krakow Festival of Comics, and the Scream Festival.  An Ask a Librarian email service lets questions be answered remotely and there are user surveys for both buildings.

The facebook page is plastered with photos, including some of the very interesting costumes worn at GRART, a festival for those who enjoy role playing games.  Subjects for posts range from current events like the World Cup, Senioralia (the great feast of seniors) and a recent impromptu fire drill to announcements of local happenings and new acquisitions.

What a great resource for this charming and picturesque metropolis!

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Wawel Castle across the Wisła River lit up for Wianki, the festival of wreaths

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Gregarious Galloway

New Jersey’s Galloway Township Library (GTL) is a large brick building in the municipal complex.   Playing fields, the police station, forsythias and holly bushes fringe the library and two wrought iron mesh benches donated by the local women’s club flank the entrance.

Galloway Township Branch

Galloway Branch

Though they’ve had a library here since 1973, the current 16,500 square foot structure was financed by a bond with some help from a state grant and opened in 1995.

GTL is one of eleven locations (there’s a community reading center in a high school) of the Atlantic County Library System (ACLS) which has a bookmobile too.   The county also has four independent libraries – Atlantic City’s being the biggest.

Lobby

Lobby

Double sets of sliding doors kept the fierce wind out when I visited on a blustery, wet day in April, and an atrium over the foyer let in some welcome natural light to nourish the potted Norfolk Island palm.  The vestibule’s a pleasant space with a geometric design on the tile floor, lots of brochures, bubblers, a promotional easel and appealing triangular gold fixtures above the community bulletin board.

Meeting Room

Meeting area

A doorway leads to the 90 seat meeting room which has a kitchen, projection booth, two storage closets and walls graced with winning paintings from a recent contest that you can purchase.  Altogether the System has seven meeting venues available to the public when not needed by the facility.

Recommendations galore as you enter

Recommendations galore as you enter

Just inside, a case of rustic bird houses, many with roofs made of bent license plates, squats next to a rack of books in series.  Nearby, displays of large print, new fiction and one week titles beckon to browsers.  A marble podium holds an open tome.  Once Upon A Time…, sculpted by John Gowdy, was given by the children of the burg and others.

It’s a well used site, with busy decor that constantly catches your eye.  An Earth Day display here, a decorate your own egg table there, and Easter touches all around.  Bouquets, baskets and plants celebrate the onset of spring and the main desk is a riot of color with construction paper ovals hanging from the ceiling and standing out against black backgrounds that cover the glassed in staff section.

Patty at check out

Patty at check out

At the Circulation Desk, Library Assistant, Patty Maddox, who’s worked here a year and a half, told me it’s a very friendly place – they specialize in chitchat which hones their reader’s advisory skills and gives them lots of recommendations to pass on.

The library strives to be a part of the community – the Rutgers Master Gardener Plant Sale is held here, and they offer free wifi, at least eleven public internet computers plus the juvenile game computer.  Visitors can also use and print from the internet.  Several technology classes for older folks were advertised like Computers for Seniors and Introduction to MS PowerPoint and there’s a tech support group as well.

Children's Room

Youth Area

Children’s is quite sizeable with its own bathroom.  With plenty of sturdy wood tables it can accommodate a good crowd and a huge elephant joins the abundance of plush toys atop the stacks.

ACLS produces numerous engaging leaflets such as 2014 Winning Children’s Books.  The calendar has crafts and story times for a variety of ages, in Spanish and English (Miss New Jersey was the featured reader at one of them) and there’s a Lego club and both children’s and YA poetry slams.

Cozy place to enjoy a favorite title

Cozy spot to enjoy a favorite title

In an alcove, a faux fireplace cleverly created from wrapped discards holds grade appropriate booklists.  Next to it, the two seater little red reading house complete with a bell above the entry gives youngsters a private place to read and on the other side, the literacy shelf has stuffed animals, games, a story hour kit and books for the younger set.  This early learning nook is embellished with colorful paw prints – it’s amazing what the employees manage to do with just paper and ink.

Love the animal track border

Neat animal track border

Beyond a low shelf, a cool curved window allows views of the neighboring meadows and woods.  Carpeted built in benches surrounding two sides of the space provide seating for caretakers during storytimes and there’s a comfortable looking oversize armchair so little ones can sit on laps while listening to a tale.

A collapsible purple fabric can is a simple way to stash playthings and baubles while board books are stored in an alphabet turnstile with cubbyholes.

Lots of room for story time

Lots of room for story time

Formica tables ringed in red, yellow, green and blue with matching stools stand up to the frolics of boisterous tots and bright plastic bins hold picture books near a shelf of easy readers.  By the book/CD kits and a mounted rack of suggested materials and music CDs, the curved children’s desk is garnished with bunnies and owls.

Children's Desk

Children’s Desk

Branch Manager, Pat Morrow, who was retiring in two weeks, told me there’s a dedicated mil for the library – always a great way to ensure adequate funding.  Galloway is the largest municipality by area in the state – one side of it reaches to the ocean.  Home to more than 37,000 people it’s a mixed community with a number of retirees.  ACLS members can attend book, chess and knitting clubs, English conversation groups, or lectures on Weird NJ (covering landmarks and state secrets) and the region’s history.

A Mother’s Day tea party was coming up, and the South Jersey Astronomy Club was bringing telescopes to one of the branches for an evening of stargazing on the lawn called Public Skywatch.  Over fifty Book Club in a Bag selections can be borrowed and there are even some for teens.

Periodicals

Periodicals

Instead of signs directing users, GTL uses multihued flags to point out Periodicals, the Information Desk etc.  Beneath high skylights, black wire shelves on wheels hold TV series on DVD and popular music.  Foreign films are housed on a separate rack and they have three computers in a quiet study room.

A glass fronted cabinet holds knitted goods you can buy from a resident and by the permanent book sale, free standing cage like forms decked with garlands of flowers exhibit canvasses from the Galloway Cultural Arts Center.

Looking into the stacks beyond the book sale tables

Looking into the stacks beyond the book sale tables

GTL has a New Jersey collection and there’s a great compilation of historical resources including digitized wills, immigration records and Civil War discharge papers accessible from the ACLS website.  The home page lists recently added DVDs and texts and patrons can watch IndieFlix streaming films and download ebooks and eaudiobooks, or magazines and music via Zinio and Freegal.

Since it was near Earth Day, there was a recycled crafts program for adolescents, and Teen Scene and Teen Meet provide opportunities for like minded minors to get together.  Youths have their own movie night, a Cinco de Mayo party and the intriguingly named Marshmallow Madness.

The spacious teen area has high tables with bar stools along with these upholstered blue and chrome chairs and lots of graphic novels to choose from.

Teen section

Young adult section

With a vast collection of over 700,000 items (625 different magazines – it boggles the imagination!), ACLS presents users with a plethora of resources.  It’s got loads of databases – Acceda Noticias gives full text access to 20 Spanish newspapers while Global Road Warrior covers geography and culture for the world’s countries.  Points of View helps students understand all facets of an issue and the Oxford African American Studies Center consolidates knowledge on the subject.

The system has a blog and twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Pinterest accounts (love the idea of painting old bricks to look like books and using them as garden ornaments).  The facebook page  has DIY tips like how to fashion an invisible bookshelf and promotes sessions such as Book Hedgehog Craft for Teens & Adults.

Materials can be borrowed or returned to any location and they have a foundation.

Back at GTL, a variety of prints adorn the walls by the Information Desk and a cubicle houses Outspoken Library, a computer with braille and audio for those with limited sight.

Reference Desk

Reference Desk

I’m really impressed with the ingenuity of the people at Galloway and ACLS – they’ve devised some unique adventures for their customers and really know how to spruce up the place using inexpensive supplies.

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Not to be Missed Chincoteague

Charming Chincoteague Island Library (CIL) serves the 4000 or so people of the town and Northern Accomack County, Virginia.

The original front of the library

The original front of the library

Founded on Independence Day 1995, it used to be a barber shop, which is evident from the front of the building which faces the main street and is prettily framed by daffodils and bushes and an ageless stone fountain.  It’s conveniently situated downtown, by a waterfront park with picnic tables and a sculpture of its most renowned resident, Misty.

Chincoteague is a lovely place where mallards and white ducks blithely wander the streets, and its library carries on this quaint tradition.

The new addition from the park

The new wing from the park

Even the addition, which opened in 2010 and tripled the square footage, has a timeless allure.  Though it cost six hundred thousand dollars, it was all paid for by grants and donations – amazing for such a tiny village!  Designed for free by local architect, Richard Vesely, the striking structure has an eye-catching cupola with windows that let in the sparkling seaside rays.  The weathervane that caps the octagonal section was donated by one board member in honor of another.

There’s a wheelchair ramp, book drop, and a bike rack and parking in the back.  By the entrance an antique globe light shines on a plaque dedicated to the groups and individuals who have helped make the facility possible.

Linda at the circulation desk - notice the wainscoting that's present in much of the facility

Linda at the circulation desk – the wainscoting here can be found elsewhere too

Inside I met friendly Linda Ryan, the President of the Board of Directors, and one of the more than 30 volunteers who keep CIL open 39 hours per week.  Linda told me that they are a 501(c)(3) organization funded mainly by private donations, though Eastern Shore Public Library (ESPL) does pay for 21 hours per week of staffing which is shared among three employees.  Harriet Lonergan is their only volunteer/employee with an MLS degree.

CIL has a fundraising drive once a year which basically pays for the operations budget though they use ESPL’s broadband and courier services.  Despite the limited staff, they always try to have two people behind the desk, especially during their very busy summer season.

Original section of the library with a book rug hanging in the right window

This section was formerly the tonsorium

The stained glass in the front was here when the place was used for cutting hair.  On the right, a book rug hangs in the window which the volunteers decorate for holidays.

View from the old to the new

View from the old to the new – before the remodel, the building stopped just beyond this doorway

Here, old fashioned light fixtures illuminate the spindle back chairs and carved ducks and historical implements decorate the ledge beneath intricate white scrollwork.  Storage cupboards below the videos provide extra room.

Buy some goodies to help the library

Buy some goodies to help out

In a little alcove by the main desk, they sell book bags, library note cards, book marks, used books, CDs, postcards and a colorful print of pre renovation CIL.  Online you can buy CIL clothing, mugs, clocks, calendars, coasters, framed tiles, journals, keepsake boxes, Christmas ornaments, duffles, aprons, iPad sleeves, hats, bumper stickers, buttons, mouse pads, pet bowls, throw pillows, wallets, charms, water bottles, earrings, stickers, magnets, clipboards, trays, shower curtains, mirrors, key chains, thermoses, and more.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an impressive array of promotional merchandise, but it is one of the most photogenic libraries I’ve seen.

Just down the corridor is the kid’s space with a striped cushion on the window seat and storage for baskets of board books below.

Children's Area

Children’s Area

One corner has a stuffed version of Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat watching the tots and over by the big screen TV, ma and pa teddy bears sit on a vintage brown toddler’s seat with a carved heart on its back.  Above the older kid’s titles, a papier mâché child is stretched out enjoying a book and the floor is covered by a mat depicting children of the world.  A chair painted with scenes of tabbies sweeping, eating and riding on buses is large enough to provide seating for parents and guardians.

Linda’s very involved with the preschool program – CIL has weekly storytimes with songs, crafts and finger plays for them most of the year.  Second and sixth graders can enroll in their own book clubs and in the summer middleschoolers can participate in a reading program.   NASA has a facility nearby and their Outreach Center did a story and activity session on rockets.

The famous ponies swimming across the Assateague Channel

The ponies swimming across the Assateague Channel

Artwork abounds.  A Chincoteague Island clock and quilt (the latter donated when they put on the extension) adorn the walls behind checkout, where the Kleenex box is shaped like a pile of books.  Plants and bouquets bring spring inside and on top of the lintel leading to the earliest part of the structure, a black metal cat leans over, as if stealthily watching some prey.

Stunning reading space by the new entrance

Stunning reading space by the new entrance

Most of the library has gorgeous blond wood floors often partially covered by lovely oriental carpets.

Adults can join two book clubs, attend Scrabble nights, talks on ghost adventures, adult education programs and go to author visits, or get literacy and computer training.

Teen area also has the soft pink glow found throughout the library

Teen area also has the soft pink glow found throughout the library

YA’s have their own room with two window seats and a magnificent rug.  A gleaming roll top case by some flags holds a selection of Shakespeare tapes.

Notice board backed with a colonial fabric festooned with ships

Notice board backed with a colonial fabric festooned with ships

By the door, a dark wood pedestal with a bronzed barn owl sitting on a stack of tomes honors a patron’s mother and on the other side, a bulletin board with a distinctly maritime theme advertises upcoming functions.

Photo of Marguerite Henry  with Misty

Eminent villager with her favorite friend

And on a sill is an enchanting photograph of Marguerite Henry with Misty.

CIL’s facebook page is packed with frequent updates about library events and other happenings.  There’s a calendar for the surrounding region and I imagine that’s where townsfolk go when they want to plan their social activities for the week.  I love the post reminding people that it’s turtle breeding and egg laying season so they need to watch out for meandering testudines when driving around.  And the aerial shot of the old swing bridge midway through a turn is marvelous.  The page has tons of snaps of parties from ones for the tiniest tots to senior extravaganzas, including fishing excursions and visits from the famous local ponies.

Elevator makes the upstairs balcony accessible to all

Elevator makes the upstairs balcony accessible to all

By the elevator there’s a periodical rack and they have 24/7 wifi and six public internet computers with word processing for cardholders and visitors.  Summer people also have a choice of free books and magazines.  Customers can borrow audio books and older titles for 28 days while videos, DVDs and new publications are loaned for two weeks.

With ESPL, who catalog all CIL materials and make online searching, holds and renewals possible, they are working towards putting in RFID.

Upstairs has great view of the channel

The second story has a great view of the water

Upstairs is spectacular.  Vistas of tall sailing ships in the Chincoteague Channel just outside can be enjoyed from leather upholstered Queen Anne armchairs.  Two small closets keep supplies hidden and there are numerous oral history transcripts to peruse.  They are available on the web site too, along with the newsletter.

Brian Maughan's Misty sculpture even captures one of the omnipresent waterfowl

Brian Maughan’s Misty sculpture even captures one of the omnipresent waterfowl

What an enchanting place!

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Heavenly Kill Devil Hills Library

On the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the town of Kill Devil Hills is obviously a hopping place in summer.  The closest road to the beach has what seems like thousands of gaily painted oversized Victorian rentals with numerous balconies.  But in early April the sun was warm, the surf and skies bright blue, and the sands nearly deserted.

Kill Devil Hills Library

Kill Devil Hills Library

However, a few streets inland, where the sand doesn’t threaten to overtake the tarmac, I discovered a thriving downtown.  The Municipal Center, post office, senior center and the three schools for K-12 are here, and in the center of it all is the Kill Devil Hills Library (KDHL).  The brick and gray shingle building is surrounded by weeping yaupon, palm trees, pines, shrubs and daffodils.  By the entrance, a little foyer has a bulletin board and local information pamphlet rack. Light flows in from the atrium, plate glass windows and the smaller panes high above the shelves.

Kathy at the Circ Desk

Kathy at checkout with their Raise a Reader pack which includes a book and video

I chatted with Kathy Lassiter, Branch Manager, at the main desk. She told me that the best thing about the job and library is their relationship with the town. It’s such a close knit community that staff are familiar enough with their patron’s tastes to reserve items they’ll want.  And, if someone hasn’t been in for awhile, a quick phone call is made to ensure they’re alright.

KDHL has wireless which visitors can use for free, three pacs in the stacks and eleven computers for the public. Two are reserved for job applicants, six for the adults and the three children’s have TumbleBook loaded on them so tots can access animated talking ebooks, puzzles and games and even learn languages from stories in French and Spanish.

New book area close to the entrance

New book area

Across from circulation is a hand cleaning station and a thriving ivy spreads atop the new book shelves. Booklists abound and a binder full of more suggestions sits below a drawing of a clipper ship. Appropriately for this ocean resort, pictures of boats are scattered around and other decorations, like a piece of driftwood with sandpipers above the plaque listing a former board of trustees, stay true to this theme. By the public view documents table, a series of hurricane photographs remind you of potential hazards and quilts, including an adorable one of a bookshelf with a cat next to a book called How to Catch a Mouse :) are everywhere.

One of Don Bryan's pieces

Painting by famous local artist, Don Bryan

The Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Foundation recently brought in David McCullough for a program for the public.  McCullough did research here as his next project will be on the Wright Brothers (Kitty Hawk is just north of town and the huge Wright Brothers National Memorial, including the First Flight Airport, is on the next block).

This busy institution opened in 1990 and is one of the three locations of Dare County Libraries.  DCL has over 85,000 titles (including KDHL’s 39,000) and started in 1935. It’s one of eight in the East Albemarle Regional Library System (formed in 1964 – so they were already thinking ahead on how to maximize resources) which has a courier so materials can be picked up at or returned to any of its facilities (or at four other drops in the region).

Combining budgets helps greatly when it comes to things like purchasing ebooks and NC LIVE’s databases.  DCL also has the Dare County Digital Heritage Collection with old newspapers and genealogical data and NCKnows virtual reference.

The literacy collection

The literacy collection

Naomi Rhodes, the reference librarian, was very helpful  – she’s worked here for twelve years and does a lot with the literacy program including computer introduction, adult basic learning (ABL), the citizenship test and GED prep (which is now online so people must have computer skills to take it).  The Dare Literacy Council collection is here and Naomi wrote two successful American Dream grants – the first for ESL items and the second for GED, ABL and computer literacy titles, CDs, DVDs and sets.  DCL has the Cypress Resume database and staff go to job fairs sponsored by the local chamber of commerce and set up booths at the NC jobs council, health expos and “Hatteras Day at the Docks” and were going to a business expo the following week.  Library Director, Jonathan Wark, is on the Rotary.

Ms. Donna in the children's room

Ms. Donna in the children’s room

Donna Roark, Children’s Librarian, proudly showed me her space. Red cushioned chairs provide comfortable seating and bright artwork, ladybug and spider cutouts deck the walls. Multitudes of stuffed animals sit on top of the bookcases and a large white tiger stares at two abstract Native American paintings. A fish tank entrances youngsters and vivid yellow headphones help keep the room quiet.

Kid’s has board books, easy readers and book cassette combos.  The Child Resource Collection assists youngsters in dealing with problems and new experiences and the building has a back porch sometimes used for storytimes. Since Easter was approaching, the deck was hosting an egg hunt that day with singing and reading. There were hidden prizes to be found among the eggs too.

The story begins...

The story begins…

Perhaps the most eye catching element in here is this quilted mural of the story told in print below the picture. It’s all about Ace, the fastest bird on the beach, who shelters in the library book drop for the winter after his nest is blown away. He begins to listen to the calming voice heard at storytimes, which eventually allows him to teach himself to read. He feathers his nest with pages from returned tomes and charms a stalking cat and his fellow avians with the tales he tells.

Twenty five kids (half homeschooled and half public) wrote the yarn and came up with the fabric design with help from the Dare County Arts Council and others (including a $5000 arts grant). The children assisted with the beading and the library provided space, snacks and drinks.

A beautiful ending to the tale...

A beautiful ending to the tale…

The library has Tales to Tails where reluctant readers read to therapy dogs (the brochure presents snaps of the canines including a delightful one of a bulldog with reading glasses) and that day, a bunny was coming to the afternoon Hooked on Books session.  KDHL has game days and visits from NC Park Service rangers.  Jonathan promotes baby literacy and this year’s summer reading program is about science.  Three big name performers will be coming in to wow the 150 or so kids who participate.

Looking from Children's into the main part of the library

Looking from Children’s into the main part of the library

Ms. Donna and Kathy read at Kid’s Fest and Read Across America and the Hatteras Storytelling Festival.  The Head Start program with the Children and Youth Partnership for Dare County gives children certificates and their own books to keep.  There’s also a party with pizza and kids dress up in their best frocks and suits.

The facebook page  promotes things like the Master Garden Series and has lots of photos of Santa visits, craft and animal programs and SRP events.  A flickr account is loaded with shots of customers having a great time.

PACs in the stacks

PACs in the stacks

This branch has one part time and seven full time employees.  Funding comes from the county with the state chipping in, and the library hangs onto fines.  A 501c3 foundation began in 2002 and provided the monies to start the ebook collection as well as supporting other services.

Home bound delivery gets materials to shut ins and a meeting room with audiovisual equipment seats fifty.  Any non profit can schedule it.

Cool flip out CD storage

Flip out CD storage

KDHL has some cool features like this compact music cabinet.  Scratch and sniff bookmarks – pickles, worms, dirt, popcorn, flowers, cotton candy, jelly beans and coffee (which the adults love) – are available and contacting them is easy with book shaped DCL magnets that sport the phone number and email address.

There’s a tax form table, and no limit on how many CDs or DVDs you can borrow.  Magazines go out for a whopping 21 days and they kindly give a five day grace period plus anyone 17 and under can read fines away – just 30 minutes reduces fines by a buck.

The teen section has a cheerful mobile and classic prints above the adolescent offerings.

YA Area

YA Area

A very impressive facility for this lovely seaside community of just under 7000.

The dunes are where the area gets the "hills" in its name from

I assume the dunes are the “hills” in the town’s name

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Majestic Medellín

Rainy day glimpse of the library from the gondola

Rainy day glimpse of the library above the gondola

Erected on Santo Domingo Savio (SDS), one of the seven hills encircling Medellín, Colombia, the three black monoliths of Parque Biblioteca España (PBE) are just a short walk from the Metrocable that whisks commuters up the mountainside.   Perched high above the red tiled roofs and artfully graffitied sidewalks and edifices of the quarter, PBE truly is a park.

Part of the Parque Biblioteca España

The uppermost part of the Parque Biblioteca España

Medellín had the wonderful idea of surrounding their libraries on the fringes of the city with vast green spaces and having them address the need for more culture and education in these sections of the metropolis.  Since the first settlers started farming here in 1964, SDS developed haphazardly and its narrow and precipitous streets made access to the rest of the city and its institutions difficult until the cable car was installed.  The library park concept capitalized here on the newly available transportation and is quite a boon for the area.  This biblioteca was the fourth such facility and is named for the support given by Spain’s Agency for International Cooperation.  It was inaugurated in 2007 by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of that country.

The park follows the contours of the slope and has stairs running all through it.  Outside the building, a lamp post with shimmering silver balls casts a glow on the gray brick walkway, and wood slatted benches and chairs invite you to relax amidst the hedges and trees.

Maria Cristina

Maria Cristina

When I was checking in at the administrative office by the front door, Maria Cristina Álvarez, Directora Parque Biblioteca España, with whom I’d been corresponding about this visit, returned.  She was very pleasant and helpful though we quickly realized it would be best for me to send any technical queries I had via email, where I could continue to depend on the language skills of the free web Spanish translators.

PBE’s entrance is on Piso 1 but due to the steep slope of the terrain, there are two additional levels underneath, so it’s actually on the third.   Directional signs in Spanish and English make it easy to get around.  You’re greeted by a very modern lobby with gleaming tiled floors, five triangular upholstered maroon seats, brushed metal poles and sparkling bathrooms.  Some walls are a vivid orange or green glass while others are composed of a dark shellacked brick.

Glowing lobby

Glowing lobby

Views of the Aburrá Valley and the mountains around Medellín are visible through an arty jumble of vertical bars.

Views of the urban sprawl far below

Views of the urban sprawl far below

A corridor leads to exhibition halls, an auditorium, classrooms etc. in the two sections of the structure that are used for community edification and events.

In the part dedicated to materials and research, PBE has seven stories altogether – each has either computers (more than 100 public ones) or a collection of items for children, teens or adults with the top one given over to Medellín Solidaria, an agency that assists the neediest citizens in finding benefits and other ways to better their existences.

The architecture of this dark cube is fascinating.  It’s basically a floating interior as on most levels you can see down several floors and the main spaces are separated from the exoskeleton of the building by several feet.

Sun streams in through slanted openings

Sun streams in through slanted openings

Captivating design seems to be the norm here with neat touches like these tilted windows.  Because of the light and airy open plan, they don’t require much illumination or air conditioning – though being on a peak that’s more than a mile high and in a place nicknamed the City of Eternal Spring also helps.

Mock-ups of houses

Mock-ups of houses

Low shelving everywhere allows for visibility and affords plenty of space for curios like these intriguing models of homes scattered around the adult collection, perhaps for a contest?

The library offers books, magazines, encyclopedias, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, CD Roms and graphic novels and patrons can bring in drinks.  Open from 8am-7pm Monday to Saturday and on Sundays and holidays (!) from 11am to 5pm, it’s part of Sistema de Bibliotecas Públicas de Medellín (SBPM) which has 24 locations, a busy Twitter feed, flickr and YouTube accounts as well as a Facebook page filled with pictures, videos and announcements.  Another page on its site features a profile of one of their young users.

SPBM’s catalog is integrated and soon you’ll be able to order items from other branches.  Residents can borrow from any facility or remotely search electronic databases and download ebooks.  Titles go out for ten days and can be renewed twice if not on hold, but must be returned to the library they were borrowed from and reserves have to be picked up within 24 hours.

PBE has its own blog and provides reference support and one on one web assistance.

It feels quite spacious and its fixtures let them promote materials nicely.

Low cases everywhere allow breezes to circulate

Squat cases let breezes circulate

In the Adult area, I met Juan Esteban Prisco Cañas, the Room Technician, who was very welcoming and informative.  He speaks excellent English so I peppered him with questions (any mistakes in interpretation are mine).  Juan mentioned that they have a neighborhood room which collects history about SDS and that PBE uses artists from the district to decorate the library.  They hold concerts and theatrical events in the park and showcase local talent.  Their mission is the cultural advancement of the people in the vicinity and they also look for problems to see how they can improve their lives.  As such, they work with nutritionists, social workers, medical specialists, etc.

Juan with one of his paintings

Juan with one of his stunning paintings – “being an artist is my gift”

These are system wide aims.  One objective on SBPM’s webpage is (roughly translated) “being a bridge between the community and the various institutions that can supply information and knowledge.”  It’s great to see how they strive to aid their customers, and to make sure they are being effective, they survey their service population – statistics show their impact – and I love the comment section below the misión statement where users can give feedback and suggestions.

Perhaps due to their stated goals PBE has innovative and exciting programming – there’s a Grandparents storytelling group that specializes in making audiences of all ages aware of the barrio’s past and in November the 16th Latin American Congress of Sexology met here and held sessions centered on the helpful theme of sex and the elderly.  The previous month they were one of the sites for the International Film and Video Festival of Indigenous Peoples and earlier in the year, the Silent Glances series trained deaf participants in photography.  This month there will be a public forum on preventing sexual exploitation and child abuse.

One long term project lets teens in the region learn about nanotechnology and how it can improve their environment and another, Cinexcusa, has faculty from Uniminuto University teaching students from a local school about film.  In October kids worked on producing illustrations and then got the chance to meet an author/illustrator.

Colección infantil

Colección infantil

By the doorway to Children’s the saying in large cutout letters that reads (loosely translated) “A book can’t end war or feed a hundred people but it can feed minds, and sometimes, change them.” keeps the purpose of the library at the forefront of young minds.

Tables are arranged in hexagons so groups can study or create together.  A vibrant hand-painted sign with a girl and a boy pointing at a patchwork balloon announce the room’s target audience and a model of a ship draws youngsters in.

Inspired portable storage - love the button closures

Inspired portable storage – love the button closures

It’s a very appealing space with tot sized furniture, brilliant papier mâché containers, a big multihued elephant tethered by a chain above a wealth of board books and a bright mobile with puffy cars and pets hanging from an overhead beam.  On the wall, numerous panels by the storytime mats sport a little man in a yellow hat, perhaps a representation from Curious George, in various scenarios – including being driven in a tuk tuk by a monkey.

Reading for the tiny tots

Display for toddlers

My husband was delighted by one of the featured titles – Horrible Science’s That Chaotic Chemical.

On the other kid’s floor there are at least 33 colorful computers stuffed with games and screensavers that advertise programs like a Sunday matinee presentation of Astro Boy being held in the auditorium.

Some of the internet terminals for the small set

Some of the internet terminals for the small set

Joven (YA’s) also have their own computer and materials levels, but a sudden rainstorm after school had packed these areas so tightly, I couldn’t get any pictures.

Near the crowd, side by side garbage bins labeled recyclable and not recyclable instruct with clear descriptions of the types of things allowed.

Elevators give everyone easy access to all the floors, so I went up to the fourth where the 35 PCs were all occupied by customers sitting below two of the marvelous long murals that overlook the interior atrium.  Some of these paintings depict sunsets and skies and in another a pensive youth looks down on the bustle.

One of the friezes looming over the central opening

One of the friezes looming over the central opening

The library really is the lifeblood of this community.  Inhabitants can go to talks on water issues, or Arts and Culture for Life.  A sampling of SBPM’s calendar for just one week in February included films, erotic poetry readings, discussions, lectures, origami workshops, internet searching classes, numerous storytimes, game and book clubs for all ages and so much more.

What a magnificent place and how fabulous that Parque Biblioteca España is succeeding so well in its intentions!

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