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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Cindy’s Scintillating Post on the Farmington, NM Library

I became acquainted with my friend Cindy Salo when she commented on my blog and we met in person at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo last July.  She’s a funny, delightful woman who journeys around the US for her job as a plant ecologist and uses libraries extensively to connect with friends and colleagues while travelling.  In November she was at one of her favorite places, the Farmington Public Library, and despite her busy schedule managed to write about it in her blog, Sagebrush and Spuds (she lives in Boise, ID after all) and graciously allowed me to include it as a guest entry on my blog - so here is her lyrical and poetic post on it, (far better than any of my humble efforts – I’m so jealous!).  Enjoy!

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Groovy Galápagos

Beach at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz

Beach at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz

The Biblioteca Pública para Galápagos y el Mundo is conveniently located right behind the municipal offices in the busy center of Puerto Ayora, the most populated town on Isla Santa Cruz, and on these far flung Ecuadorian islands.

Santa Cruz during the dry season is a curious mix.  To the north, parched landscapes give way to the foggy green highlands with cattle ranches where giant tortoises graze next to bemused bovines.  Descending from this magical area brings hotter temperatures, but the verdant foliage remains, even as you enter Puerto Ayora, one of the main tourism hubs of the Galápagos and home to more than 12,000 people.  It’s a spectacularly creative locale.  Bright red crabs scurry about beneath lush mangrove trees.  Marine iguanas and lava deposits lie next to the turquoise ocean on one side of the brick street, while intricately designed and vibrantly colored houses, hotels and storefronts attract the eye as you stroll toward the harbor.

Biblioteca para Galápagos y el Mundo

Biblioteca para Galápagos y el Mundo

Not to be outdone by local merchants and builders, the public library also features many interesting touches from a lava rock wall to the wheelchair ramp bordered in white stucco and huge curvy gray wood framed windows reminiscent of waves and portholes.

Covered entry

Covered entry

The roof over the doorway provides shelter during the rainy season and shade from the blazing light the rest of the year.

Marlena at the circulation desk

Marlena at the circulation desk

Inside, Assistant Marlena España welcomed me warmly and answered many of my questions.  They have free wifi and outlets on the floor to keep your electronics charged.   Six public internet computers are available in the adult area and there are two terminals for the younger set.

Adult computers

Adult computers

Nearby, a glass fronted cases holds Galápagos history books.

Items can be checked out, and they have a few DVDs for in-house viewing on the big screen TV which sits in a gleaming cabinet.  The system includes a stereo with tall, skinny oblong speakers.

The Japanese or one of several groups that support the library

The Japanese are one of several groups that sponsor the biblioteca

In another area, near back issues of National Geographic magazine, Japanese titles sit by a shelf of English materials.  Evidently, the embassy of Japan joined forces with the local government and the Galápagos National Park Guides to support the facility, and other companies and individuals have contributed to the effort as well.

Free purified water

Free purified water

Blessedly, the building is air conditioned (at sea level this is a very hot and humid place) and potable water is also provided from a container by an adorable penguin book holder.

It’s a pleasant space with a pretty tile floor, lovely wood furniture and shelves.  White cloth blinds and flowing curtains keep out the hot sun.

Reference section

Reference section

Reference volumes sit under a shapely window and there are lots of biology texts and encyclopedia sets, many dealing with nature, ecosystems, and the environment, all obviously topics of huge concern as the islands’ economy is greatly dependent on ensuring the propagation of the remarkable species and flora found here.   Knowing how aware the residents are of the importance of conservation, it’s no surprise that the library uses CFL bulbs in their Asian style hanging lamps.

Adjoining chess club

Adjoining chess club

Off the Children’s section, a little room, with its own door to the outside, provides a spot for enthusiasts to play chess.  The huge pieces lined up atop a cabinet must entice youngsters to pick up the pastime.

Children's area

Kid’s room

Children’s has multicolored little chairs and tiny tables and offers two programs per week.  In a corner interlocking floor mats are stored in anticipation of the next story time.  Origami mobiles and yarn dream catchers hang from the ceiling and a bin is painted with a scene of fish and crabs.

Shades with batik tropical fish on them protect the space from the intense light.

Shades

Window coverings keep the room cool

Tots can also amuse themselves with puzzles and games.  An abacus and a set of animal figures teach them about math and biology.

Games

Games

The Children’s Area has more of the cute Galápagos themed racks including a sea horse, whale (appropriately containing oversize picture books) and of course turtles.

Oversize books

Leviathan sized titles

What a unique little library – the people of this marvelous place have really made it their own!

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Quaint Quito

El Panecillo from Quito's Centro Historico

Looking from the Centro Historico toward El Panecillo up on the hill

Well, much of Quito, Ecuador is quaint, but the Parque La Carolina section around the Ministry of Education building is decidedly modern.

Biblioteca Pablo Palacio (named after the Ecuadorian writer) is located within this towering edifice, and is just one of the 600 public libraries run by the country’s National Library System, Sistema Nacional de Bibliotecas (SINAB).

The library

The entry is inside the Ministry

Before leaving on the trip, I contacted the manager for this location, Lili Aguilar Mora, who good-naturedly responded to my broken Spanish request to visit.  As I was using an online Spanish translator, there is a good probability that I may have misinterpreted some of our communications, so be advised, any mistakes in the post are mine.

Long shot of the library

Long shot of the library

It’s a nicely appointed space, with tile floors, numerous study areas and a Spanish Dewey poster on the side of a shelving unit.  Lots of plants and even a small tree in a huge pot add to the airy feel.

Children's room

Children’s area

The Sala Infantile (children’s room) appeared to be set up for a special event, and the furniture for the tiny tots was stacked by the picture windows to make room for it.  But the big people seating is surrounded by racks with face-out picture books shelved on top and items for older kids below.  Mobiles featuring dinosaurs and magicians, airplanes and pinwheels dangle down from the ceiling and pictures of a pirate, tiger, and an ostrich wearing ballet slippers deck the walls.

BPP has a toy library and I noticed a set of dominoes and Upwards underneath a shelf of several toddler’s playthings.  Other board games were piled above the lockers and there’s a puppet theater behind the cubbyholes stuffed with dolls and hand puppets.

Kids can read oversize books or select a film to watch on the big screen TV from the glass fronted media case which houses feature films, documentaries and learning titles including a series of children’s movies on values (social, religious, ethical…) and a set of Spanish Sesame Street DVDs.

A green view

A green view

Near a globe and the kid’s music CDs, vowel cut-outs cover part of a plate glass window that overlooks a green area above a pretty sunken garden.

BPP has storytimes and in July children had the opportunity to build their own puppets then write and act in a show they presented.

The small furniture appeared to be stacked in a corner to make room for a special event

The small furniture was pushed to one side

Though Lili wasn’t there, I chatted a bit with another helpful staff person, Pilar Nolivos, who told me that the view from the children’s room is of El Rucu Pichincha, a nearly 16,000’ peak that looms over the city, which we visited later that day with the aid of the Teleferico cable car.

Quito from El Rucu Pichincha

Quito from El Rucu Pichincha

Biblioteca Pablo Palacio (BPP) offers reference and web help and has an archival collection.  Established in 2004, they own over 19,000 items including slides, VHS and DVD films, audio cassettes, and music CDs and are open 8-4:30 Monday through Friday.  In their serials area they also hold magazines, newsletters, reports, etcetera.

Public internet carrels

Public internet carrels

Bright prints adorn the walls by the ten free computers, where users can search CD Roms like Atlas of the Human Body and Diccionario de Biografias or insert learning disks on subjects such as physics, history, biology, mathematics, technology and the natural sciences.

Periodicals - not quite sure why so many are about Korea

Periodicals display – not quite sure why so many are about Korea

BPP has a website/blog, which advertises some of their events such as a writing workshop for young adults that was held last November.  SINAB uses this site too and recently they visited schools with a program on Palacio featuring a living author.  SINAB also brings a booth promoting Ecuadorian storytelling and legend and staging plays with puppets to country fairs and last year, gave a week long training course to library employees.

The reference section

The reference section

They have wifi, and like many facilities in this ecologically minded country, provide recycling bins for cardboard, paper, plastics…

Interesting design

Interesting design

Back out in the lobby again I noticed a couple of imaginatively constructed cases filled with intriguing artifacts.

What a pleasant place!

The next day, I chanced upon another library, Biblioteca Parque El Ejido, near the southern end of the Mariscal Sucre district of the city.

El Ejido Library

El Ejido Library

Resembling a café more than a learning space, this fascinating glass structure is situated in an enormous park filled with creative playground and adult exercise equipment.

Outside, gorgeous shellacked benches made from tree trunks sit on a patio made of thin gray wood planks with pine islands fringed by bushes and stones.  It looks like it’s mainly a very convenient spot to access the internet as there are just four stacks of books, including some in French, German and English.   Wifi service is available both inside and out, so many people were enjoying the free connectivity and fresh air just beyond the entrance.

You'd almost feel like you were outside

You almost feel as if you’re outside

Though we went in to see the 12 PC’s for public use, the Christmas tree decorated with origami birds and presents, the little tables with multicolored chairs and a tiny leather couch near the children’s books, the Christmas garlands and the TV turned on low, since I forgot my camera, we came back on Sunday, when, unfortunately, they were closed, and got the shot above through the windows.

El Ejido Park

El Ejido Park

But what wonderful views customers have of all the activity in this bustling, popular park.

How delightful to get the chance to visit two well placed libraries that obviously serve the needs of their communities.

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Notable Newport Beach

Balboa Island area

Balboa Island area

About an hour south of LA and close to Disneyland, Newport Beach boasts scenic hills, gorgeous sands, wetlands, fun filled isles and an historic waterfront.  Around 86,000 people call this California vacation destination home.

The new back entrance evokes an open book

The new back entrance evokes an open book

Close to Fashion Island, which acts as a quasi downtown for the community, Newport Beach Public Library (NBPL) shares a park and garage with City Hall. A patio at the back has abundant seating overlooking the verdant expanse linking these buildings. Used for concerts, children on scooters zip around the sidewalks bordering the green space.

The café just inside has tables and chairs, but on nice days, the shade afforded by the roof makes the veranda the perfect place to relax.

Bistro 24 Express serves breakfast and light meals

Bistro 24 Express serves breakfast and light meals

Though the public had been able to borrow books for twenty years, the first structure built with a bibliographic purpose in mind opened in 1929.  By the 1940’s the library was a popular spot to catch up with friends and branches were being added.  In the eighties and nineties, creation of the Friends and Foundation helped provide locals with more services and space and a 54,000 square foot facility was built here in 1994.  A 17,000’ expansion was completed in April and included this resplendent staircase with tiny high windows and an eye catching skylight.

Why do I keep thinking of planetariums?

There’s a mystical allure to these steps

The front entrance, one flight down, is surrounded by palm trees and ivy covered trellises while pines and xeriscaping adorn a path that meanders through the grounds passed statues and three circular picnic benches.  A polished granite sculpture of a boy and a girl with their chins propped in their hands called Nakayoshi – Good Friends honors NB’s affiliation with its sister city in Japan while a rabbit sculpture pays tribute to the desert cottontail, a common sight here.  One of 16 scattered throughout the complex, the big tough bunnies are a source of delight for the younger set who are encouraged to climb on them.

Tables with room for the whole family

Tables can fit the whole family

Inside, off the first floor lobby, you can shop at the Friends of the Library Bookstore or get creative in the Media Center and Sound Room which have the latest equipment for audio and visual production including PCs and Macs with graphic design, video editing and recording software.

The Friends Meeting Room has a big screen for watching movies and seats 200.  There’s a smaller conference room too.

In the downstairs entryway you can scan a wall of plaques honoring NBPL’s many donors, view photos of the library through the years, or admire a collection of old radios in glass cases near an exhibit of paintings by Millard Sheets, one of the California Scene artists.

Art and artifacts in the lobby

Art and artifacts in the lobby

Spacious, with stone tile floors, the foyer has dark gray rock on the lowest part of its walls while the plaster above is painted to look like grayish green marble.  Wood racks hold book suggestions and the color scheme continues into the magazine section, where leather armchairs and a love seat with an interesting tilted outline complement these interior touches.

A large AV area shows CD’s by genre and there are lots of BluRays DVDs.  Patrons use self check and pick up their own holds.

Friendly Jeremy

Friendly Jeremy

Jeremy at the information desk gave me helpful details for this post.  He extolled the value of the Friends and Foundation who raise thousands of dollars each year and mentioned that all 75 staffers are municipal employees.  NBPL has four sites – there are three branches and you can also pick up and return items to the Newport Coast Community Center.  They have 240,000 volumes and follow the State Library policy by allowing anyone in CA to get a card here.

This location has 30 adult internet computers and 30 Ipads (which you can print from) as well as 10 filtered learning terminals in Children’s.  You can get wifi in all the outdoor areas, check out one of six Nooks or borrow iPod shuffles loaded with audiobooks.

The Bamboo Courtyard

The Bamboo Courtyard

And here’s yet another great place to study. Often used for library receptions, its umbrella topped tables, huge potted plants and flower decked walls remind me of a European street scene.

NBPL’s website has downloadable books, audiobooks and magazines.  Job seekers can utilize databases like Cypress Resume and Live Tutor Career Center where real people help them write cover letters.  Art aficionados and home buyers will appreciate AskART’s auction records and Realquests’s property data.  Lifelong learners love Rocket Languages and Universal Class which has modules on such diverse topics as dog psychology and medical terminology.  The Foundation page offers podcasts of past speakers like Frances Mayes and Lauren Weisberger and I was impressed to see that since they are hiring a new Library Services Director they are requesting feedback from the public – a great way to emphasize to your users the importance of their opinions.

Children's play area

Children’s play area

A sketch of three bunnies welcomes you to Kid’s which has miniature furniture and neat tilted two-tone loungers.  Tots perch on little multicolored stools by the computers and play in an enormous brightly painted space reserved for youths and their guardians, who have a choice of couches.  There are loads of stuffed animals, wooden puzzles, an early literacy station, Español items and the Stahr Storytime Room.  Just outside is the Friends sponsored Children’s Sun and Sea Discovery Garden where stone benches, shaded tables, a fountain and climbing vines make it the perfect place for youngsters to get some fresh air.

Children can drop in for craft programs, hear songs, watch silly science shows, go to Lego and princess tea parties and attend numerous storytimes.

My brother showing off the great library in his new city

My brother showing off his favorite NB destination to my mother

Upstairs passed another pink eyed bunny I peek into the Charles Sword Reading Room and find a quiet space with sea vistas, slatted wood tables and upholstered chairs.

In the main concourse my eyes are drawn up to the overhead lighting facilitating browsing on both sides of the stacks and the intricacies of the exposed ductwork.  It’s great how they revel in revealing what’s normally hidden - even the HVAC pipes outside are vividly hued.  I see triangles everywhere from the slant of the ceiling beams and the angles of the furnishings to the massive overhang of the roof.  Numerous windows fill the building with light but, if needed, see-through screens allow you to block out the blinding rays of the sun.  Little two person desks let you study with a buddy and have lamps in between.  Glassed in spots hold the copy center and microforms.

NBPL has homebound, literacy and passport services and three small rooms can be reserved.  Along with the typical fare, they lend graphic novels, Book Club in a Bag and video games.  Blockbuster films cost a dollar and go out for just one day and you can rent bestsellers for a week.

Nautical volumes and mystery choices

Sailing titles and mystery choices

Local History has a shelf holding the Nautical Collection next to vintage photos of the region and the display of blind books.  A serendipitous way of choosing your next read, they’re wrapped in green and offer just one rhyming clue about their identity.

Customers can go to musicales, lectures, book discussions, holiday events, business workshops and cooking demonstrations.  Twice a month staffers write an article for the Daily Pilot, the regional newspaper, and there’s a facebook page, a Twitter account  and a Pinterest site.

Great vistas

YA’s have a nice place to chill

A neon sign announces the Teen Center which has manga, paperbacks, hardcovers, CDs, magazines and comfortable niches with oversize plants and great views of Catalina Island.  Young adults can use databases like Live Homework Help and Tuition Funding Resources, join the advisory council or attend college admissions sessions.  The Teen section of the website promotes an interest in NB’s past with a blog called Kids These Days: Growing up in Newport Beach which features news stories about adolescents and reminiscences about their teen years in the area from people of all ages.

In Periodicals, bound issues of Time go back to 1941 and current papers include the UK’s Sunday Times, and, since style is obviously important here, Women’s Wear Daily.

A multitude of cushy blue study stations, each with its own outlets, privacy screens and little round tables that allow you to spread out, were added during the expansion and residents got reading areas, program space, the Media Suite, the café, and the bridge to the civic center to boot.

Everything you need to get down to business

Everything you need to get down to business

Busy and well used, NBPL is quite a boon for this lovely seaside city.

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Luminous Lahaina

One block over from the famous 140 year old banyan tree covering two thirds of an acre on the grounds of the courthouse, Lahaina Public Library (LPL) on Maui, HI has one of the most transcendent sites I’ve experienced.  Surrounded by stately Norfolk Island pines, sweet smelling frangipani trees and glorious hibiscus plants, it looks out onto the waterfront and the isle of Lanai across the channel.  Situated right downtown, next to the historic Pioneer Inn, its louvered windows open to catch the sea breezes and fans spinning overhead reminded me of a tropical hotel out of a Graham Greene novel.

Lahaina Public Library with friendly Carlos on duty

Lahaina Public Library with friendly Carlos on duty

The one story building has lava rock pillars out front and wood planks on the underside of the overhanging roof provide a little shade for Carlos Viti, the temporary security guard.
Inside from each opening there are great vistas of the lush foliage on the grounds, the aquamarine sea and the mountains of the Iao Valley State Park and the West Maui Forest Reserve (visible behind and to the right of the library in the shot above).

I met Madeleine, the branch manager, at the main desk.

Madeleine at the circulation desk

Madeleine at the circulation desk

She told me the library had recently been remodeled with donations from several groups including the Rotary Club and the North Beach-West Maui Benefit Fund.  Security gates were added, and they replaced any tall bookshelves with shorter ones that don’t block the drafts which are so vital in keeping the building comfortable since there’s no air conditioning.  The furniture was updated and the old cardboard fans were swapped out with 26 hardy plastic ones.

But in my opinion, the pièce de résistance was installing these gorgeously pigmented sealed concrete floors.

The green and tan floor symbolizes sand and sea and is truly a work of art

Green and tan flooring symbolizes the sand and sea and is truly a work of art

Maui Friends of the Library made significant contributions to the renovations also.  The Friends get much of their cash from operating three used bookstores that sell AV materials, board games, puzzles and new Hawaiiana titles as well as used books. With extensive opening hours and separate shops (Lahaina’s is in a little mall across Front Street), they make enough to publish a glossy quarterly newsletter and help pay for performances, subscriptions, appliances, furniture and fixtures.

I asked Madeleine about the other entrance I’d noticed.  LPL has two main doors, but she explained plants were blocking one as they were currently doing a patron census.  At the same time a materials use count was being taken and pink signs everywhere asked people not to put things away.

Children's room has tot sized upholstered benches and saucers of crayons on the tables to encourage creativity

Children’s room has tot sized upholstered benches and saucers of crayons on the tables to encourage creativity

Though LPL doesn’t have a youth librarian, they have storytimes when the state offers storytellers through cultural programs.  In October there was a screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and later on they’ll present Stories of Hawaii and the World and a program on the beloved last ruler of HI, Queen Lili’uokalani.

The Keiki (kids) Area is on the far side of the structure, conveniently situated by the obstructed door, so parents can quickly spirit away crying babies, or let tots play in the garden if they are overly rambunctious.  It’s a pleasant space with Peter Rabbit and bunny sculptures on the shelves, a globe, a book/tape combo case decorated with giraffes and lots of titles that teach the little ones about the heritage of these magical islands.

Hawaiian language children's items

Hawaiian language juvenile books

The Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS) is unique among US libraries as it’s basically one entity.   Acting as the main public library, the 50 locations on six islands are its branches and include the joint public and school facilities in remote Hana and on Lanai. Quite an efficient use of resources as it avoids unnecessary replication of so many projects and jobs.  Materials can be borrowed or returned to any library. Non residents can get a three month or five year card for a small fee.  Customers can call or email HSPLS for reference questions or to renew items and can download eBooks and Audiobooks.

Gift wrapped bricks keep the newspapers from blowing away when a powerful wind blows through (or the fans are on high)

Gift wrapped bricks keep newspapers in place when a powerful wind blows through (or the fans are on high)

HSPLS has a Twitter feed and the facebook page advertises a children’s chess club and family movie nights and has event photos, jokes and more.  The website has a variety of interesting bibliographies like Modern Mysteries by Japanese Authors, Scandinavian Crime Novels, Certified Arborist and Certified Tree Workers (HI’s vegetation grows so quickly it obviously needs a lot of care takers).  There are a multitude of databases including the Hawaiian Legends Index, PowerSpeak Languages and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.  And Microsoft IT Academy lets users learn about all sorts of computer topics in a number of different languages at their own pace.

LPL has a separate facebook page, WiFi when open, an express computer and four public internet stations, which were all full.  Patrons can reserve one session per week and Madeleine mentioned laptops which can be borrowed for home use are coming and they’ll even have a free T-Mobile WiFi card.

Stunning teak furniture (and they cleverly put tennis balls on the computer chair legs to stop them from scratching the fantastic floor)

Stunning teak furniture (and they cleverly put tennis balls on the computer chair legs to stop them from scratching the gleaming floor)

These lovely slatted armchairs and tables were part of the redecoration.  So much more practical than cloth covered seats – if dirty, you can just hose them off plus they only need to be refinished once a year and teak, frequently used on ships, is termite resistant.

LPL has three employees, all full time.   There’s a library technician, an LA III, and Madeleine.  Unfortunately, it’s difficult to take time off.  Since HSPLS is really one big unit, any Maui staffer could sub here, but it’s a 45 minute drive from the island’s biggest town, Kahului, and with only two lanes on the road, accidents have been known to strand substitutes on the west side overnight.

Lower cases keep the air circulating

Lower cases keep the air circulating

LPL keeps its DVDs in these pretty glass cabinets and the four boxes on top of the nonfiction shelves offer lots of Hawaiian music CDs as well as other genres.

With so many windows, there’s little wall space for paintings, but by the restrooms, there’s a small suit of armor and a Gaugin print (so appropriate for this sultry town) donated by a friend of Madeleine’s who owns an art store.  And of course this marvelous cetacean swimming across the pages of a giant tome – whale watching is a big tourist attraction here.

Wooden whale donated by a local artist

Wooden whale donated by a local artist

HSPLS has hot picks bestselling books that go out for one week and gets some money from Hawaiian taxpayers who are given the chance to donate part of their refund when they file.  They take passport applications, register voters and make government documents, tax forms and sign language interpreters for programs available.  Customers can borrow Korean TV series, and vote in the Nene (this goose, the world’s rarest, is HI’s state bird) Award contest – winners are chosen by the children of the state.  Both Molokai and Maui have bookmobiles serving prisons, day cares and schools.

LPL has self check, paperback spindles and a clear Plexiglas shelf of teen titles.

Self check station by the audio books and Manga

Self check station by the audio books and Manga

The state library organizes the programming – its October newsletter, Holo I Mua (move forward, advance) was promoting a funny Canadian storyteller who makes figures from string, a Japanese comedy group, a Hawaiian dance ensemble, a school chorus, book talk, a string quartet, and a woman who tells Japanese folktales and ghost stories.  Youngsters can win prizes and meet their favorite characters at the second Star Wars Reads Day.

Some of the other events proffered are a literary contest, a comic artist, an entertainer on stilts who uses masks and puppets to weave yarns, a living history night, a film discussion series, jazz and guitar concerts and lectures on Christmas ideas, furoshiki (a style of wrapping presents), vegan cooking, oriental medicine, making ukuleles, the new health care law and starting your own business.  Wow, those are some eclectic choices!

You just can't beat the view!

You just can’t beat the view!

Ah Lahaina!  So much beauty and bounty and a wonderful library too!

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Original Ouray

Ouray from above

Ouray from above

Encircled by crashing waterfalls, towering mountains and cliffs that give it the nickname “Switzerland of America”, Ouray is a hidden gem in southwestern Colorado.  Most widely known for its hot springs, this charming community of about 1000 inhabitants boasts stunning scenery and Victorian houses and storefronts along its paved main drag while spectacular hiking can be accessed from many of the surrounding dirt streets.

Even Walsh Library's street keeps you fit in this outdoorsy town

Even Walsh Library’s street keeps you fit in this outdoorsy place

Housed in a stately brick and sandstone edifice, Ouray Public Library (OPL) shares quarters with the city offices and the police station.  Iron benches and two large planters frame the doorway and wildflowers border the structure.  Close by, the huge Walsh Bell, presented to the town by a mine owner in 1900, takes customers back to yesteryear.

A long corridor, its walls covered with various plaques, a community calendar and a bulletin board, leads to the library.  A wooden brochure holder has visitor guides and other information and the water fountain has a step stool for the little ones.

Town government shares their hallway

Town government shares their hallway

Inside it’s a lovely old building with nice wood furniture.  Stacks handmade by Joe Calhoon, a local artisan, have lots of small plates honoring the multiple donors who purchased them.  Attractive mountain paintings hang by tall windows that let in fresh air and great views of peaks so close you can almost touch them.

At the circulation desk, I chatted with Maureen, the director, who was quite friendly and helpful.  She mentioned several current and upcoming programs that address concerns of the district.  For example, when the county hosted Rural Philanthropy Days, it became apparent there was a real need for grant writing skills, so in conjunction with the community development corporation, the library is offering grant writing work sessions.  In addition, OPL serves as a virtual workforce center saving people the 45 minute trip to Montrose.  For townsfolk investigating their future, they provide counseling from the Small Business Development Center.  Online they have helpful employment data from Glassdoor plus resources on a fascinating Ouray effort on sustainable living called Transition OurWay.

Lizza has plenty to keep her occupied

Lizza has plenty to keep her occupied

Multiple murals drew me to the children’s section where wonderful images, painted by Tracy Imhoff who owns the art store here, adorn the walls.  There’s Eloise, Piglet and Clifford, whilst diminutive Garfield and Odie find space between two racks.  A wicker basket of plush creatures sits above the children’s A/V case which is edged by a picture of Winnie the Pooh climbing a tree towards a honey cache.

I chatted with Jill Fellow, the mother of the toddler above, who loves OPL’s local history collection.  A short time ago, she moved here from UT and the east coast, and since her ancestors lived here she’s been using the library to research their lives.

Murals and mobiles in Children's

Murals and mobiles in Children’s

The kid’s room has neat miniature upholstered benches whose backs have wilderness scenes made of iron.   Purple and yellow designs enliven the legs on Lizza’s table and a long sheet of drawing paper and crayons covering another invite tots to exercise their imaginations.  There are lots of wooden puzzles, toys and stuffed animals, and bins full of board books sit on a bottom shelf within easy reach of their target audience.  Even the radiator is decked with colorful caterpillars and a mobile of origami birds flies down from the ceiling.

Miss June engages the younger set with craft and storytimes, monthly tweens and teens programs and quarterly preschool puppet shows.

Armchairs by the periodicals

Seats by the periodicals

In the media area, patrons can sit in leather upholstered Queen Anne armchairs when reading magazines by the audio books and copier.

Fiction, local interest titles, the Colorado Collection and back issues of Plaindealer, the weekly paper, are on this floor.  Above an exhibit of John Fielder’s magnificent coffee table books on our state are materials about “Exploring Our Mining Heritage.”

Lit display of crystals by the entry

Lit display of crystals by the entry

OPL has five public access computers and wifi that can be used when the library is closed.  Its busy facebook page features snaps of the book sale, summer reading events and some of the activities like canyoneering and ice climbing that make the region such a draw.

Since topography is so important to the adventurous lifestyle of residents here, they have both the UT and CO DeLorme atlases.  There’s a Business Resource Center, and a permanent booksale section by the tax forms and CO election information.  They have e books and e audiobooks and shelves of young adult novels too.

Great how they maximize their use of space

Great way to maximize space

Going downstairs I realized there’s a third “floor” on the landing where a big case of DVDs resides.  It’s flanked by paintings of rugged ranges atop green meadows hosting Colorado blue columbines and new gold letters on a green background announcing this is the Ouray Library.

Inexpensive alternative to an elevator

Inexpensive alternative to an elevator

On the basement level I spy a dumbwaiter, a great retro way to move items up and down.  Truly OPL is a unique facility.  They hold fundraisers at an Irish pub and the Friends of the Library Christmas Carol Luncheon includes a fashion show.

The library strives to work with local entities.  They are sponsoring one of the poets for the “Open Bard” Poetry Series in nearby Ridgeway and promote the event on their website.  This isn’t their only partnership – there’s quite a long list of businesses that supported their summer reading program and they are getting ready to kickoff Read the Book, See the Movie in conjunction with the Wright Opera House just across Main Street.

OPL has two book talks a year – recently, Don Paulson and Jeff Burch came to talk about their book Peaks of the Uncompahgre, and the Colorado Poet Laureate, David Mason, has visited.

Wonderful wood trim adds to the appeal

Gorgeous wood trim adds to the appeal

This floor is just as striking as the one above – gleaming wainscoting and artwork appear amidst the nonfiction, science fiction, biographies, reference and literary classics.  The Zanett Room in memory of Rosa and John Zanett is down here, as well as the computer area and a microfiche room with a typewriter, laptop and printer (and a door which affords privacy so tutors can use it).

As I left, I noticed this pretty materials drop box next to the vending machines, bathrooms and advertisements for the CO talking book library.

The bookdrop sports a reminder of why people live here

The bookdrop sports a reminder of why people live here

OPL really makes the most of their taxpayer dollars.  Despite limited resources, they are able to have an effective website using the Plinkit template (a great example of Coloradans working together as are the links to AskColorado 24/7 virtual reference and to the historical CO newspapers) and I love their link, Ouray Author and Book News, which promotes writing in citizens.  It’s just one more innovative feature among many.

What a library and what a place!

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