Tremendous Trieste


Bordered by Croatia to the south and Slovenia to the east, Trieste, Italy clings to the lower reaches of a karst plateau.  Flanking a cobbled walk and reached by either steep streets or staircases Biblioteca Comunale Quarantotti Gambini’s (BCQG) locale is typical of this tranquil metropolis on the Adriatic where the maze of narrow, crooked byways in the città vecchia (old town) lead down to attractive pedestrian areas and vast piazzas.

I passed through here 37 years ago and was so taken with its peaceful and statuesque demeanor I had to return.


Fama, Carmela and Clio

Director Carmela Apuzza graciously gave me a tour, despite my knowing no Italian (and I apologize in advance for any mistakes I’ve made due to my translations or misunderstandings).  We chatted a bit with Fama at the front desk who had a great grasp of English, and helped Carmela and I communicate.

The library is on one level, but conveniently, the space for adults is across the road, so noise is not an issue for older patrons.


Heading into an area for the tiny tots I was charmed by the glowing blond wood and sturdy furniture, especially the choo-choo train full of board books wending its way about the room.  Primary hues cover crates and hassocks and accent bins and shelves raised from the floor for easy cleaning.  A wall full of cross stitch panels crafted by youngsters catches my eye as does the nautical motif in the storytime nook (after all this is a large port).


Antonella Farina beams as she proudly shows me around her lair, but I made her sit for a snap of her desk loaded with toys and stuffed animals guaranteed to intrigue bimbos (I was delighted when my Italian sister in-law informed me years ago that this word means babies).


Antonella Farina’s charges are six and under

Nati per Leggere (Born to Read) is the slogan for the big push for early literacy and BCQG hosts many fun activities surrounding this issue, often incorporating music or games.


Hang your coat from little alligators, elephants and parrots

As evinced by the cloakroom, everything in this section is sized for toddlers so displays and picture books are within easy reach, even for the not quite ambulatory.


Just outside is an enormous patio where staff often hold affairs.  Enjoy expansive views of the red roofs and surrounding ranges as you stroll among trees, shrubs and oversize planters.


Nearby, older youths have a large assortment of colorful titles to choose from and four internet stations (some filtered) plus two computers for schoolwork, listening to music or watching videos.  Kids have book clubs, outings at nearby seaside resorts, concerts, Easter egg hunts, programs like Magic Snack and Confetti in a Jar, lectures on the environment and the importance of vegetables 😉 and cultural seminars like Shoah Holocaust Remembrance Day.

A video on the busy Facebook page shows everyone joyfully celebrating Carnevale at Plaza Unita.  Elaborate costumes, the pastel swirl of ethnic dancers’ skirts and general revelry accompany the library’s literary themed float decorated in Sendak characters and gigantic tomes.  Regional announcements and lots of photos pepper the site.  Mother’s Day in a park pictures rapt children on a blanket listening, shots portray quiet moments of parents engaging offspring.  After a party and delicious desserts, volunteers and employees smile over a big success, then cheerfully dance around with brooms cleaning up.  At a vaccination clinic BCQG cleverly brought books to distract kids from a fear of inoculations and there’s a movie of a rep from the Romanian community (recent donors of native language items) speaking about their way of life.


Note the neat dioramas right above the PCs

Helping under 19’s enjoy reading is a high priority and the biblioteca involves the whole city – professors, teachers and schools, professionals, parents and caretakers – in the materials selection process through a series of meetings on quality reading and format free literacy.  Attendees can discuss and share their favorites.

Lending collections go to schools and community centers, class visits are frequent (students even blog about the experience) and teachers have double borrowing privileges.  Also, Trieste partners with 362 Italian cities in a countrywide project Centro per il Libro e la Lettura connecting state and local institutions, associations, bookstores, and other invested parties in the effort to provide access to reading via usual channels as well as at festivals and events and during Maggio Dei Libri (May Book Month).


At another branch, teens and young adults attend lessons on comics, graphic arts, design, and fashion, and there are interactive digital logic labs and author talks.  All age happenings present the traditions and customs of various groups and the series A World of Stories has representatives of all the populated continents with sessions on New Zealand, Europe, Hebraic culture, Cuba, etc.

The library has bilingual titles and storytimes and Italian-Slovenian and Italian-English functions.  Books come in English, Russian, Portuguese, French and Spanish.  They have some adult Arabic volumes and a number of children’s Arabic books.  And many classics come in Italian and the original tongue.


Language study scaffale

Italy has taken more than its fair share of refugees, and BCQG welcomes them with free Italian courses for foreigners.  On May 25th they have a graduation party outside.

As we headed over to the other part of the library, Carmela points out the three flags for Trieste, Italy and the European Union by the entrance.  Italy celebrates its EU partnerships, and I’d already spotted an EU map with money, flags and points of interest for all the participating countries.


The Adult Area is a few steps away

It seems that public libraries have always been important (and political and nationalistic) here.  Beginning in 1861 Slovenes promoted nationalism with “citalnice” (reading cabinets) run by volunteers.  They later established libraries that closed during WWI but when they tried to reopen the Fascists objected.  There were violent clashes and in 1927 a decree closed all Slovenian institutions in Italy.  Only a fraction of their heritage was saved.

Meanwhile, the Minerva Society opened Via degli Artisti, (the Society for People’s Reading) in 1869.  In 1910, after 41 years it ceded its charge to the public foundation, Popular Municipal Library of Trieste, which, under various names, had had a reading room since 1901.  Though briefly closed during World War 1 and again in 1918 while governance was in flux between Austria and Italy, it reopened in 1921.  Six additional sites debuted in 1924 as public literacy skyrocketed.  Politics reared its ugly head in 1926 when some bibliotecas were closed due to the belief that they weren’t spreading a strong Italian national feeling among the populace.  But in the fifties the newly formed National Reading Service revived many of the libraries closed due to fascism and opened new locales all over – one in a school had 15,000 volumes and there was even one at the jail.  Closures and new locations followed, but in 1998, BCQG arrived then moved to this location in 2008.  Whew, quite a turbulent and tenacious history!

This biblioteca was named in honor of Pier Antonio Quarantotti Gambini, an Italian novelist,

IMG_5471journalist and poet who was the director of Biblioteca Civica “Attilio Hortis” (the most important library in Trieste) during World War II (1943-46) and the recipient of the Bagutta Prize (and a handsome man as can be seen, despite the glare from my awful photo).

This side has the same Italian flair – soft lighting, neon walls, bright red carts and those funky orange, black and yellow chairs.  But here brushed chrome pamphlet racks and stacks complement the gleaming gray floors.


Bratislav in media

Carmela introduced me to Bratislav whose excellent English helped me discover more about BCQG and about information science education in Italy.  Carmela has a degree in literature then took classes specifically for libraries.  Each year she takes continuing education courses to update her skills.  Typical for libraries worldwide, there are never enough funds to buy as much as desired, but each year she gets a budget from the city which she spends on recommendations and giving the public the materials and services they want and need.

BCQG has 28,000 items, organized by Dewey Decimal Classification all in the online catalog and in the national one.  Services are free to EU members and anyone can use things while in the library.  They have a meeting room for 30 people, reference help, ILL, large type and audiobooks (some specifically for the visually challenged are labeled in Braille).  Reserves are placed by phone or email and a diplomatic archive and two smaller locations are in the vicinity.

Once a small publisher, Carmela kindly gave me BCQG’s treasury of local kid’s stories and the hardcover Raccontami Chi Ero, an assortment of myths and legends told by artists from all over the globe (Colombia, Ukraine, Tunisia, Greece, Angola, Kurdistan, Burkina Faso, the Albania Rom…).


There’s air conditioning and as long as no one is waiting you can use one of four internet stations for up to four hours per day (one hour at a time), though most customers hook up to the free wifi on their own devices.

Provided in conjunction with the Stelio Crise State Library, the MediaLibraryOnLine allows users to borrow e-books, stream video or download language and e-learning courses, audiobooks, music and video games.  Searchable databases, historic documents and online encyclopedias have over 1,700 newspapers and magazines, mainly in Italian.  Besides Facebook, BCQG has an RSS feed and Twitter and YouTube accounts.


New stuff

According to the copyright law Italy follows, the latest DVD cannot be borrowed
until 18 months after the first edition is issued, but there are many appealing recent acquisitions, you just have to be a little patient 😉

Offerings for adults include musical cabarets and book talks – one on Elements of Vedic Cosmology comes complete with a pianist, flautist and a scarf swathed dancer demonstrating the sacred dance of Isis.  Exhibitions showcase female writers and films featuring actresses, or highlight a special day like Nowruz (New Year) …”to all our friends from Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia, Georgia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan…”

The 21st of March is dedicated to so many things – elimination of racial discrimination, forestry, poetry, Down syndrome… – that they couldn’t choose, so created a case that honors all of these!


View of Trieste and nearby mountains from Castello di San Giusto

Residents of this corner of Italy are lucky indeed to have such a marvelous team working for them!

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Debonair Deshaies

Butterfly shaped Guadeloupe in the Leeward Islands has close to half a million people and is the biggest EU territory in North America.  An “overseas region and department of France” they speak French and Antillean Creole and offer a fascinating mélange of two cultures.


From the mercifully dry Trace du Nord Basse-Terre

We stayed near Deshaies on the western wing where spectacular beaches fringe the shore and inland, the rainforest and an active volcano define the mountainous topography.

Torturously twisted roads cling to the coast turning short distances into long drives, so luckily Guadeloupe has around six public libraries spread across the island and the bibliothèque municipal de Deshaies (BMD), was just 4 kilometers away.


A blue sign downtown on the main drag announced the library, an intriguing two story structure with three facades of floor to ceiling windows topped by setting suns.  Walking passed this solemn statue and an aquamarine spiral fire escape, I admired the lush tropical trees and bushes and the radiant blooms spilling out of a wood plank flowerbed surrounding a tall palm.  Big burrowing crabs scurried back into their holes as the roosters and I made our way through the parking lot to the entry in back.

A tiled tier took me into the building where I was greeted by three staffers at the circulation desk.


As you’d expect, none of them spoke English and I must confess that my college French has suffered while learning Spanish for the last eleven years.  Since the dialect here is liberally spiced with Creole, my comprehension was negligible and speaking the language got me nowhere, so much of this post is speculation.  I’m not even sure that all three women work at BMD, though there was one computer downstairs and two upstairs…


Pour les enfants

I can confirm they have air conditioning (a must to protect books from humidity) and a storytime twice a month.  The village’s Facebook page includes invitations to BMD activities like Parents Café where you can chat with a psychologist about giving your child the tools to succeed in school.


Journaux pour les jeunes

Unfortunately other programs on FB having to do with youth and sports and games and animation are evidently too much for Google’s translator, but they sound like a lot of fun.

Along with the books arranged on spiffy red and yellow wire racks, kids’ have a selection of comics and graphic novels to choose from.IMG_5181

It’s a cheery space, with lots of light and everything has a French West Indies flair.  Birds of paradise sprout from an upended log under a straw hat and orchid loaded branches adorn the many fuchsia and yellow posterboards honoring des femmes Caribeennes and other female role models.


Little driftwood easels and a music stand are original ways to highlight recommended titles.

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, waving fronds filled my field of vision.


I didn’t find any evidence of wifi or public computers up here, and the websites for all of the Guadeloupe public libraries are quite brief, but it’s possible that at least some residents have access to digital resources through LAMECA, which is headquartered in the capitol and has downloadable books, movies and music for its subscribers as well as Caribbean themed dossiers, articles, exhibitions and images.


Adult section

A large room with a piano, stacked seating, and a screen provide a great place for town happenings.  Facebook mentioned a talk by a local historian and coaching and information sessions on topics like property taxes and your health.


A cozy alcove beckons readers…


…and has a great view of the harbor, as do the porthole windows scattered about.


In the reference area, you can browse a number of volumes on the region’s history.


And vertical venetian blinds help the HVAC keep things cool.

Despite the lack of audiovisual materials at BMD, other public libraries on the island seem to carry CDs, CD Roms and DVDs as their names include the word “médiathéque” and at least one of the websites gives loan limits for AV items. Unfortunately, my initial, admittedly cursory, search led me to concentrate my efforts on a bigger institution, but I was never able to get permission to take photographs there from the top brass 😦


Back outside the front door I noticed a tent set up for an upcoming annual event.  The Terra Festival is a competition in conjunction with the national park that celebrates cinema and the ecosystem – there are categories for long and short films and a “minute for the environment” as well.

IMG_5310Libraries and the natural world are inextricably linked in this magical land.

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Handsome Hilton Head

Though just 45 minutes from downtown Savannah, the drive passed romantic stretches of Spanish moss draped trees and marshy South Carolina Lowcountry brings you to a different world.  You probably know the island as a golf mecca with beautiful beaches, but despite all the new construction, nature is thriving.  Bike trails run along vast swampy tracts of abundant foliage…


Yikes!  Luckily we didn’t encounter any voracious reptiles

…and the Hilton Head Island Public Library (HH) sits on a nicely forested campus.  Circling bronze statues of petite readers, a drive leads to the landscaped entryway of the tasteful one story brick facility.  Covered by peaked green metal roofs, it’s quite big – 26,900 square feet on one level.  Behind varnished teak and aquamarine wrought iron benches, azalea bushes add color along the portico.


The large tiled lobby is loaded with area information on sandwich boards, wire racks and easels.  A double sided mahogany vitrine shows off an array of miniature ceramic cottages and affords a tantalizing glimpse into Children’s as you sit on a polished granite slab taking in the geometric designs leading up to the glowing wood slats of the raised ceiling.


Bernie and Sue, Friends and friends

Across the hall, spilling from its confines, the Friends’ Shop sells audios, videos, kid’s materials, paperbacks and hardcovers.  One of the many Friends of the Hilton Head Library contributions is a film series and I was delighted to see they were airing the wonderful Arsenic and Old Lace along with newer movies like Sully.

HH has a number of programs and several book groups (one for seniors).  Meditation Mondays, a legal clinic, Introduction to iPhone, software and internet classes, yoga,   Spanish-Language Library Orientation, a flute concert and talks on local history and preservation or on what it’s like to hike the entire 2,663 mile Pacific Crest Trail are just a sampling.


Down a corridor resembling a gallery, the large meeting room seats 140.  For more intimate occasions, the small conference room has a capacity of 25 and sectionals can be arranged to create a long table surrounded by snazzy purple wheelie chairs.  They also have four little study enclosures each outfitted with a computer.

HH is one of five locations of Beaufort County Library (BCL).  The system has a foundation and a wide variety of community partners allows them to maximize services.  Two of the branches have media labs and in May a new bookmobile starts its route.


Inside, by the oak planters flanking security gates, there’s a handy wheelchair and walker.  Natural light from high panes floods the interior and to the right is an elegant circulation desk, spiffy checkout terminal and holds self pickup for their 116,000 items.

An unfinished jigsaw puzzle beckons as do featured titles topping low cases and round kiosks and displayed in the New Books cabinet by the front door.  Art work and wall sculptures complement attractive furnishings and a circular podium of PACs leads to some of the fifteen adult PC’s…


…and then to Teen Central’s six additional stations.  Young adults lounge on bean bags or barstools accessing the wifi and perusing manga.  Posters tacked to racks of popular YA novels promote tweens and teens acrylic painting or invite them to feast on pizza while solving an after hours murder mystery or celebrating the Superbowl at the Madden Football Tourney  (kids have one too, but during the day).


BCL has a Pinterest account and a very busy facebook page loaded with pictures – I had to laugh at one of a teensy girl reading to an enormous dog about five times her size.  Videos from another branch show the building from a drone’s perspective and adolescents demonstrating a Rube Goldberg machine.  Photos of happenings range from author talks to the Orchestra Petting Zoo to a lecture on preserving the past by gathering memories from your elders and a Civil War re-enactor describing the horrific conditions faced by the injured.  Notices remind you of Conversation Café and seminars for social security planning or end of life issues.


So open and airy

The BCL website offers Hoopla music, movies, TV shows, graphic novels and more plus 3M ebooks and audiobooks, LearningExpress, Mango Languages and Discus (Digital Information for South Carolina Users) state wide (and mostly state funded) periodical database.  Signup for emails when new titles are added in your favorite genre or scan your branch’s very own newsletter.  A page for Black History Month highlights recommended materials in multiple formats and instruction and exhibits on researching African-American genealogy as well as a discussion of the Gullah language, still spoken by a quarter million inhabitants of this coastal region, led by a writer versed in the subject.

Events on the electronic calendar include coding, quilting, Pokemon, math, cooking, coloring and chess clubs, line dancing, violin classes, Zumba and 3D printing, video editing and stop motion animation sessions.  They have a winter reading program and I was salivating over the Second Annual Chocolate Olympics.

By the magazines, a reading area looks onto a peaceful garden alive with palms and ferns.  Vines trail from ceramic pots and ground covering between flagstones makes an interesting checkerboard pattern by a three tiered fountain.


If you get locked out as I did, tall decorative gates take you through a wall swathed in ivy, up a path and back to the foyer where, saving the best for last, I went into the kid’s room.


Children’s Librarian Greg, a camera shy 15 year HH veteran, kindly turned on the overhead stars that shine in a night sky down into the stage/storytime chamber where Wee Read Storytime for tiny tots and one with hands on activities for older boys and girls take place.


Signage courtesy of denizens of the deep

Youth has four game computers and two internet.  Stuffed animals crowd shelf tops and shamrocks and shiny green garlands proclaim the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday.


Caretakers sit on the red rocker by sunny yellow chairs as their charges play on the race track rug.  If the baskets of toys fails to occupy children, parents can pull fun things to do from clear containers labeled by age and theme.

Plentiful storage cupboards keep it neat and early literacy items are stowed in cute Pup Power luggage.  Bright interlocking plastic bins are full of board books and beasts clutching cherished titles adorn the walls.


Love these two handy holders

HH has special evening bedtime tales, Legos and a movie, Drop-in Crafts and a party for Winnie the Pooh’s birthday.  Something on a Stick Day for young ones conjures up images of all sorts of tasty treats.


The Family Success Center has six PCs and can also act as a computer lab.

The island has about 50,000 full time residents, but the population triples during vacation season.  HH closed for a bit last year due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew, just one scary reminder of the perils of living in paradise.

The library has Playaway audios and launchpads preloaded with content for kids or adults which lets them experience the tablet concept before buying.  MP3 audios are available and selected students get around bad or nonexistent internet access at home by borrowing a SmartSpot device that sets up a mobile hot spot, so they are basically loaning wifi!


Cathy, the reference librarian, helpfully gave me facts and figures.  I envy her as I adored my eleven years in that position.  As a trivia buff, it was the dream job, but by the time I left, the internet was so pervasive, true “reference questions” were a much smaller part of how we assisted patrons.  As the greatest segment of their population is older than sixty five, she still does the reference of a decade ago since many elderly customers don’t use the web.

Behind Cathy, a giant grizzly bear watches over the local history texts near back issues of newspapers and microfiche equipment.


Rarer district treasures reside in the stunning South Carolina Reading Room.  Evoking a private library of an ancient mansion, a movable ladder provides access to tomes high up on the floor to ceiling shelves and a pretty Queen Anne escritoire tempts you to grab a quill pen and parchment.  Upholstered chairs by the cozy fireplace and two rectangular tables supply ample space to study a volume from the business collection housed here.

At the back of the stacks, sea glass shaded sconces illuminate carrels and little bronze birds floating overhead add to the illusion of being outdoors.

img_5026Hilton Head is lucky to have such a lovely library and the dedicated, innovative and friendly staff and volunteers are icing on the cake.

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Timeless Tybee


The easternmost point in Georgia, Tybee Island reminds me of the coastal hamlets of my New England youth.  Just up from the massive pier (unfortunately closed since sustaining damage during Hurricane Matthew last fall), the street is full of beach shops and seafood joints.

Running parallel to the sand, the main byway is dotted with hotels, summer rentals and the Tybee Library (TL).


Part of Live Oak Public Libraries (LOPL), the tri-county Savannah region system, TL is a friendly spot serving about 3000 residents and any number of tourists.


A long wheelchair ramp leads to a tiled foyer featuring a plaque honoring donors and a selection of informational pamphlets below the fantastical verdigris ship sculpture Sailing through the Power of the Mind, a chandelier by renowned ironworker, Ivan Bailey.

The one floor building has a raised roof set off by jaunty blue and white rickrack partitions.  Prior to opening in 1988 they were in a wing of city hall next door.  The fields and palm trees of the YMCA are on the other side, and conveniently, just down Butler Avenue you’ll find Tybee Island Maritime Academy, a charter school that uses TL as its library.


Manager Laurel Powers was at the front desk when I arrived and she gave me a warm welcome and was able to chat for a bit between patrons.  They love to dress up the place and though it was mid February, were just taking down Christmas decorations to free space up for Mardi Gras paraphernalia like the garland bordering the top of the glass.  Not ones to be caught off guard, they were already preparing kelly green St. Patrick’s Day rosettes.

Laurel praised her talented staff and said that coworker Ellen O’Leary created this wonderful octopus in the story time room…


…so big, its arm extends onto the ceiling.  Fun pieces hang on the walls and Michael P. White, illustrator of The Library Dragon, donated two sunset shaded paintings of the island, one with the bibliophilic sea creature lurking just off shore.


TL has six public computers and 24/7 wifi.  LOPL’s website offers titles from Georgia Download Destination, TumbleBooks for kids and movies, magazines, books and audios from various vendors.  There are journal databases as well as language learning, practice tests and online tutoring for all ages.  Choose from mobile-friendly e-blasts on topics ranging from Education & Careers to History (learn about the unexploded nuclear bomb off Tybee Island!) & Genealogy.

When I scanned it, the Facebook page had a vibrant “Celebrate Black History” banner and was splashed with rave reviews of the library, recommendations, interesting articles and useful tips, shots of board and Friends meetings, and of the fascinating traveling exhibit Gray’s Reef on the Road.  I was intrigued by the collage of photos from a “Walking Dead” night and saw announcements for local, cultural and pertinent happenings and for free assistance enrolling for benefits like Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, an effort to improve children’s health.


Tall windows look onto green vistas by the magazines and paperback spinners

LOPL has nineteen branches, a bookmobile and school outreach plus delivery to senior and daycare centers and the homebound.  Ten meeting spaces (one here) are available for the public to reserve and there’s a career center and a foundation.

At the numerous locations customers borrow Kill-a-Watt energy conservation kits or go to Tea and Tales, writer’s groups, credit workshops, Medicare 101, yoga, GED and internet classes or get advice at computer labs or healthy heart and money management sessions.  To celebrate turning 100 last November, the Bull Street Library, which holds administration, is presenting thoughtful portraits by local artist Panhandle Slim of some of the award winning nonprofit Deep Center‘s participants.


In the stacks

TL itself hosts events like Family Game Night and holiday crafts.  Adults make bookmarks, join the Bookworms or relax at a congenial gathering of coloring aficionados.

Tybee used to have an ocean view until the condos across the road blocked it, though under the right conditions you can still catch a glimpse of the Atlantic.  It has three employees including full timer Laurel who’s been here seven or eight years and at another LOPL branch before that.  The aforementioned library assistant Ellen is part time as is page Barbara.


Sally is on left, Barbara to the right

Their dedicated volunteers – Sally, one of three selfless souls who help out regularly, has been here for many years – really come in handy.

The miniature lighthouses and romantic seascapes at Circulation are among the nautical themed decorations scattered throughout the facility.  A dictionary stand and a little cart comprising the Book Nook sale sit by the desk, behind which lie the office and a large work area with plenty of shelves, a microwave and a mini fridge.    img_4852

On the right, the children’s wing had dangling snowflake mobiles and is outfitted with pint sized tables, upholstered seats and burnished wood furnishings.  Piles of primary hued cushions and baskets of stuffed animals await the tiniest and separate cases towards the entry display YA titles and graphic novels.

For teens, LOPL has YouTube DIY, coding instruction, robotic theory, knitting and crocheting and Anime club.  They can whip up some ice cream or discover a passion for electronics, solar energy or combustion engines.


Youngsters attend puppet shows, musical storytimes, bingo, infant play dates, ballet lessons, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) activities, or build Lego stuff, construct masks for Fat Tuesday and mix up Harry Potter’s potions.  Home schoolers hang out together and on Noon Year’s Eve delighted tots get a balloon drop.


LOPL lends passes for Zoo Atlanta, the state parks and the Go Fish Education Center – an aquarium and hatchery that has hunting and fishing simulators and a stocked pond to improve your skills.

The summer reading program is huge, and in conjunction with the city the library hosts the annual Savannah Children’s Book Festival.


So if you’re small enough, plop down in this bright blue Adirondack chair – it’ll put you in the perfect mood to soak up some rays after you find a great beach read.

What an asset to this charming laid back town!

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(Practically Antarctica) Punta Arenas


La ciudad and the Strait of Magellan from a mirador

Though Biblioteca Seis Punta Arenas (#6) in Chile is not the southernmost public library in the world, it’s awfully close (I think Puerto Williams, just over one hundred miles south, probably gets that honor if one rules out McMurdo).  In January (their summer) while in Punta Arenas, the largest burg in windy and wild southern Patagonia, I had the pleasure of visiting it.

I spotted the bike racks, pretty wrought iron and varnished wood benches and Biblioteca street sign (as opposed to our reader symbol, it’s an open book) a few blocks from central Plaza de Armas and across from a bus shelter.  Admiring the pink and white etched bricks on the sidewalk…


…I entered a foyer where standing banners advertise available resources and invite users to submit their complaints, suggestions and compliments.  Amid maps of Chile and informational pamphlets, a table captures natural light streaming in through plate glass.  Tots waiting for parents to finish perch on tiny seats next to a small display of kid’s stuff.  Crossing the gleaming tiles, I went down to meet Ninfa S. Vidal, Jefe Biblioteca Pública N° 6, whom I had written to in advance for permission to take pictures.



Ninfa came when they moved here in 2001.  Her degree is in Technical Administration but through the years, she’s taken continuing education classes, earning a diploma in Library Management from Alberto Hurtado University and other credentials.  She also spent time at libraries in Spain learning about their practices and policies so she could implement the best of them at Número Seis.

We started in the basement with Biblioteca Infantil, which can be sealed off to keep noise from filtering upwards.


This charming room boasts multicolored chairs and fancifully painted furniture – little movable shelves are painted with scenes of sharks and orcas, literate teddy bears and crowded streets.  Patterned pillows and primary hued carvings accessorize while a poster proclaims reader’s rights and suitcases full of cultural titles whet your desire to travel, at least virtually.


Wonderful mural wraps around to the right to cover the door

First year students start reading in March, and five months later can read a little by themselves.  So in August, for El Mes del Niño, each six and seven year old gets a book.  Having their very own book encourages reading and during the same fun filled evening, beginners receive a #6 membership as parents and teachers beam with pride.

The library also had an exhibition of images of outstanding children’s authors and does a lot with kids in both government and private kindergartens.  There are school visits and at least one story session per week (often daily during the school year).


Facebook shows chess workshops for kids and teens and a lively story hour with puppets, kamishibai and other activities.  Youngsters in costume perform plays and speak to a regional writer and painter.  Halloween brings Tales of Terror and game playing nights.  Adults get lectures on Antología de los extremos de Chile (Anthology of the Extremes of Chile) and Gnostic Astrology or go to health and UFO talks or scrap booking with all the tools provided.  Photos of community meetings and the latest titles pepper the page.


Catherine Navarro

Up one floor we stopped to chat to the incredibly friendly and obliging staff.  Three full timers work in the 6500 square foot facility.  Catherine’s spot is near the comics, anime and manga.


They also have Rincón de la mujer and Rincón Jurídico y Referencia – women’s and legal and reference corners.  Large heaters occupy each level as even in summer it’s usually pretty chilly this close to the pole.

We headed up three flights…


…passing the lobby where what looks like a life size sculpture of an orc guards your possessions on coat hooks below cut out letters warning if you don’t hang your stuff you risk misplacing it…


…to the light and airy study mezzanine at the top.  Students are on holiday now, but during term, #6 is hopping and gets 150 people a day.

Magazines and newspapers are here and, its windows plastered by flyers of library happenings, a nicely appointed staff room with storage and overflow crafts, as well as cooking equipment, a fridge and television.


Their kitchen and bathroom

There’s a second stairway and a spiffy technology lab where all ages can learn Word, Excel, internet and e-government.  Perfect for older people who may need skills to write to youthful relatives or find a job, you get a certificate once you’ve completed the course successfully.  Outfitted with a printer, cabinets, whiteboard and overhead projector, it’s a benefit of DIBAM, the National Library and Archives Department.


Punta Arenas has five bibliotecas públicas – #6 is the largest and is a legal depository too.  Along with Number 47, it belongs to, and so receives materials from, DIBAM.  The other three libraries depend on the municipality for support.  Ninfa’s location also has Friends who apply for federal grants and raise funds for projects and books.

To promote literacy, each month, #6 brings “Traveling Boxes” to neighborhood associations, charities, sports clubs, retirement homes, hospitals, prisons, preschools, and day care, community and senior centers.

On April 23, World Book Day (designated since it was the date in 1616 when Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (early Peruvian writer) all died), they have events and prizes for readers in five categories – the very young, children, adolescents, adults and elders.  The gift books are sponsored by a local company or donated by an institution (part of Ninfa’s job is soliciting contributions) and winners get a diploma certifying them as the best readers as well.


In the estanterias

Above the stacks, a saying on a plaque roughly translates to Mistreating a book is destroying a dream and a print of an old woodcut of a woman retrieving a book from a well is captioned When a good book quenches our thirst.

Smiling Waleska was busy barcoding things for the national catalog, (a project begun in 2008 by Sistema Nacional de Bibliotecas Públicas (SNBP), ensuring a future when all Chilean public library materials will be accessible online) but along with Catherine, took the time to make me feel at home.


Waleska Ruiz

The Sistema does some printing and produced a lovely diary and a calendar tailored to libraries in Región de Magallanes y Antártica Chilena (there’s even a shot of happy toddlers in #6’s adorable children’s space).  And SNBP handles the website, which offers downloadable articles, books, movies and audios.

Number Six has wifi and five free public computers that are first come first served and if no one is waiting the 45 minute sessions can be extended.  They have around 17,000 books, magazines, graphic novels and a small selection of media that people can borrow, but most videos and DVDs must be viewed in the building.  Cards are free for residents and with the Aleph System, customers can borrow from any library in Chile.  The 2000 cardholders can check out three items for a week or more depending on demand.


Cozy area by Colección Patagónica

It seems wherever you turn, the cultural heritage and bountiful beauty of the country are celebrated and old black and white photos of indigenous people and past events emphasize this.  Ninfa proudly showed me volumes by Pablo Neruda and Isabel Allende, perhaps the country’s most well known literary icons, and a prehistory of Chile.  Number 6 also has a sound archive for Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego with 737 recordings spread over fifty compact discs.  On National Heritage Day, #6 hosts programs and last year to commemorate Chilean chanteuse Violeta Parra, they positioned a speaker to play her songs onto the street.


Justine, Ninfa and Vicky

It’s been a fascinating tour and I feel so welcomed.  Ninfa is lovely and personable as she rattles off answers to my questions, but my Spanish is so bad I can’t understand much until patron Vicky Guisande pops in.  Now living in Croatia, but here on family matters, her work in the tourism industry ensures her English is great.  What a stroke of luck!  Vicky was tremendously helpful in garnering information for this post, though all mistakes here are mine – well, perhaps a few are Google Translator’s as a question about home delivery, their service for those too sick to leave the house, came back implying home birth 😉


Nearby Cementerio Municipal Sara Braun – the most beautiful I’ve seen and a national monument

I was so impressed by the dedication and hard work of the #6 employees.  Everyone is very committed to improving the lives of the population by bringing them books and activities. Citizens of this remote city are truly blessed to have such a marvelous library!

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Clever Clive

Back again in the big skies of the American West, I came upon Clive Public Library (CPL) nestled in the lush rolling hills of central Iowa.

Just half a mile from our hotel in a suburb of DesMoines, it shares a complex with local government administration offices and the chamber of commerce.  Native grasses, scarlet shrubs and a picnic table under trees dot a landscaped campus with ample parking.  Arriving early, I walked around the grounds, marveling at Slow Awakening – which reminded me of a giant but graceful sprouting brown onion – then took the short path down to the Green Belt Trail and a sparkling stream.

I entered the smart glass and brick structure passed glazed jade pots flanking the security gates.

img_3867The warm glow of the book sale nook and a huge banner by a polished wooden bench welcome customers and Plexiglas racks are filled with employment and information pamphlets.

Steph Keller, the library manager, greeted me and we chatted for a bit.  She’s been at CPL 17 years, loves it, and is enormously grateful for her wonderful staff.


Note the futuristic self check behind Steph

Four full and ten part timers work here, and her boss, Todd Seaman, is Director of Leisure Services, and also oversees parks and recreation – so they can avoid the famously fractious relationship between departments shown on TV 😉  The city controls the budget.

Venturing into Teen, I met Amanda the youth services librarian…


Affable Amanda in back

…who credited Steph for choosing the striking lime and blue furnishings.  Around a swirly patterned carpet, bucket seats and padded benches seem arranged for conversation as do bar stools circling a tall table.  Succulents and intriguing pottery thrown by students top the shelves and there’s an oversize Connect 4 setup.    Since CPL isn’t near a school, YA happenings are mostly in summer, but during the term a babysitting clinic, book club, newsletter and Animanga after hours movies and snacks occupy them.


Cozy up with a coffee

Back in the main section I relished the views of vast trim meadows from a reading spot by the fireplace.


Bucolic setting

A single location of 11,000 square feet on one floor serves the 16,000 residents.  The website has downloadable audio and ebooks, Freegal song streaming, databases, Hoopla video and live chat during business hours (or email a question).  A quick peek at the color coded calendar reveals items of interest and members participate in a rewards program for writing brief reviews.

CPL has a super talented graphics person.  Though Teri Nelson, is proudest of her wonderful pastel chalk on blackboard portrayals of Harry Potter conferring with Dumbledore and airborne on Thestral the flying horse,


Teri and two of her magical drawings

I was quite impressed with the professional appearance of her posters which are so good they’ve mounted them in the corridor leading to city hall.


Dazzling designs

Black matted photographs spruce up an alcove by the foyer with five internet computers and a printer.  Here, as elsewhere, chairs have castors so you can easily roll to a favorite position.

Conveniently, row ends have attached tablet style PACs that also promote their mobile app.  At the back of the stacks, plate glass casts sunbeams onto study tables…


Exposed pipes pull your eyes to the soaring ceiling

… and on the romances hidden back here.

The busy Facebook page has accolades from patrons, announcements of new media and loads of shots of smiles at exciting events.  I so wanted to try that static electricity ball, and loved the snaps from the gingerbread house competition.  A really cool display for the 2 Sentence Horror Story Contest submissions obviously encouraged voters and there’s a fascinating video of their February 2016 renovation showing sped-up workers moving fixtures for recarpeting and switching things up a bit e.g. adding a privacy door for Teen’s.

They have ILL, and for a fee will mail materials to borrowers.  Lost and found is right by the exit and CD’s are labeled by subject and face out for browsing.  A leather armchair invites you to relax and peruse a periodical or newspaper and nearby gracious Sadagat, at the long curvy Circulation desk, is ready to answer your query or point you in the right direction.



During the holiday season CPL employees and volunteers will even wrap your presents while you browse – donate whatever amount you want.

High windows keep the meeting room light and airy but focus attention on speakers rather than distractions outside.  With a capacity of 180, it’s a pleasant and practical area enhanced by framed prints, storage closets and a divider.  An accordion screen blocks the potentially messy sink and fridge from sight and two overstuffed armchairs are perfect for older citizens.


Big enough for everyone

Plus, it can actually hold the mass of toddlers listening raptly to tales.  Storytime is so popular, its intended zone in Children’s only works for more intimate gatherings.


So cute, but not big enough for the hoard

It’s too bad the kids won’t fit as the real storytime room is enchantingly draped with fairy lights and outfitted with a charming rug depicting a footbridge and stepping stones crossing a small flower fringed pond.

Flowing lines and lights ringed in bright azure border the Imaginarium.  Cutouts in the wall give a tantalizing glimpse of the treasures inside.


Fish tank outside Children’s

When I first arrived, I couldn’t take any pictures as this snazzy space was in a delightful pandemonium, packed by raucous rompers and their guardians.  When storytime began, it immediately emptied out and I was left with a lone mom on a puffy cushion reading to her son inside the carnival tented jungle gym (it’s too tempting, even though kids aren’t supposed to climb it, they do).

img_3933Pretty oak bins are empty underneath so picture books don’t go astray.  In a corner by the magazines, the game PC’s multihued keys beckon users.  Rubber farm animals frolic on the flat surface of a large toy box while drawers below keep things neat and atop a charming star-spangled mirror, the cow jumps over the moon.  A little auto calls for young drivers and infants fiddle with knobs on wooden boards.  Plush dinosaurs join cloth puppets behind a mini curtained stage awaiting theatrically inclined tots.


Cushy leaf cutouts are perfect for parents

Kids are taught about cooking and safety and pioneer life or craft art pieces and hand sewn sculptures.  There are music and sign language programs, lapsits, play groups (including one for post partum mothers) and bilingual sessions.  Exploration Stations give them a head start in early literacy, dance and drama and therapy dogs build confidence.  Opportunities abound for little ones to dress in princess costumes, watch magic, decorate pumpkins or go to a Halloween hop and a beach party.  Thursday night means fun for all – find out about Brazilian culture or enjoy Zoo Show ‘n Tell and Absolute Science.


Stunning painting by family facilities

Adults attend Books and Beer Club, live performances, lectures on downsizing or author talks (some via Skype!).  Other activities let them make gifts, cards, gratitude journals, book art and Zen gardens.  Seminars on healthy eating and medicare keep the population fit and technology assistance, meditation, tai chi, yoga and job search all help improve stressful lives.  Start a new hobby with classes on genealogy and Pinterest, share DIY ideas, or do the adult reading challenge.  There sure is a lot going on at CPL!


Julia bade a friendly farewell

How clever of the library to create such an attractive and hospitable environment.

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Dynamic DuBois

Driving home from New England in November we stayed in a pleasant hamlet, bigger than expected considering it’s in the “Pennsylvania Wilds.”


Michael amused by the coincidence of Shaffner’s Music House across the street

The lower doors to DuBois Public Library (DPL), a two story structure in the middle of downtown, lead into the meeting room or to a small foyer where autumn leaves decorate a well lit display case of Thanksgiving books.

img_3750In a curved part of this oblong community space, little square windows let sun stream onto the short stage.  Abutted by lots of closets to stow programming stuff, it’s got stackable seating for 50 people and a kitchenette.  On the far end, gorgeous oak and glass cabinets, perfect for exhibitions of collectibles, line the wall.


Rebecca in Youth

Though director Rebecca McTavish was busy organizing the Chamber of Commerce After Hours Mixer and Grand Opening (of their new elevator), she kindly took a few moments to take me around.  DPL’s service population is about 18,000, extending beyond the 7800 or so within city limits.  The budget comes from DuBois (like its namesake in Wyoming  it’s pronounced du boys) and Sandy Township residents and the state.


To main section

At the top of the steps, a skylight provides more natural light.

When DPL began in 1920, it was the only municipally funded library in PA.  This location was constructed in 1979 and has had several renovations.  In 2008 a drunk driver unfortunately slammed into the building so despite a rehab in 2005, they had to fix that, plus some HVAC issues, and a federal grant let them make DPL more accessible.  Both floors have ground level entrances, as per Rebecca, “nothing in Pennsylvania is flat” and total around 12,000 square feet.

img_3773Up here, plants and classy revolving racks set a welcoming tone and tables and the circulation desk were decorated with paper pumpkins.  Wifi is free and there are five public computers and one for the visually impaired.

Online, customers can get chat assistance 24/7 via Ask Here PA or take a survey that keeps staff apprised of what is most important to users.  You can download TumbleBooks and Overdrive ebooks and audiobooks or peruse topics in the numerous journals and databases of the PA Power Library.  A to Z World Map is a good resource for students and the Facebook page publicizes upcoming happenings.

img_3782Browse mysteries and the booksale shelves then follow helpful overhead signage to World War II volumes or the PA history collection of about a thousand items.

A bench in memory of Mildred E. Hafner and a wheelchair ramp flank the upper entrance where a tall C of C banner Stand Up and Stand Out lists local business sponsors and a bulletin board and posters advertise DPL and district activities.  Next to the lobby, a quiet study space for research has audiovisual equipment and a microfiche reader for the Courier Express in all its iterations from the 1800’s forward.  Continuing their tradition of frequently revamping the premises 😉 it was just remodeled so a bathroom for the disabled could be added on the other side.

Grownups go to GED classes and lectures and get fit at line dancing or yoga and relieve more stress at coloring group, and both adults and teens can have fun geocaching.

img_3788A psychedelic carpet and patterned upholstered armchairs announce the spot where YAs have a biweekly reading lounge choosing from over 1200 books, graphic novels and manga.

In the center, long tables hold enticing gift baskets for the Friends’ raffle – they also have a Works of Heart craft raffle in spring and sell tote bags.  A reading alcove presents a view through plate glass.



I headed back downstairs to Children’s, conveniently separated from the rest of the place so older folks aren’t bothered by the joyful noise.


Robyne lit by Tiffany

Robyne Spillers, the Children’s Librarian, started here a year and a half ago.  While chatting, she mentioned her last position was in a Steuben County, IN Carnegie redone by wrapping an exoskeleton around the existing edifice in a fashion similar to my hometown institution.  She’s full time and appreciates the proximity of the performance area in the meeting room as she uses it a lot and keeps storytime cushions in the adjacent cupboards.

I looked around delighted by all the cool distractions.  Kites and mobiles dangle from the ceiling, Tigger and Clifford perch on carousels and an oversize bear slumps by another stack.

img_3716Caterpillars above easy readers highlight the goal of 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.  Plush toys and picture books top the shelves and the slatted surface above promotes titles.

In one corner, caretakers can find parenting information and pamphlets.  The checkout station has indents featuring materials and a family comfort station behind it, and the coatroom is plastered with drawings.

Kid’s events include science and art sessions, bingo, dog shows, kite day, the Halloween parade and three different storytimes per week and they can attend all ages outings like the bike rodeo, potluck picnics and nature hikes.

img_3718DuBois hosts a branch of Penn State who donated a physics pinball table to introduce young ones to the concept of trial and error.

A sturdy wood dollhouse and a neat orange and teal play house catch my eye…

img_3746…by a BRIO train set with drawers beneath for extra tracks.  The panels on the colorful rug it sits on teach the names of animals in English, Spanish and sign language.

img_3726Storage behind puppet show curtains holds jigsaw puzzles, busy boxes, an assortment of blocks and a plethora of planks that let tots learn about everything from hinges to cogs.  Plastic bins contain themed Discovery Kits – insects, music…  All you could want to keep boys and girls entertained.

The citizens of this pretty pocket of Pennsylvania are indeed fortunate to have such a lovely library.

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