Tantalizing Tahiti


The black sand of the west coast – the city lies just beyond the point

About 2600 miles below Hawaii and 1500 east of Samoa, Pape’ete on Tahiti, the largest of the Windward group of the Society Islands, is the capital of French Polynesia, the only overseas country of the French Republic.

Mylène Raveino and Louisa Marmol had been quite helpful when I made arrangements to tour the Médiathèque de Te Fare Tauhiti Nui (MT) but mentioned I’d be coming right after the four day book fair so hoped things wouldn’t be too messy.

Enjoying the refreshing rain, we strolled along the waterfront plaza and promenade to the library.  Composed of a bibliothèque enfants, a bibliothèque adultes and a vidéothèque et cyber espace, the three separate buildings are close together and are all open Monday to Friday until four or five pm.

IMG_5004 I found the adult department first.  After plopping my husband in a chair looking onto verdant foliage I said bonjour to Losa Masei who kindly posed at her station.

IMG_5007MT has romances, novels, records, blockbusters and short stories.  Membership lets you checkout seven books or graphic novels for three weeks and costs between $20-$50 depending on age and whether it’s a yearly or semi annual subscription.

Redone in 2003 this section has over 16,000 items plus access to 600 French journals and newspapers via Pressreader.  Adults go to moderated monthly reading discussions and events for the July Heivā celebration.  The Festival international du film documentaire océanien (FIFO) highlighting the region in the mid to late twentieth century attracted more than 900 people and even screened a documentary on the parasitic disease elephantiasis.

IMG_5012I wandered around admiring the tribal etchings adorning frosted glass dividers by a pleasant reading spot.

The website announces parenting materials and links to recent acquisitions and the catalog.  Choosing from a compilation of 150 thrillers, mysteries, fantasy and adventure titles at the 24/7 online site, Bibliothèque Numérique, patrons download one e book for three weeks.

Future flyers 10-13 experienced steering a jet over Bora Bora using flight simulation software and parents even got a turn at the rudder of the virtual cockpits.  Cinema and staging introduces kids to early Disney and to classic comic actors like Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy or they can build pillars with Legos.

IMG_5018A large bright area, perfect for browsing, hosts the always popular collection of bande dessiné (BD or Franco-Belgian comics like Tintin and Asterix).

The library partners with several government entities for the La Médiathèque historique de Polynésie, a fascinating aggregation ranging from scanned sepia prints, sketches, watercolors, letters, scientific research, manuscripts, maps, primary sources, travelogues and early grammars and dictionaries, to film and radio clips, first person accounts and ethnologies of Oceania going back to 1760.

By the door, handsome mahogany cases present Pacific reference tomes on Polynesia and Oceania for consultation in the building only.

IMG_5027MT is an integral part of the seaside Maison de la Culture complex.  Globes on sporadic lampposts illuminate little tikis on the paths in the early tropical dark.  Crisscrossed palm fronds and fans decorate columns and a flight of stairs up to one of the facilities scattered over the lovely campus.

Like a gallery, the Muriavai Room has rails, white surfaces and adjustable lights.  Artists, photographers, and jewelers forgo the fee by donating a work of equal or higher value.  The air conditioned Mahana and Marama meeting halls and a projection space lined with bleachers for movie nights can be rented as well.

Covered corridors wend through the maze passing benches, pocket gardens, short lava and stone walls and an enormous umbrella tree protecting a raised square for al fresco affairs.


Marine mural

I made my way to the children’s area.  Renovated in 2013 it contains about 14,000 units and advertises biweekly early literacy classes for babies and toddlers and L’Heure du Conte, a free monthly storytime.  Tweens have regular reading rallies – five week spans to finish options from an assortments of books.  Each has a unique theme, crafts and games, and a questionnaire at the end for a diploma.

It was around Thanksgiving, so Youth was decked out for Christmas and I heard the soft strains of Greensleeves in the background.  Flower filled vases and informational pamphlets dot the desk and a woman greeted me pleasantly but was camera shy.

IMG_5053Though MT’s Facebook page started in June, it’s already full of promotions for juvenile albums, discussion groups, senior get-togethers, and holiday concerts.  It gives advice for potential pilots taking the test for the first time and blurbs for teen trilogies.  Images abound of proud youngsters displaying a gorgeous jungle collage and mandala mobiles and waving trophies over their heads.  In others, they make paper blossoms and travel posters, weave baskets, fish, bracelets, whistles and visors from pandanus leaves, and, faces painted like exotic birds, play chess.  An adolescent theater ensemble variously smiles or grimaces and children employ sophisticated tools and drills to shape wood toys, puzzle pieces and Chinese shadow puppets.

Scrolling photos of exhibitions fade from art evoking the Bauhaus architectural movement to vibrant tropical scenes, acrylics and ceramics, sculpture and glass engravings, and student offerings.

Videos include family gatherings and tots smiling backstage at a dress rehearsal for a play and while giving percussive performances.  The swiveling hips and graceful arm movements of an accomplished brigade of females wreathed in leis demonstrate a choreographed ‘Ori Tahiti (similar to the hula but feistier).

Posts plug a fête featuring oils from the local art association and new manga, digital and Polynesian-centric items.  A hiking guide recounts legends and origin myths, planetarium staff reveal the mysteries of the universe, and there’s a cute snap of the contents of the lost and found box in hopes guardians may recognize a missing shoe or favorite stuffed tiger.

IMG_5064Juniors fashion colorful stand up castles, take a genealogy lesson, use taro, sweet potato and pineapples to prepare fabric dyes and delicately tint portraits recalling Modigliani.  There are Easter egg hunts and escape room games and tykes can try decoupage, origami and calligraphy or stylus pens and tablets that produce electronic illustrations.

All ages are invited to create costumes for Polynesian heroes and events concentrating on the traditions of the archipelago teach tots to respect and honor their heritage.  A reading program focuses on water and biodiversity, hugely important in a place where most of the land is liquid.

IMG_5068Kneelers make it easier for taller folks to flip through picture books and there’s lots of seating and tables for homework here.  Snowmen and santas dangle from the ceiling and scoot across the walls, a turnstile has magazines and everything is a pretty pink.

Outside by the Petit Theatre, a bulletin board and a vending machine, a long easel lets rambunctious toddlers scribble off some energy.  The breezy beach location and surplus of shade means it’s a cool spot on hot summer days.

IMG_5101I met friendly Taero Mike (left) and Malateste Ariihau in MT’s third destination, the media division.

Refurbished in 2007, it’s got ten PCs and a big TV.  Get instruction on technology basics or borrow three CDs and three DVDs for three weeks from more than 3000 selections in genres like jazz, blues, reggae, techno, and rap or cartoons, comedies and classic films.

IMG_5103CPUs are packed under shelves and controllers are stored over the alphabetized foreign and French CDs.  A picture of a sailing ship hangs above a cabinet of suggested tunes and drawers in small bureaus hold more music.  Due to the temperature sensitive equipment, it lacks windows but a circus tent roof coated with white wood slats makes it feel airy and open.


Customers engrossed in games at a carousel of computers

For a small fee take Japanese, English, Spanish, Mandarin, braiding, drum, ukulele, drama, Pilates, yoga and tai chi classes.  Or brush up on Reo Tahiti (this native tongue is part of the Reo Māꞌohi family of languages and was suppressed for decades) so you can chat to relatives from different generations.  Seminars for old and young cover perfume, rainbows, dance, drawing, graphics and pottery.  Sign language was so popular the LSF teacher added a second session for langue des signes française.

Leaving we marvel at the intriguing statues and lit vitrines showcasing vivid textiles and carved wood pieces.


Lobby for the Grand Theatre

What a wonderful resource for the 190,000 or so inhabitants of this lush South Pacific isle!

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Famous Fayetteville

We had vacationed in “The Natural State” of Arkansas before so knew how incredibly beautiful it is, encompassing thermal springs, vibrant foliage, forested mountains, swift swollen streams and red rock canyons much like Colorado, our home, but unfortunately the weather was wicked when I went to Fayetteville Public Library (FPL) last fall.


Scenic swings (sometimes)

Parking in its expansive two story garage, I entered the adjoining structure, aka Blair Library, on an elevator to a sizable lobby and patio of clearly labeled recycling bins, quick internet stands and customers enjoying goodies from Arsaga’s counter at scattered indoor and outdoor cafe tables.

Inside, the enormous balcony is an immediate lure and on sunny days sports fabulous views of the Ozarks beyond the sturdy metal railing preventing the curious from wandering off the roof. 

A big TV touts tutoring on Tuesdays and a sandwich board suggests an interactive virtual 3D tour of the home of architect Fay Jones, an imaginative Frank Lloyd Wright disciple (we marveled at his stunning Thorncrown Chapel the following day).

In a shiny nook in the foyer, a blown up Library Journal cover featuring FPL as 2005’s Library of the Year beside numerous design award plaques shows they deserve the “famous” descriptor.


Affable Amy

Stopping at the three person circulation desk, I let them know Steve Litzinger, the director of marketing and communications, had granted permission for photos.  Amy L. and Becky confirmed self pickup of holds and that two of the four levels are public. 

Excited about the expansion, they said it will increase the existing 88,000 square feet by 82,500.  Hoping to move in by October 2020, it’ll add a teaching kitchen and deli and hopefully ensure adequate space for the next couple of decades as the city is experiencing rapid growth and per capita use is twice the US average.


Diagrams and 3D simulations explain the vision

An innovative maker center for graphical and digital production and editing, a virtual reality lab and a “gathering glade” outdoor venue for celebrations and the farmer’s market will be installed.  Voters have already approved 26.9 million dollars but the foundation and supporters are soliciting contributions for the additional 23 million needed to fulfill the dream.


Or take a shopping cart for balance

The library has 93,000 users but serves all of Washington County and has reciprocal arrangements with nearby Rogers and Bentonville so many inhabitants of the northwestern corner of AR are eligible for free membership.  Though the tool collection is temporarily closed, you just need a card and driver’s license to check out fishing poles courtesy of the game and fish commission.  Telescopes, MyFi personal wifi hotspots, laptops, and Chromebooks are available too and they hope to soon lend bikes, kayaks and sporting equipment.  Borrow ten DVDs for a week and other items for a fortnight.

By the meeting room the palette is striking.  Rich purples, deep blues and scarlets are set off by subdued sconces and the soft beacons of pastel neon self check pedestals.

The True Lit Fayetteville Literary Festival is held in this sleek modern area.  Registrars ensconced by glowing panels honoring benefactors fill slots for aspiring authors to pitch to agents.  A plethora of institutions cosponsor Comics for Teens, The Wizard of Oz, family music and workshops on poetry and how to get published.  Students come in and writers and illustrators speak to hundreds of pupils at schools.  Some of the action can be livestreamed.

IMG_4898I met “Friend”ly Norna in the large FOL bookstore.  She told me even with a permanent spot they do monthly sales and some leftovers go to prisons.

FPL Volunteers bring struggling readers and certified therapy dogs together, offsite borrowing to Head Starts, a roadshow of puppets, music and fingerplay to all daycares and Pre-K ‘s in Fayetteville, “Lending Hands” for homebound delivery and short stories and song to three nursing homes.

Community entities are partners for the grant funded Books and Bites for low income, at risk and food issue constrained youngsters.  Emphasizing health, it entertains and enlightens while exposing youths to delicious foods and nutritious recipes.

IMG_4908Curved consoles hold recommendations by a handsome portrait of Jim Blair.  Nearby spaces named for Roberta Fulbright and Ann Henry testify to the abiding affection the library generates in kind hearted citizens.  To the right, low wavy units in media offer audiovisual materials and books on CD for all ages.

The enlargment can’t be ignored.  Easels give information on the project and through myriad floor to ceiling panes hulking black girders are almost always visible.

IMG_4859The rain, the well attended literary gala plus a popular children’s program finishing up made for an extremely busy Saturday.  As the short horde departed and the disinfectant brigade started, I meandered over to an aqua alcove where cutouts of butterflies adorn small blue seats matching picture book bins and complementing the oversize chair and hassock perfect for reading to offspring in a skylit recess framed by scenes of wild creatures in their natural environments.  Representing the classical elements, the murals, tones and decorations of the four niches variously evoke earth, fire, water and air.


Jabberwocky is usually found in the fire themed section

Sadly you can’t climb on the dragon as the fearsome two headed beast could topple over.  Pushed into stacks to accommodate today’s event, a papier-mâché monster keeps it company from atop a nearby shelf.

Kids visit animal shelters to read to cats, an enchanting experience for both.  Starr Island’s got 18 computers and six touchscreen AWEs to draw on.

IMG_4894In a mauve space Heather Robideaux, the manager of adult services, was preparing for a presentation and we chatted about my blog.

The library started in 1916 and for a long time participated in cooperative agreements with others but in 2004 a referendum determined it would be an independent city organization.  Made possible via an eighteen month sales tax initiated in 2000, a capital campaign, and a bequest of $3,000,000 from Jim Blair, its moniker is in memory of his wife, aunt and grandmother.  It opened in 2004 at a cost of 23.3 million, the first LEED building in Arkansas.  Certified silver in 2006 due to the smart growth of the downtown locale, solar panels, waterless toilets and the green roof’s rain capture system, an astounding 99% of construction waste was recycled or reused.


Bags of wooden puzzles hang beneath emblems for the four motifs

FPL puts on a Second Sunday Author series, hosts a social services guru and a truck serving free summer lunches for K-12 pupils.  Get fit doing yoga, meditation, Zumba and Tai chi, or learn about tiny houses, setting goals, buying a home, credit reports and repaying student loans.  A local bank provides three remote returns and there are five book clubs.

On the website, staff picks scroll above as you make a half hour appointment for a reference professional’s advice on starting a resume or tech, genealogy and research assistance.  Links lead to job listings, assorted newsletters and request for purchase forms or browse new acquisitions by format and age.

Download music, books, magazines and video, search databases for arts, business, medicine, auto repair, legal, science and regional material.  Take online tests, classes and language modules or review the juvenile calendar or loads of nonprofit resources for individuals and associations.


Scotty, Rachel, Kyle and Brandy from Facilities

Rachel McCracken had been busy supervising the team wiping down and putting Children’s back in order after the earlier invasion of adolescents had receded, but now had a chance to call Scotty to unlock the Wal-Mart Storytime Room for me.

IMG_4904Fancy illumination on tracks overhead shine on the snazzy stage.  Rows of seats and towers of plentiful primary colored wheelie chairs mean guardians don’t have to sit on the floor.  To the left of the platform, supply storage also has a sink and cupboards for refreshments at the six weekly story times, two each for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

The kid’s department is huge, occupying much of the first level.  Mindful of cold season, sanitation stations cling to pillars by geometrically shaped upholstered benches and a long blackboard by plump armchairs in Parenting.


A rare quiet moment

Activities pack FPL’s schedule.  Past happenings include a performance troupe, comedy, magic and juggling.  Snakes and reptiles stopped by, tiny tots had a Buttons and Bows Tea Party and Lego robotics and there was a plant swap and chess tournament.

The upcoming agenda has walking tours and native flora identification hikes, stuffed animal lock-ins and appearances by guitarists, a harpist, vocalists and a handbell ensemble.  Adults examine museum specimens, have computer, English, calligraphy, and bear hunting lessons and everyone joins in for gingerbread crafts, a festive concert or caroling in the quaint nearby square.

On the marble steps to the collections for adults and YA’s, reminders to silence cell phones are carved into the stoop.

IMG_4920Tasteful muted hues impart a sense of calm.  Sharp edges are few and far between as if the circular desks, rounded fixtures of the Leverenze Room and soaring interior are meant to instill a sense of respite and relaxation.

In the reading hall, green shaded lamps on long tables recall the past.  By potted palms and a petrified pine limb, a wall of glass gives onto magnificent vistas.

Local history has research and microfilm machines, thin drawers of maps, 14,000 print items and an image archive.  Experts address specific subjects and a comprehensive guide online to planting your family tree highlights extensive microfiche of centuries of  broadsheets and gazettes, Cherokee and Choctaw newspapers, official records, village annals, plats and more.  

IMG_4966The Otwell Teen Library has tons of manga, new young adult titles, Playaways, and a vast array of stacks.  Weird sails pull the eye to sunlit windows high up by the raised roof and odd artwork reminiscent of a gargantuan Tic Tac Toe run amok intrigues.  A notice in the Gaming Corner directs you to Reference for the Wii, Xbox and Nintendo controllers or play Parcheesi, Sorry! or Yahtzee.  Tweens working together on assignments spread out in the study enclosures.

YA’s assemble Frankentoys, create lovely ornaments or ugly holiday sweatshirts 😉  They go to movies, monthly meetups and trivia nights, volunteer via 7-Up! and give opinions on an advisory board.   Life skills classes teach tools and cooking, and there’s instruction on painting, film production, animation, audio engineering and coding.


Another amiable Amy!

I felt genuinely welcomed by all the nice employees and was impressed by how many were willing to pose.  Reference librarian Amy Nelson-Lamont enthusiastically answered questions and helped me count the computers.  Up here, the adult lab has 24, one attached to a scanner, five macs, an assistive technology system, six in Genealogy, 15 in YA and eight in the reading area.

FPL has a budget of around six million and about 45 FTE and a total paid force of 88 or so.  Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts keep patrons briefed.  Facebook posts photos of parades and prancing dancers, little ones surrounded by bubbles or scooting down gigantic blowup slides, and of audiences listening attentively to diverse lecturers.  Clips abound of functions and amusements, didgeridoos and blues bands, Super Science and candidate forums and sessions on hearing loss and dementia.

Last but not least, a peaceful leaf pattern on frosted glass atop tall glossy wood planks forms a sound barrier for a sanctuary with a fireplace and coffee table books.

IMG_4950What a pleasant way to spend some time!

This pretty university town is often near the top of US best places lists.  Obviously their forward thinking library is a big factor in those ratings.

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Peaceful Pineville

On a beautiful crisp day last fall we drove through the undulating hills and forests of southwestern Missouri, passing 100 mile views and heeding reminders of Amish horse and buggies in the area, to arrive at Pineville, the largest location of McDonald County Library (MCL).

IMG_4643Near the elementary school and ball field, it’s a sturdy one level brick structure.  The ramp next to the wheelchair van parking leads to a stylish plot sporting old fashioned streetlamps and inviting green benches, perfect for gazing at turkey buzzards circling in the bright blue sky.

On one side of the small glass foyer stands a case of discards and spindle of magazines for sale.  The other side has a basket for the paperback exchange under a bulletin board for community notices.

IMG_4654Just beyond the water cooler at an attractive curved circulation desk dotted by pumpkins and seasonal tchotchkes,  Katharine, Hazel and Velta greeted us warmly.  I mentioned Director Amy Wallain had gave me permission to use my camera but had warned me to avoid a short closure for some upgrades.  We chatted about the next stage of the rehab.  In the last couple of years they’ve replaced shelving, ceilings, lights, carpets and flooring, renovated the public and employee bathrooms and the director’s office, and put cabinets and countertops in a staff room cut from a former reading enclosure.


Touch panel catalogs and phone charging stations were also added

Though Pineville, the county seat, has only about 700 people, their service population is 23,000 so MCL has branches in Noel and Southwest City and is open six days a week.  Via a reciprocal arrangement, visitors from Newton County, on the northern border, are given borrowing privileges.

Twice yearly booksales include audiovisual and children’s items plus unneeded fixtures quickly snapped up by bargain hunting residents or given to teachers at no cost.  Patrons play Scrabble, have painting, embroidery and knitting classes, get basic computer instruction, go to monthly book discussions and check out DVDs stored in miniature trunks behind the desk.  Missouri Libraries 2 Go gives access to downloadable e-mags, e-books and e-audio books.

IMG_4658In the Reading and Study Room, old photographs of buildings complement the stacks of reference tomes and cushy chairs have flat black surfaces for comfortable note taking while you do research.  The space doubles as a function venue and has a big TV and to keep the noise in, a door with cheery ghosts and jack-o’-lanterns stickers.

IMG_4663Pretty relief sculptures adorn the walls above the clean lines of blond wood furniture.

The Facebook page reports an IMLS grant for system wide wifi printing and a presentation from a Civil War expert.  Shots of hay bales decorated by churches and local organizations let you vote on your favorite, be it a toasting marshmallow, pink nosed bull, cheery bumblebee or a winking sunflower.  Hear about job openings or watch videos of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the newest facility and rapt kids enjoying juggling mimes.  When one of the villages had severe flooding last June a post wished them well and waived late fees.  Customers send appreciative comments and love and from the great reviews are obviously proud of MCL and even use the page to announce funerals and suggest donations be made to the library in lieu of flowers.


Popular title display

The iWrite Celebration! contest for adolescents brought in local authors and awarded cash prizes for the first, second and third place winners in three age categories.  MCL often teams up with regional entities so adults finishing summer reading enter a drawing to win cool stuff like a BBQ grill utensil set, succulents and wind chimes.  YA’s get gift certificates, movie tickets and more, all generously provided by stores in the vicinity.

For last year’s space themed program older folks had word searches and a NASA scientist from the area spoke on Starry Nights.  Teens had their own evening event, drop in trivia and scheduled times to hangout, socialize and compete at games while children had a popsicle party, learned about moon rocks and Galactic Galaxies, listened to music and humorous tales, made paper airplanes and went to astronaut boot camp.

IMG_4678The kid’s section is great for curling up on a beanbag in a tepee, playing with the Brio train set or dropping tokens into the tracks on a Rube Goldberg whiteboard.  Padded blue cubes allow for adjustable seating and raccoons, birds and foxes peer from the limbs of birch trees stencilled on doors and the end of the face out easy reads console.

Little ones from the Head Start center and elementary pupils come in for Thursday story times or take field trips for a picnic lunch at a corn maze and a college theatrical production of “The Cat in the Hat.”

Educator cards mean no fines and extended loan periods.  Meet-ups for homeschoolers cover STEAM subjects and explore emojis.  Put on puppet shows, try out a real fire hose and climb into an engine, do the Lego design challenge, go to a children’s book giveaway or use crayons and hairdryers to make exploding rainbows.  At Christmas, mail letters to Santa or pose on his lap and get a free photo and teddy bear generously provided by the telephone company.

The end of the line of public terminals has neon green headphones and colorful pint sized spindle back chairs at an AWE game computer so youngsters can immerse themselves in the action onscreen.

IMG_4681At Pineville there are nine adult stations, six Chrome books and laptops.  The website has a form for requests, highlights new arrivals and upcoming releases and promotes an Amazon partnership so over four percent of your spending is given back to the library.  Subscribe to weekly email updates or search Ebsco databases, HeritageQuest, What’s Next or Tumblebook’s animated offerings for kids up to the third grade.

IMG_4684Board books are within reach of curious kids as is a cupboard full of toddler toys, crayons and drawing supplies and a rack of gigantic storytime selections.  To the right, proclamations in Juvenile Fiction advise youths to Explore, Imagine and Dream and a carousel holds recent acquisitions.

No appointment is necessary for Tuesday technology help and there are lots of fun adult crafts.  Create intriguing holiday trinkets, burlap wreaths, and journals or pour candles at a glitter votive workshop for Valentine’s Day.  Attend lectures on gardening in small spaces or identifying wild edible plants and listen to an honored guest speak on MCL’s impact at an early morning catered breakfast for business leaders.  On Facebook I spot photos of seniors showing off sketches of windmills and farming country and a notice for after school art sessions.

IMG_4703In the Genealogy nook by the new microfilm machine, cartons of fiche and volumes of regional histories, bound censuses and family records pack the shelves spilling into the main collection where big flat boxes house old gazettes.  The system has compiled scans of high school yearbooks going back to the 1940’s (a tremendous effort which I’m sure is greatly appreciated by former students) and an index of newspaper obituaries.  A web based Media Archive has some death notices and images of headstones from district cemeteries as well as miscellaneous documents like marriage licenses and they link to official deeds, tax liens, veteran discharge papers and ownership data and the state historical society.

IMG_4747Multihued bags full of props teaching shapes, numbers, animals and various topics sit by simple puzzles for tiny tots.

MCL delivers loads of entertainment opportunities to its denizens.  Adorable pictures of tiny Easter egg hunters, smiling participants romping in the park, eating delicious snacks and dipping into a chocolate fountain abound as do ones of a junior high agricultural group tending the gorgeous landscaping out front.  Other young volunteers painted Noel’s computer lab.


Peruse a periodical by mysteries

What a pleasant and welcoming place!

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You’re doin’ fine, (Kansas) Oklahoma!

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, I couldn’t resist using the lyrics to one of my favorite musicals.  And boy do they apply to Kansas Public Library (KPL)!  I did some online recon before venturing to this remarkable little institution in the lush rolling hills of northeastern Oklahoma last October.  It’s not often I laugh out loud at library posts, but these were funny and full of innovative happenings, so I had high expectations and was not disappointed.


Michael hugging a persistent puppy patron

The excitement actually started at midnight.  I ignored the tornado warning that woke us, but driving to KPL we passed uprooted trees, downed power lines and massive damage from storms that sadly killed four people over several states.

Arriving at the library we were met by a wriggling dog who really wanted in.  I inadvertently let the door shut on him and five minutes later heard another yip when my husband tried to slip in as the canny canine managed to sneak his paw in the opening.

Despite the cacophony, Peggy, Lydia and Sarah greeted us cheerfully.  Manager Cherokee Lowe had given me permission to use my camera so I knew she wouldn’t be around, but they enthusiastically answered my questions.


Lydia amidst seasonal baubles-Halloween, harvest and monster youth titles on display to left 

A font of information, Lydia told me that conveniently, the K-12 contingent come across a field for the daily 3pm invasion.  For a town of around 800, it’s not a small force – the 394 elementary, 186 middle and 330 high school students depend on KPL for entertainment as they are pretty much the only game in the town.

And the library rises to the challenge.  

From catchy queries guaranteed to make tots giggle and gag to cozy circles around refreshments, there’s lots to please all ages.


Eschew monkey spit and the other nasty choice on the sign for some fresh hot coffee 😉

I watched clips of plate spinning demonstrations and Jenga fun and regular shows by talented performers.  I couldn’t stop chuckling as a local wit pointed his leaf blower at toilet paper rolls on a stick delighting onlookers as the masses of wafting tissue decorated the room.  OKC Improv encourages audience participation and during STEM sessions static electricity makes paper imagos soar and straws become rocket launchers.  A white cloaked mad scientist demonstrates chemical properties and helps little kids walk on eggs without breaking them.

IMG_4512I feel lucky to be here at a relatively quiet time so I can admire how comfortable they’ve made the small structure.  Subdued lighting and plants make the magazine corner a peaceful spot.  Grab a soda from the vending machine and perch on a bar stool for cards or a chess match on this multipurpose surface.  The book sale table is a reminder to stop by the huge Friends maintained Book Barn across the lot.

IMG_4595Such a chock full schedule requires appropriate venues so this tier is a great fit and has space for displays and a scary spider.  It’s perfect for visits from a coloring magician and unicyclists.  Extreme Animals brought a real live diapered joey, a wombat, a skunk striped badger and a baby cayman for attendees to marvel at and I loved the shot of ten people holding a huge yellow python!

Though part of the 15 branch, six county Eastern Oklahoma District Library System (EODLS), KPL’s main web presence is their self controlled Facebook page.  From word a day posts illustrated by amusing definitions, cartoons for bibliophiles and rave reviews to intriguing announcements and pictures of kids reading to dogs, making ice cream and at a unicorn tea party, it’s an engrossing and tantalizing advertisement for the library.

IMG_4525The well used meeting room has a popcorn maker and a big screen TV on wheels.  Magnetic clothespin tie-dye butterflies adorn tall supply cabinets by an adjoining kitchen leading into a tidy office.

For the NASA moonwalk themed Summer Reading last year, a Poor Pluto costume gala ended the roster of movies and programs on the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Earth, the universe etcetera and a shutterbug put up lots of photos of children proudly showing off prizes and holding the stained glass UFOs and papier-mâché planets they’d created.

IMG_4538I spot originality everywhere, from goofy grinning jack-o’-lanterns and skeletons smiling at the window to a gourd painted as a rabbit and another Mr. Potato Head style pumpkin that could be a mouse or boar or pig?  A raven joins the curiosities, bats swoop down from the ceiling and a haunted house floor mat welcomes you in.

Parents can grab a high sided yellow wagon to haul books or babies and by the Global Cinema section are Playaway launchpads for ages 8-10.  Connect4, Bananagrams… pack a case and are available for loan.  A glass unit locks so people can show off collections safely and Plexiglas pockets and red ledges accommodate recommendations on shelf ends and walls.


Galan kindly posed for me – the customers are super friendly too!

KPL has beading classes and game nights, and the system encourages streaming or downloading electronic books, music, magazines, and media.  Or search a plethora of consumer, investment, statistical, literary, small business, job, tech, legal, language, DIY, tax, hobby, and homework databases.  Take practice tests or ArtistWorks’ professional self-paced music and art lessons.  Log into ABC Mouse for thousands of learning activities for young clients or Fold 3 for records and individual narratives from military veterans.

Peruse EODLS’s own digitized newspapers or regional and statewide ones.  Oklahoma Digital Prairie accumulates images, poster, maps… to illuminate the past and there’s genealogy training plus two locations amass local documents and one has 3D printing that is great for archaeological purposes among other things.


Carousel of computers

Lydia, confirmed the 24/7 wifi promoted on the website.  Those with outages at home can park near the premises day or night and surf or do research.  When open, older folks have Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and the internet on the six public stations while the juvenile department has two AWE terminals. 

We chatted for a bit and she mentioned one of her goals for the year was to start this Instagram account.  Though here for six years, she’s part time so to make a full time job, she also works in the closest EODLS facility.  A few years ago a man managed to (accidentally) swerve around several cars and drive his truck through the front of the building startling the ten or so people inside.  Thank goodness no one was hurt but KPL needed to close for three months.  Users had to commute forty minutes round trip to Jay where they continued to receive Lydia’s ebullient assistance. 


I ran across a pair of witch feet sticking out of the stacks

At the Circ Desk I found an EODLS brochure touting “One-on-One help for all services” and listing the branches.  Many have proctoring and notaries and the system has so many functions to choose from.  The crochet, Lego, quilting, home schooling, bible study, coding, reading, discussion and writing clubs, Weight Watchers, NAACP, Toastmasters, Girl Scouts and the humane society depend heavily on the meeting rooms.

EODLS has an interesting organizational model.  More of a consortium than a single entity, the Board of Trustees has representation for all the communities involved.  Decide where you pickup items and return to any site.  Traditional materials checkout for three weeks and renew twice, up to three DVDs get three days and things like exercise equipment, sewing machines, fishing poles, guitars, batons and video games have a seven day loan period.  


Memes we can get behind

Adults and seniors have health care and insurance help, movement workshops, First Aid, computer, GED, ESL and literacy instruction, Tai Chi, dominoes, bingo, PS4 tournaments and lectures on dementia.  Donate books or better yet make a monetary contribution and get a tax deduction, or join a Friends’ group or volunteer your time.

IMG_4579Stem and STEAM seminars teach kids and teens new concepts and YA’s have trivia contests, Zen Zone and learn about investigating crime scenes.  Chili cookouts, escape rooms, family movies, murder mysteries and trick or treating are just a few of the options and all ages have anime and crafts.

It’s worth watching the video segments on KPL’s Facebook page for ideas.  Performers, personnel and patrons participate so wholeheartedly!  I really got a kick out of the musical interlude about stolen cookies and the three little pigs.  Flashing strobes accompanying the wild spectacle of Hoopla Hoops and youngsters rock out to a monster truck band.  To the strains of Men at Work’s “Down Under” a puppeteer’s instrument playing kangaroo, turtle and dinosaur serenade dancing toddlers.  The library is not afraid of noise as the film of tykes pounding on upturned buckets during Drums!!! attests.


Scream, cobwebs and a tower of titles

I applaud their sheer inventiveness – tinted rice makes a palette of sand for bulldozers and youths fashion creatures from clothes pins and popsicle sticks.  I’m a sucker for neon and glowing objects so adored Juggle Whatever.  How great to get to examine the vehicles the police and firemen brought in.  The breadth and range of events is broader than I’ve seen at many big institutions.

Differently themed story times cover various ages levels.  For early literacy there’s Baby Bookworms and Janet leads a series where pool noodles teach letters.

IMG_4580A wall in the children’s area has snaps of enterprising adolescents who have read 100, 200, 300… books.  Four have managed to complete 1000 already.

Select from shelves or bins of board books and settle into tiny scarlet cushioned arm chairs or a mini bentwood rocker.  When finished, simply plop the item into the wire rack arms of a smiling boy and girl.  Hand made wooden puzzles, toys and stuffed animals round out the offerings.


Nearby Dripping Springs Falls is a good day outing

The imagination, energy and commitment of the staff apparently knows no bounds and residents obviously know how fortunate they are to have such an amazing place!

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Farsighted Fargo

The final stop on our fascinating sojourn to the upper Midwest brought us to North Dakota’s biggest city.  Esoteric eateries and quirky outdoor installations abound.  Broadway sports an adorable Peter Max style plaster buffalo and pastel dragonflies flitting across an electrical box.  A block over, two permanently sidelined trains are the perfect canvas for a sunset orange Fargo emblazoned against a teal background melting into a rendering of an ND scene.


FPL from our hotel’s garage

A vibrantly graffitied alley led me to Fargo Public Library’s (FPL) HQ steps away from the Red River of the North.  On Third Street, native grasses and tall skinny trees flank the brick and glass structure and a xeriscape brook of large gray stones bordered by tan wood chips flowing gently along the sidewalk imparts a zen feel.

FPL has a budget of $4,500,000, more than 278,000 items and a million or so annual circulation.  In 2018, over 27,000 attended happenings at the main location and two branches.  Though this version opened in 2009, it began in 1900 in a corner of the Masonic Temple stocked by donated volumes.  Using Carnegie funds the library moved to a dedicated building in 1903.  A 1930 addition doubled their size and in 1968 they settled here.


Whimsy alleviates the stress of disruption from the demolition

Conveniently abutting the government complex, the east and west entries both access a corridor disclosing a bird’s eye view of the new Civic Plaza construction.

The breezeway’s shiny floor, smeared by shadows of tropical hibiscus and potted plants, leads to a café of the same name.  Scanning the illuminating paragraphs accompanying the stunning seizure themed photos and drawings from the Epilepsy Foundation, I note phone chargers at the tables.

IMG_4349Appropriately near the Wellspring for the World fountain symbolizing the abundance of moisture in the Red River Valley, a stand contains an informational chart on an important water diversion project.

Before the security gates, two splendid sunflower mosaics cover the lobby walls.

IMG_4353Bright and cheerful they’ll warm the cockles of hearts during some of the harshest winters in the contiguous US.  Despite the cold and being vulnerable to flooding, Fargo is growing by leaps and bounds and its 125,000 occupants account for 17% of ND’s sparse population.  Often topping livability polls due to affordable housing, low crime rates and high employment, it’s awash in skyways so citizens can easily escape the frigid temps and often walk long distances above ground.

The main library has self check on both levels, wifi and numerous 60 minute internet terminals.  Tourists get an hour for free while non residents pay five dollars for a three month temporary pass and under 18’s need parental permission.  Cards are free to city dwellers and students and systems in West Fargo and the Lake Agassiz seven county region have reciprocal privileges.

IMG_4357At the front desk, Cheryl welcomed me warmly and kindly agreed to pose.  I picked up a map, great for navigating the vast edifice and extremely useful later as a memory aid, and started poking around.

A clearly labeled tornado shelter is always a plus as are bins under self check stations so holds slips are recycled.  By a banner for One Book, One Community, pamphlets and papers provide something to peruse while waiting for a meeting.

Or pop into the large Friends’ store and feel good knowing you’re supporting efforts to finance fun, fixtures and youth activities.

IMG_4362There are loads of opportunities to contribute.  Memorial plaques add vivid splashes of color close to the Dawson and Fercho conference rooms.  Benefactors sponsor labs, alcoves, an array of frontier paintings…  Volunteers shelve and supply backup for programs.

The organization’s community spaces have A/V options and can be rented if free and open to the public.  Most have kitchens and don’t charge book groups, municipal entities and some nonprofits.

The rest of the first level is devoted to Children’s and its many named family spots pay tribute to the generosity of inhabitants.

IMG_4409Girls and boys have twelve computers and a busy Wiggle Room theater for ages zero to six that focuses on early literacy and developmental needs.  Toddler furniture, toys, alphabet rugs and styrofoam blocks lie behind a happy caterpillar crawling across the plate glass.  Observing parents perch on a cushioned bench on one side.

I love the jigsaw piece cart, alligator of board books and the giant READ, each letter made of straws or crayons or plastic puffs.

IMG_4370Kids go to Crafternoons, Train Days, Little Squirt Science, Dizzy Dance and Pokémon parties and the Anime Summer Series, decorate pumpkins and gingerbread houses, and for a prize, guess the identity of a shredded book in a jar.  There’s a zoo outing, scavenger hunt for the solstice, visits from the fire department and female airplane racers.  Various storytimes, some incorporating ballet or ASL, are on the roster.

Subject specific Topic Totes for Tots and Story on the Go kits are composed of rhymes, songs, fingerplay, puppets and more.  Launchpads have learning apps for three to five year olds.  Find audiovisual combo packs by Star Wars and superhero paperback spindles and hanging from an enormous pencil, Adventure Backpacks filled with binoculars, bug catchers, flashlights and books are ready for camping trips.

Cushioned hassocks, seats in different sizes and a bronze lad engrossed in a tale surround a play area and low rectangles let in light next to primary hued chairs at white tables beneath a Lost in Space gallery of planetary art created by elementary pupils.

IMG_4397The system has a no fines for juvenile items policy and loans board games for every age.  Iffy internet a problem?  Borrow a mobile hotspot.  Besides the usual fare FPL offers book club kits, video games, mini infrared thermometers, solar telescopes, electrical usage and energy check meters, ND State Parks passes and the Metro Arts Pass for free or reduced admission to museums.

Electronic books, audiobooks, music, comics, films and magazines are available online as is Tutor ND and links for homework and K-12.  Resources assist academics, mechanics, genealogists, language learners and investors, while laymen search business, legal, medical, consumer and general databases.

IMG_4419Admiring the vertical slats and modern art on the flight of stairs, I bumped into Director Tim Dirks, Pam Strait from Outreach and several administrators.  Delighted to meet some of the people responsible for this impressive bounty, we chatted for a bit.

FPL staff deliver to homebound patrons and senior living facilities, appear at fairs and police picnics and even go to bars to advertise services.  At the Pride in the Park booth, you could make rainbow bracelets and enter a drawing to win LGBQT themed artwork.  The Book Bike, shaded by an umbrella to protect materials from sunny or wet weather, is a fixture at city happenings.


The screen at the far end is a green roof canopy

Facebook has customer reviews and videos of money saving tips, ten year anniversary speeches, Irish folk dancers and bluegrass bands.  Professionally designed notices mingle with pictures of the old library, kids making balloon animals and a wild turkey invasion.  Whether dressed as pirates for an offsite storytime or riding a parade float by a Christmas tree tower of tomes lit by twinkly bulbs, the FPL team is game.  Posts tout Bullet Journaling, printing and decluttering workshops, the Spring Gardening Series and a seed swap.

The page promotes three separate A Universe of Stories summer reading programs that let all ages participate.  Far out functions include a Sci-Fi Movie Marathon, moon related crafts, astrology affairs and Stomp Rockets made possible by a STEM grant.  Planetarium personnel teach youngsters the constellations and they get trinkets at Solar System bingo or watch a play about astronauts.

Teens get messy at Galaxy Slime, enjoy Galactic Glow Games, learn about Zodiac signs and astronomy, stitch space related embroidery and Escape from Outer Space rooms.


Young Adult

By the manga and a long display of new YA titles, signs advise users to put stuff in a basket for reshelving so nothing gets lost.  Other amusements for teens involve fashioning leather bookmarks, polymer clay ornaments, key fobs for Father’s Day, acrylic pour paintings or Frankentoys (Stuffed Animal Taxidermy).  Adolescents crochet sweaters, tie dye clothing, perform at talent contests, go to book group and cupcake wars, take the Oreo cookie flavor challenge and complete surveys on what they want to see and do at the library.


Passing a row of cool wavy couches, I came to the peaceful Otter Tail Fireplace Room.

IMG_4458Vistas feature the white sails of the Hjemkomst Center’s roof and the dragon steeples of its Hopperstad Stave Church replica in the bucolic Minnesota meadow where earlier, on my stroll along the sylvan riverbank, a deer and her fawn had trotted by as I stood motionless.

Sharing attitudes and associations, Fargo’s twin city, Moorhead, MN, makes up the other half of an MSA of about 250,000 so it’s natural to partner for transportation and cultural initiatives and for an MSA event welcoming diversity, FPL hosted a presentation on the customs and traditions of Pakistan and Ukraine.

Adult discover how to beat the winter blues, listen to wellness lectures, patronize author talks, book signings, poetry slams, photography and WWI poster exhibits, and join trivia contests, swing dance demonstrations and murder mystery/tours.  When the Blue Angels came to town the library had three navy band concerts and last November saw the second Native American Festival and Education series.

Older members have puzzle afternoons and there’s also an exchange for children’s puzzles.


Reference Desk

Most of the second story is open and airy.  Rays stream in through floor to ceiling windows and there’re plenty of opportunities to relax and observe the action outside.  Six study spaces fit up to either two or six and lots of plugs guarantee you won’t run down your battery.

Slim planks stick up from stacks announcing the genres below and a rack of pretty flyers for ongoing library programs reminds you of FPL’s wealth of choices.  Microfiche machines herald the ND collection’s yearbooks, town and state histories and periodicals, Fargo directories from 1881 and forward, veteran’s registers and works of local writers.

Further on, a chartreuse wall matches its lovely, lonely painting of pines and pond and there are more intriguing pieces like the mixed medium Languages which for me, resembled hieroglyphics.

IMG_4480In the Duval Quiet Room, interesting ND winter studies in red and white celebrate the beauty of a frozen landscape.

Literacy, world languages, newspapers and adult graphic novels are up here too.

The website has news, and the calendar’s filters for subject, location and date range let you find times for yoga and meditation, Go, chess and book clubs, Tea Tasting, English and basic and night photography classes, a jazz quartet, an ND Air National Guard talk or the Captain Marvel screening and discussion.  The juvenile section has lists, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, school prep, parenting info, and forms to get recommendations or for teachers to amass materials for lesson plans.

Sign up for the kid’s and adult newsletters or read Northern Narratives 2019, the third time the library has published a volume of works from regional writers.


Fargo from a hiking path

Fargo folks are truly favored with a fantastic, futuristic, forward thinking library!


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Singular Sisseton

As we approached tiny Sisseton, a South Dakota city of 2500 plus, the flatness abated and the ridges of the Coteau des Prairies plateau appeared in the distance.

IMG_4284Perched at the top of the town next to the Roberts County Commissioners’ domed edifice, infinite vistas await from the covered entry to Sisseton Memorial Library (SML).  The two story brick facility has a raised roof and ample storage.

Director Jayne Nieland had kindly given permission for photos, but was away on vacation when I came.


A warm welcome

Fortunately Children’s Librarian Janet Schmidt was able to give me a tour and was super helpful and informative.  Back from a seven year stint in Germany to enjoy the company of her aging parents, she’s well equipped to care for them since she was a geriatric nurse for 27 years.

When I admired the polished wood patterns on the tilted ceilings, she mentioned it was similar to the style of flooring in the town’s Stavig House Museum, a classic home Mathilda Stavig gave Sisseton alongside letters and documents pertinent to its heritage.

IMG_4303After ten years as a simple reading room, SML moved to a new Carnegie building in 1916 and the current location in 1969.  July’s fête commemorating fifty years of Maple Street occupancy saw a magician performing in a nearby park.  Not limiting themselves to the one structure, the municipal arts council has been a partner in presentations at off site venues.


The carousel contains works by David Rosenfelt, the library’s highlighted author of the month

Ingenious collaborations like that and a lot of effort and creativity result in wonderful service from a mere two cheerful employees dedicated to this small county population of just over 10,000.  How nice for Sisseton that staff can maintain a grueling schedule of long hours and be open six days and two nights in winter and five days and one night in summer!

SML has wifi, four laptops, two desktops, a standup internet, a reference computer and two juvenile stations.  The South Dakota Titles To Go Overdrive connection greatly expands on the physical books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, braille, large print and periodical offerings via its downloadables.  For those living outside the burg, a card costs just $10 annually or $15 for the family.

Next, Janet led me into yet another charming space.

IMG_4293Martha Morris collected these special edition Jule plates (the Danish word for Christmas)  and her family donated them in her memory.   Most sneak a star in somewhere and they make for a stunning and engrossing array.  The Turner Room, after Agnes McCoy Turner, a board member for 52 years whose large gift made expansion a reality, has gorgeous doors, a grandfather clock and a large conference table.  Its cases are full of tomes that don’t circulate.  Village histories, genealogies and old plat volumes cover the MN ND SD tri state area and even some IA and NE materials as residents are very interested in their Native American and agricultural past.

Unofficially, the city is in the open Lake Traverse Reservation of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate people.  Approximately half the inhabitants are from this subdivision of the Santee Dakota.  In the mid to late 1800’s and the beginning of the 1900’s immigrants settled here and century farms are common on the outskirts accounting for many of the records, but my guide carefully opened some rare treasures.

IMG_4300Seeing an 1887 missionary penned Holy Bible in the language of the Dakota and an 1874 New Testament translated from the original Greek was quite a treat.

Passing a potted fern, a plank filled by little bronze plaques detailing memorials and bequests up to 1995, and a bulletin board of community information and flyers for Coloring Thursdays and Emporia’s MLS course, Janet pointed out a couple of Gitchie Girl narratives about a brutal deed that shocked the Midwest in the 1970’s before we headed downstairs to Youth.

IMG_4309Online, Sisseton’s library link is static so the lively Facebook page is a de facto website.  Funny memes extol SML’s virtues and posts are frequent for a two person outfit.  Shots of imaginatively arranged hot titles teeter in towers or are paired side by side.  Notices remind of the tax return deadline or solicit the public for hard to find containers needed for activities.  I chuckled at some shamelessly self-promotional comments and was pleased to see some attractive adolescent self help options for students.

Regular advertisements tout the Summer Reading Program (SRP) and an updated profile picture of graffiti on the front steps proclaims A Universe of Stories, the part of this year’s unwieldy SRP name they decided to use.  Some institutions took the Blast Off portion of the motto to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the astronauts’ moon walk, but I like how SML stresses the togetherness message of the One World, Many Stories truism.

SRP was quite successful.  So many signed up, event times were split into two by age.  Lucky participants got state fair tickets, a Build Day and an intriguing Mission Impossible challenge to fashion an alien out of a few crafting supplies augmented by any recyclables and fabulate its origin story (entries were judged and prizes awarded).  The wrap up at City Hall featured the Hanson Family Juggling act, a partially interactive show including high rise unicyclers!  Shots of tots laughing confidently while spinning disks on sticks abound.


A grant purchased foam blocks portable enough wee ones can quickly turn them into a fort

Items are shelved by category.  Pre K, levels 1, 2 and 3, Seuss and 100 award books have sections as do the popular Dr. Kitty Kat, Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew series.  Juniors plop on a beanbag or pads relishing the festive air imparted by strings of fairy lights draped over armoires and wrapping poles and the stars and moons adorning end panels.

Winnie the Pooh characters dance on walls by a collage of snaps of giggling kids.  A primary colored alphabet console of board books sits by easy reader spindles and a wheeled cart holds bins of A/V combo packs and DVDs.  Racks exhibit favorites and planet and astronomy nonfiction due to the SRP theme and low units provide recommendations.  Cushy black armchairs interspersed by shiny marble end tables lining the cinder block sides keep parents and guardians comfortable despite the scaled down furniture that dominates the space.

IMG_4321Kindergarteners through grade four have Reading Capers after school once a month.  Capers Kids wear crazy hats to a Dr. Seuss birthday party and act as role models by assisting other children.  Just trusting them with that responsibility can do so much for self-esteem and so appropriately in this age of cyber bullying, kind behavior is emphasized.  What a great idea to teach this at an impressionable age.

In fact, a new trend of painting stones then concealing them for someone else to find and hopefully pose for a selfie clutching the rock, post it on Sisseton Rocks, then keep or rehide it, inspired Kindness Rocks at SML.  Thirty youngsters joined representatives of the local group and some retired teachers in using the kindness motif to decorate rocks that would spread happiness and joy.  From the photos of boys and girls proudly displaying painted stones (and their miniature multihued fingers) Sisseton obviously has some budding artistic talent.


On the reverse it asks that you name your favorite

Elaborating on the initiative, prizes are bestowed for One Random Act of Kindness (one enterprising girl did 34!). And an illustration of two adorable cuddling cats watching a sunset posted on the library’s Facebook page was actually acrylic on granite from the Rocks movement.

For the first time this year, adults had a SRP, but tempting fare is plentiful.  Images on Facebook slyly suggest borrowing these “Fresh Reads” before getting trapped sans literary entertainment by the next snow storm precede banners for inclement weather closures.  You can attend writer talks, the One Book South Dakota group, book discussions or bring your sons and daughters to craft and storytimes.


Check out back issues of magazines

SML carries six district newpapers from Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Watertown and even Fargo (positioned in the northeastern corner of SD, the library is much closer to the ND capitol than to Pierre) as well as two local weeklies.  Both the Sisseton Courier and the Sota Iya Ye Yapi, the official chronicle of the reservation, are available on microfilm going back to the 1900’s.

Loads of light, watering cans of blossoms and crawling ivies atop stacks and a rocking chair beckoning from a corner make the place a very pleasant spot to while away an afternoon.


100 mile views

Sisseton Memorial Library certainly adds to the reasons to live or visit this region of rolling grasslands and parks, sparkling blue lakes and forested ravines.

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Superb Superior

IMG_4148A huge one level brick and glass structure Superior Public Library (SPL), in this Wisconsin city of 27,000 nestled on the shores of the greatest of the Great Lakes, is bordered by a park full of intriguing sculptures and verdant flora.  It’s just as pleasant inside as out with a blown up photo of yesteryear underneath a giant welcome sign in the foyer.

IMG_4258Shopping baskets and a Rollator walker make browsing comfortable while a convenient kiosk dispenses public transportation tokens.

As Twin Ports, the largest freshwater harbor in the world, Superior and Duluth are also an MSA and are connected to the Atlantic via the Saint Lawrence Seaway.  Steeped in maritime traditions (the Edmund Fitzgerald left from here on its fatal voyage), Superior is the seat of Douglas County and since the two small branches in Solon Springs and Lake Nebagamon have limited hours, SPL serves the entire county population of 44,000.


Judy and Emily

I spoke to the friendly staffers at the circulation desk.  As it borders Minnesota, I shouldn’t have been surprised to encounter Emily from THPL.  Working at both systems gives her enough hours to make a full time job and she gamely posed for me yet again.  When Judy heard that my blog covers international libraries she was curious as she has a cousin who works at the Lillehammer Bibliotek, but sadly I only visited Bergen.

Founded in 1888, SPL moved to the this location, formerly a grocery store, in 1992 and renovated last year.  Bright and airy, vivid blue poles direct patrons to the proper section and consoles present tempting titles as do the “recently returned” cases (a great to cut down on the number of things to reshelve).


The saga of Superior starts by the Friends Corner on right

My eyes were immediately drawn to one of the library’s most arresting elements.  A series of thirty five panels just below the ceiling ring the interior.  Commissioned by a previous director and painted by regional artist, Carl Gawboy, they chronicle prominent points and places in the timeline of the district from the earth creation myth of the Algonquian-Ojibwe up to the current era.  Take an employee led tour of them or click to examine the works closely as copies scroll by on the home page.

The website has email reference and features a banner asking people to take a survey on how SPL should address their future needs with entry into a $25 gift certificate raffle as an incentive to participants.  The latest news advertises museum passes, movie nights, the Friends’ sale and a club for young bookworms.


A soaring corner beneath dramatic light fixtures

It’s an access point for WI’s BadgerLink, an extensive collection of interactive learning, guides, Spanish language stuff, image, video and business databases, consumer and medical advice, test and career prep, dissertations and more.  Educators download lesson plans and scavenger hunts and the electronic resources for K-12 and college students, academicians and the general public are searchable by format, subject and audience.  WI specific anas include genealogical and First Nations records and information as well as theatrical and cultural performance visuals.   WI also partners to bring e books and e audio books to residents.

A newsletter lists new acquisitions by category and I note that the library has an all ages Winter Reading Program and a variety of clubs and lectures.  Bingo, yoga, “crafternoons” and an after hours fundraiser for area artists are on offer or complete a form to make a tax deductible donation or volunteer with the Friends or the Foundation.


Local History

Open six days, SPL belongs to a consortium of institutions in northern WI that share materials through Merlin (cool acronym!).  Choose from Playaways, puppets, puzzles and the more typical fare to request up to twenty items.  Find what’s available now using the Superior only limit or if Merlin doesn’t carry it, try ILL from the WISCAT state catalog.  Two renewals are allowed and seven days to pick up holds.  Borrow DVDs and periodicals for one week and tablets, books etc. for three.

The 14 adult computers have Microsoft Office and guests get complimentary wifi for three days.

IMG_4192The muted gray and blue carpeting provides a neutral background for the eclectic seating options.   This surface has privacy partitions, embedded power strips and small trays of succulents at eye level.

IMG_4178I love the funky fun furniture – geometric tables and dangling lamps and high-backed hideaways.

IMG_4188Nifty leather handled hassocks and varnished oak trunk stools can be shifted around to form impromptu conversation pits.


The YA area was a present from the Rotary

On Facebook, reviews give accolades for personnel, contents and activities – one customer commented that SPL is one of the few things that make him feel good about paying property taxes.   Posts promote Technology and Me sessions, a writing group, Dungeons and Dragons for teens, and talks on Lyme disease, cooking jam, monarch butterflies, becoming a foster parent and zero waste living.  There are singers and choruses and hundreds of users expressed interest in listening to ghost hunters from a nearby paranormal society.  Nostalgic film clips of a homecoming celebration from the fifties and stills of the old library building mingle with ones from the rehab.

IMG_4209By Youth, coat pegs on wooden trees and abundant storage closets keep things neat and plants and plush animals adorn the stack tops.  Beyond a colonial soldier bean bag toss and bins of board books, frogs climb over the backs of tiny chairs in an alcove with a tiered stage where tots attend pajama and holiday themed storytimes.  The regularly scheduled weekly one usually has a craft and music.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the moon walk, Blast Off! is this year’s summer reading program and is publicized by a display of astronaut food from NASA (the Army Labs in Natick, my hometown, cooks this unappealing muck and I still remember (unexpectedly tasty) freeze dried strawberries from a field trip).  Affiliated events include making flying saucers and star bracelets and fashioning, then launching, rockets.


Children’s Librarian Jennifer

Jennifer and I chatted for a bit.  SPL lends video games and the three young adult computers for ages 13-17 and five restricted juvenile ones for 13 and under have games and word processing software.

They encourage advance notice for school or day care center tours and kids have a plethora of functions from a glow in the dark dance to author appearances.  The invitation to the PBS station’s birthday party mentions cake and a special honoree, Curious George.

Tykes select from a rack of toddler toys and playthings, rearrange the dollhouse, race cars on a track, plop into a pint size fire engine to peruse a picture book or curl up on a cushion under the heavy duty paper canopies above these enticing nooks.

IMG_4222As I walk by furry foxes and fauna floating up the walls by the family facilities and a bulletin board of community happenings, I realize the library has several two and four person studies.

The meeting room holds 105 occupants and a classroom fits 25.  The conference spot and creator room (perfect for making a glittery colorful mess as it has erasable walls) both take 12.  The spaces can be rented for non financial purposes and the larger ones have screens, lecterns and kitchen access for light refreshments.  A small fee gets you a laptop, projector and mic, and government and nonprofit entities may be eligible to reserve for free.


Stand up terminals

What a delightful asset for the denizens of this important shipping zone!


Superior across the water


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Twixt Two Harbors

On a recent trip to sample the delights of Minnesota I got a chance to visit Two Harbors Public Library (THPL) on majestic Lake Superior’s famous North Shore.  Just a half hour up the iron red highway from Duluth and a few miles south of lovely Gooseberry Falls State Park, the municipality of 3800 is the county seat and as may be evident from the name, started as two separate burgs.

IMG_3994In 1896 the library began as some literature in an office corner.  It became the official city facility a year later then moved to the graceful brick Carnegie building behind the flagpole in 1909.  The 1983 addition to the right more than doubled capacity to about 8000 square feet holding over 30,000 items.

Balm for the eyes, hydrangeas, trees and a vibrant green lawn set off the locked door to the original edifice.  A sandwich board advertises what’s on the agenda for today at the newer entry where there’s sunny seating on stone slabs and a rock wall enclosing an outside terrace.  Its pavers celebrate loved ones, occasions and friendships and make a nice gift or memorial.

The glass fronted aquamarine lobby bridging the two structures sports a mural of a family appreciating the charms and fauna of lake life.  One pane is plastered in professional program posters and I notice a crate of free discards next to a meeting space that nonprofits can reserve at no cost.


Emily Thompson on left and Beny on the right

Inside it’s obviously a popular place and the bank of computers under an array of stunning photographs is fully occupied by the younger set.  As I admired some eclectic touches at Circulation like DVDs tucked in drawers resembling steamer trunks, and an Eiffel Tower in rainbow shades perched on a terminal, a souvenir from a recent 3D printing pen session, Emily and Beny greeted me warmly and confirmed THPL has four half hour and three 15 minute stations and wifi.

Director Katie Sundstrom and I chatted in her office (sadly she was camera shy that day).  She said they have seven part time employees and funding comes from the city and Lake County for their service population of about 8000.


Great display units

Although they joined Arrowhead Library System (ALS) in 1974, the local library board is responsible for governance as it is at each institution in ALS, an operation efficiently coordinating more than twenty five smaller libraries in seven counties in northeastern MN, public, school, academic and special, for purchasing power, training, grants, online resources and other tasks.

ALS also puts on wonderful entertainment for the whole family, commissioning funny characters and comical prestidigitators.  Participatory performances for the pint sized motivate the mind, mingling music, movement and magic. Customers have one card for reciprocal borrowing privileges and can return materials to any ALS location.

IMG_4076A regional foundation bought kits that give hands-on experience of STEAM concepts and ideas and THPL also lends bike locks, energy meters, cake pans and e readers.  You can even score a microscope or a telescope.

IMG_4059Or go to Kid’s and check out a literacy backpack, chess sets and board games.  Knowing the audience, the Lego books have their own section.

Picture book bins, plush toys, plastic blocks, and a puppet stage amuse tiny tykes.  A racing rug continues the track from the Brio course on the table above.  A fish tank and Lego league models distract adolescents while guardians wait on cushioned benches overlooking the verdant native grasses on the patio outside.

IMG_4060The case below two bears enjoying a fairy tale has board books, juvenile CDs and holiday titles.

Boys and girls go to stuffed animal sleepovers, author talks and storytimes at the county fair.  The end of summer reading program (SRP) party had games, crafts, and snacks and juniors got ice cream certificates, super hero masks and vied for a chance to win five grand prizes. Teens received Pokemon packs and gift cards and adults had drawings for private art lessons and puzzles.

img_4013.jpgPrints of yore and informational flyers pinned to bulletin boards line the hallway leading to the bathrooms, water fountain, copier, elevator and tax forms.  The Archive here has scrapbooks, newspapers etc. going back to the late 1800’s.

The library’s website features a book each month, new items by category and age, and a calendar with tempting treats. Poets and writer’s groups, painting classes, lectures on pollinators, and various storytimes are just a few of the options.  The page promotes electronic magazines, books and audiobooks, two teen audio downloads per week, exam proctoring, volunteerism and donations, driving test practice and Homework Help.  It links to the statewide catalog and distributes MN drug cards for significant savings on medications for the un and underinsured.  Access Chilton’s Auto Repair or Minnesota specific collections, or search a variety of research, job and genealogical databases.

IMG_4085I love the plastic bag recycling containers and the brochure listing the biggest hits each month over the last year – metal tooling and jewelry making classes, a Duluth Playhouse Children’s Theatre interactive presentation, a travelogue on a couple’s yearlong journey through the Boundary Waters, a candy making demonstration and tasting, and a juggler – also details statistics evincing THPL’s bang for the buck.

The Friends take care of all fundraising and use the SRP to benefit other local projects too.  This year the Band Shell Park’s proposed event venue will be the lucky recipient.  An architect’s rendering squats on top of a shelf near a rack of parenting pamphlets and assistive bookmarks.  Yummy creamsicle scratch and sniff cards entice patrons to the Friends book sale, or browse the permanent one in an alcove under the stairs.  Area businesses contribute so the Friends can brighten the darker months via a Winter Reading Program.

IMG_4017Up a flight, the Carnegie portion is peaceful and calm.  Muted beams from high cross hatched windows mix with the pinkish glow from old fashioned hanging lamps and tulip sconce chandeliers to illuminate the glossy dark wood trim.  Antique white radiators, clocks, cabinets, a dumbwaiter and a dictionary on a stand complement the more modern blue upholstered furniture.  A jigsaw puzzle on a table is a meditative way to pass some time.

Adult fiction, periodicals, newsletters, Playaways and books on CD are here but adult nonfiction is back downstairs.

IMG_4052Above the fireplace, an ethereal portrait framed by iron and metal flowers and frills stands out in relief.  The locomotive in Girl Reading on a Train by Tonja Sell and Nancy Miller appears to spring from the nearby bay.  Upon closer inspection, the border reveals patterns of mosaics and enamels, a bird lying on smooth washed pebbles and porcelain pieces resembling fairies.


My husband Michael perusing the stacks

THPL has a busy Facebook account.  Announcements for exhibitions, the free e version of the Mueller report, Chess tournaments, handwriting and herb garden workshops, an afternoon book club, film screenings and discussions, Scrabble and Cribbage intermingle with notifications for lectures on sustainable lifestyles, talks on rare birds and how butterflies can soar and technology help for adults.


Teens lounge on the window seat by the graphic novels, YA audio, and manga

Read “How to Speak Dolphin” to Lucy the whippet. You might both learn something!  I spot shots of dancing toddlers and ads for fluffy slime for tweens who alongside older youths produce stop motion movies using clay.  Get in some acting practice, make paper cameras or create pixel art.  One Science Friday covers the science of music and sound and a plethora of instruments appear during “Old MacDonald Had a Banjo” when musical polymath Paul plays original and classic tunes to enchant children.  Tots can fashion a cardboard car and sit in it while watching animated shorts and all ages are invited to listen to a local ukulele combo prepare for the international carnival being held at the town hall.


View of Two Harbors from one of their lush lake lapped parks

Wow, THPL offers so many fun activities!  The “Little Library by the Big Lake” is truly a huge boon to this northern community.

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Terrific Tel Aviv

Long stretches of Mediterranean coast grant a balmy climate to the 450,000 or so denizens of this young city.  Though Jaffa (Yafo), its southwestern boundary, has been inhabited since 7500 BC, Tel Aviv (TLV) was founded in 1909 so Tel Aviv-Yafo Libraries’ (TAYL) roots precede both the town and the State of Israel.

In 1886, though Jaffa had just 15,000, mostly gentile, people, the Assistance to Israel Society, aiming to aid Jewish settlers in the region, made its assemblage available in a private home in Jaffa.  Additional funding came in 1901 when it was renamed Sha’ar Zion (gate of Zion), and it moved around and grew until landing at these premises in 1977.

IMG_3866Sha’ar Zion-Beit Ariela Library  (BA), TAYL’s main facility, is a huge concrete structure flanked by appropriately enormous sculptures tempered by tropical palms and Norfolk firs.  Named after Ariela Gitter, the deceased daughter of one of its primary benefactors, Benno Gitter, it’s ideally situated between the Performing Arts Center arch and a vast plaza also sporting a museum in what is basically the White City’s hub of enlightenment.

Admiring the panels depicting people absorbed in reading at popular spots around TLV that mask the renovation, we strolled to the front door.  To the right of the patio, the gallery continues – an alley of dual purpose art loops through the scaffolding.


Miriam amidst her bibliophilic paraphernalia

We arrived early, and staff welcomed us warmly and brought coffee as we waited for Director Miriam Posner, who had kindly agreed to give me a tour.

A kitchen and offices for IT and Acquisitions surround a tiled courtyard where shadows from the crosshatching overhead play across the statues and potted plants and cool those eating lunch at the silvery metal tables.

Noting an interesting installation resembling a barren crow-speckled tree, I left my husband to relax in sun dappled splendor and went to meet Miriam.

IMG_3880Before starting here in 2010, Miriam developed educational materials and school libraries.  Her English is wonderful (as usual, any faults in translation are mine) as I knew from our advance correspondence.

TAYL has one music and 20 neighborhood sites (three more are coming soon).  During summer months, nine unmanned kiosks open 24/7 can be found in TLV’s parks, beaches and boulevards.

The system produces its own programs, and in one year held more than 1500 gatherings with over 100,000 participants, a third of those going to the 600 happenings at BA whose 107,000 square feet house both an auditorium and a function hall.

Planned as a cultural center, Miriam described the building as complicated, but said it has about seven, sometimes staggered, levels including two in the basements filled by stacks.  The public part is five floors and has nine study rooms.


Behind the scenes

The organization has about 110 workers, many part time.  In Israel, librarianship used to be a certificate issued at teacher colleges rather than an academic degree, but now two universities have information science programs.  A number of the 85 librarians at TAYL (35 at BA alone) have bachelor’s in other subjects, but the ministry requires a certain percent to have an actual MLIS.

Necessitated by the nation’s increased safety standards, reconstruction began in 2013 and should have cost 30 million NIS ($8,300,000), but, per Miriam, “spending this significant amount without making functional or aesthetic changes to the building was ruled out by the Tel-Aviv – Yafo municipality’s management, which instead chose to add some 40 million NIS more and conduct a vast renovation project, not yet finished. The library is hence adding new functions to the building such as a huge “City Salon” for locals to meet up and hang out.  An Arab influenced room within the City Salon, outfitted in divans and cushions will serve as a group meeting facility with a specially pleasant atmosphere. Another novelty will be making the edifice more visible from the street.”

IMG_3889Proceeding to the public areas, I was delighted when Miriam said I could use my camera anywhere as long as no children were there.  TAYL is too busy to be able to portray it properly sans people, and I was so impressed by this two tier section and the floor to ceiling books.

Panes overlooking the sky lit atrium and multiple windows inserted in rows of cement slabs hanging from the roof let natural sunbeams stream in.  Many teens come here to do homework on the geometric surfaces.  Free wifi is everywhere and by an arced help station, most of the hundred public computers are occupied.

Ascending to the balcony we take a gray circular staircase softened by a railing of blond oak instead of the new elevator that makes it wheelchair accessible.  A ledge for studying and more internet modules runs along the cavity formed by the soaring inner space.

IMG_3913Next was the music library, its glowing wood and crimson carpets imparting a distinct personality.  Rock, classical, pop, jazz and blues are a few of the genres of A/V offerings alongside 7000 volumes of Hebrew poetry.

IMG_3916Beyond TVs set up to watch videos of concerts, bentwood armchairs, prints of cherubic oboists and spiral steps leading to a catwalk under frosted glass are reflective of a bygone era.

The other lyrical locale, the Felicia Blumental Music Center a couple of kilometers to the west, has a youth segment, LPs, CDs, scores and operas on DVD, as well as personal effects of prominent performers, pianists, and cellists.  It has instruments too – sign up to try out an acoustic guitar.

The municipality pays employees and maintenance.  TAYL has a dedicated budget for materials, furniture, equipment, programming, professional development and marketing from the Culture Ministry but money earned for rentals etc. goes back to the municipality.

Rather than buying duplicates they attempt to have one of everything.  Most stuff is in Hebrew but there are English, Russian, Spanish, Yiddish and French titles, 180 journals in Hebrew and English and audiobooks.  One of the four branches in Jaffa, the Anna Laura Library at the Arab-Jewish Community Center, has literature and staff conversant in the language.

IMG_3907The further console has jigsaw puzzles to borrow, a rarity in the US.  BA has lots of face out displays.  Tilted tiered tables and racks on the walls tempt you to peruse more recommendations.

The system has digitized around 500,000 of their items but because of copyright issues most of them must be viewed at TAYL. Soon Beit Ariela is about to start a large-scale digitizing project together with the National Library, meant to preserve materials of the Israeli Dance Archive and the Theatre Archive, both residing at Beit Ariela and make some of these materials accessible online.

In 2008 a law made libraries free.  Cardholders are allowed five pieces for one month and two renewals.  No courier means you may need to travel to pick up or return materials, but if something is out you can request it from home.


Drippy discards

As we wend our way toward the juvenile area, the rehab is noticeable.  Ultramodern fixtures abound.  Emitting aquamarine rays, self check is obvious and porpoises frolic on a big screen above a consultation desk.

IMG_3923Youth librarian Noa gamely posed before cases of board games in her space age space.  Neon beams of rainbow hues radiate around the room.  In fact, Facebook has a video of adolescent astronauts exploring the futuristic nooks and crannies of the newly revamped department.

IMG_3924And it features festivities.  Shots of tots assembling bird’s nests and teddy bears, dressed up for Purim celebrations, watching cartoons and playing Portal 2 on computers mingle with ones from an event in a park where happy kids enjoy messy crafts, a jungle gym, giant Tic Tac Toe and obstacle course equipment.

There are storytimes for preschoolers at all sites and tweens have a robotics club.  More than 3000 people are enrolled in nineteen writing seminars for youths and adults.

Carts full of sturdy dump trucks, hard hats and baskets of Lego blocks promise tons of fun as does the Cinderella coach puppet theater.  In a poor neighborhood, a branch lends toys to infants and toddlers aged 0-3.

IMG_3944A sixteen year old fabricates these fascinating dioramas.  Miriam has a literary themed one in her office and the exhibit here has a tailor shop, garden tea, gingerbread cottage and a cozy farm kitchen.  A fantastic unicorn prances in a forest of polka dot toadstools.  Moss and lichen stand in for shrubs and red maples.  This talented teen taught a session on her hobby, Penguins and Hot Chocolate!, last winter and Facebook has pictures of youngsters proudly proffering their adorable concoctions.

A papier-mâché castle in a different vitrine comes from the beloved Lea Goldberg story about coexistence, Apartment for Rent.

Walls are decorated by oversize stickers of characters that are easily peeled off and changed as new favorites are discovered.  Monkeys swing from tree limbs, tiny hippos twirl and a flamingo cozies up to a zebra.  A bespectacled alligator lazes against a rock while his grandfather brings over an ice cream treat.  A list of books the illustrations originate from is tacked up near a transparent enclosure for joint projects with conference call capabilities so pupils can contribute remotely to the school paper or group assignment.

IMG_3931The nature spot in front of it encourages appreciation of the outdoors.  Magnifiers of all shapes and sizes let boys and girls closely examine shells, pine cones and drawers of intriguing flora and fauna.

In the middle, a pale blue partition sprouts ruby poppies and bright gold asters behind the pillows and plush animals scattered on the curved couch.  The back has compartments for suggestions and magazines.  Poofy hassocks and plastic horses provide seating options and beneath a firmament of changing colors by the former entryway for Children’s, small hands have evidently tinted a collage of Mary Poppins.



Trained supervisors and YA mentors instruct juniors on the Makerspace technology.  Furthering TAYL’s mission of inspiring independent thought and meshing the digital and physical worlds, quality software and machines let users create and edit manga and comics, logos and three-dimensional figures.


Curl up in a cutout

Unfortunately, many of the announcements on Facebook are graphic, so I can’t translate them as I have absolutely no familiarity with Hebrew apart from חי (chai or l’chaim, exclaiming “to life!”), but I see notices for biblical discussions, genealogy groups, talks on “how to write about the family and stay alive” and the history of linguistic humor, and author meet and greets.  Short biographies honor the anniversaries of the death of Shel Silverstein and Frank Baum.  Blessings and hopes for an easy fast are sent to Muslim clients for Ramadan.  Patron profiles present blurbs from families on who they are, what they do and why they love TAYL.  It advertises the poetry slam, Chanukah parties and the comfort of long hours spent on newly purchased fit balls.

Lots of people follow the page and posts elicit comments, lively dialogue and praise over the imaginative input.  Snaps proliferate of parents reading to kids, browsers sheltered by the mobile street libraries’ awnings and enjoying paperbacks on nearby loungers and a staffer’s book themed tattoos.  An invitation is extended to download the app for the new Instagram account and there are tips on how to get into BA since ingress varies as the renovation progresses.


By the study spots

Beit Ariela’s An Island in The City, a quiet space exclusively for writers, facilitates concentration.  The library is trying to strengthen literacy programs and promoting lifelong learning and reading to citizens is a major goal.

Videos galore, some boasting thousands of views, tout the jazz improvisation series, a songwriting workshop and the systems’ recent accomplishments.  Announcements of new services, calls for volunteers to help during summer vacation and job applications round out the mix.IMG_3980The Design and Visual Information Library’s plentiful purple folders carry half a million clips from periodicals, leaflets, postcards, reproductions, calendars, brochures and sales catalogs on various themes and they’ve scanned 15,000 already.

BA has many rare treasures, but sadly doesn’t have the funds to conserve them properly.  With databases and 100,000 items, the Ramban (Maimonides) Library is the second largest repository of Jewish Enlightenment literature.  The Dance Archive of Israel has slides, letters, plans, accessories, memorabilia, costume notes and scene and choreography diagrams.  Ethnic and ritual dance, studios and recitals feature in some of its 3800 videos.

The Yehuda Gabai Theatre Archive documents the early years of drama and acting in Israel going back to 1911.  Named for an important actor and founder of the Theater Museum, it has playbills and posters, sketches of backdrops, caricatures, reviews and film negatives.IMG_3962Diana, the Reference supervisor, oversees 35,000 encyclopedias, dictionaries, and compendiums and is in charge of indexing the main newspapers going back to the late 1800’s.  Office software is loaded on the terminals and there are three microfilm machines.

Furniture from a famous Zionist leader, Ahad Ha’am (aka Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg),  a prolific publisher and thinker, recreates his study.  Pocket watches, eyeglasses, diaries and family papers lie among his many possessions as well as several portraits painted by well known artists.IMG_3964We carried on towards a large chamber free for nonprofits that businesses and individuals can rent.  It’s great for meetings, class visits or lectures from experts in the arts, Judaism, cinema etc.  Hearing impaired attendees use audio enhancement headphones.

TAYL’s largest branch at Migdal Shalom has quarters for teams of entrepreneurs developing internet or tech startups plus an LGBTQ collection.  Writers have A Room of Your Own for half a year and the Music Library designates a slot just for composers.


The concrete pillars are symbolic of Brutalism, BA’s architectural style

The system was the first  in the country to have e-books, and now, as part of a consortium of 85 institutions using Overdrive, has e-audiobooks too.  They have over 900,000 units (@ 400,000 at BA alone) and annual circulation of more than 400,000 to the 35,000 members.

Online there are podcasts, blogs and YouTube segments.  A separate url of searchable holdings by location links to guides, keys and a plethora of databases (the 17 allowing remote access include an enrichment site for little ones and the Haifa Index of contemporary articles in Hebrew).

The National Library is still digitizing old newspapers so people come here for the physical copies.   TAYL developed an index of the local paper which was incorporated into Ex Libris’ line of products so can be used from anywhere in the world.


Tel Aviv from Jaffa

As we walked through canyons of bold and beautiful Bauhaus behemoths to the seaside promenade a mile away, I marveled at TAYL’s intellectual resources and how it enhances the lives of city dwellers.  I am extremely thankful to Miriam for taking the time and effort to reveal the library’s magic to me.

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Appreciating Athens

Κεντρική Δημοτική Βιβλιοθήκη Οργανισμού Πολιτισμού Αθλητισμού και Νεολαίας Δήμου Αθηναίων (Ο.Π.Α.Ν.Δ.Α.), or translated, the  Central Municipal Library of the Athletics and Youth Culture Organization of the Municipality of Athens (OPADDA), is conveniently just steps from Larissa subway stop, next to the capital’s main railway station.

Serving the Attica region (basically the city’s metropolitan expanse), it is one of the oldest libraries in Greece.  Started by Mayor Petrakis in 1835 it opened to the public in 1936.

IMG_3785Occupying various quarters, in 1986 OPADDA added professional librarians and moved over by the new Town Hall in Kotzia Square, settling into its previous home, a neoclassical structure that sadly was badly damaged during the horrific 1999 earthquake. Closed until renovation of its new premises was completed in autumn 2002, they’ve been at this yellow stucco edifice on Domokou Street ever since.  Automation of the catalog commenced in 2002 and in the summer of 2018 they started using openABEKT.

Potted plants line the marble steps leading to a bust on a plinth by the entrance.  Upholstered maroon chairs beckon you into the lobby where Hellenic flags evince civic pride and huge maps of the environs cover the walls.

IMG_3820By the circulation desk, Anastasia, my contact and guide, greeted us warmly and brought refreshments and chocolates.

We chatted a bit then settled my husband and moved into a room presided over by welcoming Rania.  Framed scenes of yesteryear complement modern blond wood furnishings.  Glass cabinets atop cupboards’ sliding doors hold treasures from bygone eras and we perused postcards and sepias and centuries old tomes on the cradle of Western Civilization.  IMG_3795The library’s archives contain government documents going back to 1833, journals starting in 1834, oversize volumes of bound newspapers dating from 1863, and numerous photographs and historical items plus repositories donated by or acquired from some of Athen’s prominent citizens.

OPADDA has more than 55,000 titles squeezed into numerous alcoves off a long corridor decorated by old card catalogs, antique vitrines and cases of ancient texts.  Since there really isn’t space for it all, rolling stacks come into play.

IMG_3811This formidable collection extends an already huge service population.  Athens proper has about 670,000 but between three to four million of Greece’s nearly eleven million inhabitants live in the surrounding urbanity.  The nation’s largest city has five branches, two for adults and three for children, and is the biggest system after Thessalonika and Veria in the north.

Though workers are paid directly by the municipality, the library has a materials budget of about 40,000 euro annually.  Open weekdays, it’s free to all Attica residents. A phone bill gets you a card and permission to borrow two books for two weeks and renew for one.  If you’re naughty and return things late, borrowing privileges are suspended for a bit.  People living nearby, e.g. in the port of Piraeus, renowned launching point for island bound ferries, can also use OPADDA, but have their own small facilities too.

IMG_3801OPADDA has two reading enclosures for diligent scholars that double as cinemas or venues for lecture series as well as a room of stackable chairs set up for giving talks or teaching classes.  Wifi is available and there are OPACs specifically for their holdings.

Anastasia introduced me to Fay who likewise spoke excellent English (any faults in translation are mine).  They said it takes four years of college to become a librarian.  Fay had studied Greek culture but for the last year has staffed a bookmobile.


From left, Anastasia and Fay

Each year, UNESCO chooses a World Book Capital somewhere across the planet and Athens was chosen in 2018, so Veria kindly lent a van to OPADDA from May 2018 through April 2019.  When I went, Fay was finishing up what must have been a fascinating tenure.  A section of the Facebook page is peppered in pictures of the truck in various locations around town, often taken at creative angles, or of kids devouring books in a quiet corner of the vehicle.  The schedule is posted as are updates on its position and impromptu advice from impatient clients when Fay mentions traffic problems.

IMG_3809We continued our tour through the cheery red racks of history, literature, psychology, philosophy and the arts, passing notices pinned on a bulletin board of happenings, festivals and museum exhibits in the vicinity, and a flyer about IFLA being held in Athens this August.

At the security station I talked to Michael, graciously on loan from the Athens military.

IMG_3836Facebook lists well attended presentations and a featured video reveals small imaginatively costumed figures excitedly whirling to what looks like a large Oom-pah or marching band while balloons gaily float over the dancer’s heads.  There are poetic paeans from positive patrons, shots of soulful sopranos accompanied by guitarists and bathed in violet rays and advertisements for Open University, recent acquisitions and free ebooks.  Amusements include legends in song and an accordion player for Holy Sunday (Easter).

Unfortunately many of the announcements are graphic and while I admired the stunning posters, I can’t translate them as I have absolutely no knowledge of the alphabet except for π, but judging from snaps of children wearing paper hats stirring gooey concoctions and relishing party treats, a good time was had by all.

IMG_3818Beyond nonfiction, pleasant diffused light from window blinds and dangling spherical paper shades illuminates popular items on tilted displays and lying face up on large tables so customers can browse easily.

OPADDA has author appearances, illustration and writing workshops, and celebrates Greek heritage with realia exhibits and seniors’ oral histories that evoke remembrances of things past.

Despite being a library for grownups, in 2012 they designated a little space for adolescents.  In 2017, it expanded and moved into the building across this lovely courtyard.

IMG_3838A  wheelchair ramp accesses a foyer where youngsters drape coats on rainbow hued poles and pegs.  This site is for ages six and up and is next door to a kindergarten.

A Toddler’s Library for infants to age five is a few miles away and has a cafe, bassinet outside playground and a private nursing nook.  Opened in February 2016, it’s the first of its kind in Greece and the Facebook page has banners for learning sessions for preschoolers, special story tellers and speeches on visual literacy targeted to caretakers.  

Here, you’ll also find accommodations for parents.  Comfy seats are positioned by a highchair for babies, there’s a cooker to boil milk for bottles and the family toilet thoughtfully has wipes and hand sanitizer by the diaper changing spot.

img_3859-e1557958300623.jpgOn the sides of the shelves a key indicates the meaning of the colored dots on the book spines.  A chalkboard easel, globe, plastic abacus, crates of toys and an electric keyboard provide distractions to occupy tots as older siblings look over the picture books and YA titles.  The library has some English, Russian and French stuff and welcomes class visits.  Personnel often collaborate with schools and design programs for the Ministry of Education which sends them to K-12s all over Attica.

The adorable area brings nature inside.  Silvery vines climb the walls and mobiles resembling puffy clouds hang from the ceiling.   Storytimes and movies are frequent functions and I glimpsed piles of pads in tints of lime, forest and pale green.

IMG_3842Kids make marine dioramas out of recycled objects, fashion pretty tissue floral arrangements and craft masks from construction paper.  Facebook has calls for volunteers to help during summer reading campaigns and pictures showing crowds of children listening raptly to fairy tales, drawing and painting.  Boys and girls attend dramas acted out by the theater group or participate in their own plays. 

The complex even has a two tiered stage that hosts numerous events for youths.

IMG_3847We really enjoyed speaking to Anastasia and Fay who could not have been nicer.  They gave me a great booklet (published by the cultural authority) called Heritage Walks in Athens and Fay, a climber who’s been to the States to scale peaks in Wyoming and around the West, imparted some tips for our upcoming journey to the clifftop monasteries at Meteora.


The Parthenon and the Aegean Sea from Mount Lycabettus, one of Athen’s seven hills

As in their rave reviews on social media, I found enthusiastic, happy, friendly employees who (to quote a user) “seem to love what they do” and are ready and eager to assist.  What a wonderful asset for this delightful and enchanting land!


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