Flourishing Fort Williams

Fort Williams Library (FWL) is situated in the town center’s tree lined pedestrian precinct.


By an interesting mural, pretty purple doors part beneath bilingual greetings

Next to Ben Nevis, Scotland (and the UK’s) tallest mountain, FWL serves the municipality’s 10,000 people and used to be funded by its council, but is now one of 49 stationary and mobile facilities sharing resources and a unified catalog through High Life Highland (HLH), the agency responsible for adult education, culture, well being and recreation in the region.

In the foyer, a bulletin board heralds upcoming events in the vicinity.  I browsed the rack of brochures then passed into a large room with lots of natural light from panes in the raised ceiling.

IMG_0940Right by the front, New Stock and recommendations on end caps lure you in.  Signs on portable stacks announce categories like Romance and Health and an overhead big screen TV keeps you aware of current happenings.

On one level, Leabharlann a’ Ghearasdain as it’s known in the native tongue (sadly spoken by less than ten percent of the population these days) is tidy and friendly with free wifi, a microfiche, scanner and ten busy computers that are available for tourists and inhabitants alike.IMG_0939On little tables, a binder tells you “What’s going on in Lochaber” (the area around Fort Williams) and a suggestion box invites comments while the presentation panels display the results of a recent customer feedback questionnaire.  Ensuing actions range from more Lego clubs, magazines and volunteer opportunities for adolescents to a Code Club for tweens and simplification of book sale prices (just pay what you can now!).  According to the survey, 70 percent of respondents come weekly at least, and if not for HLH, around 40 percent wouldn’t have access to a PC or internet.  But as the comments make clear, the system brings additional benefits – a homeless person feels it’s a welcoming spot to spend the day and another user appreciates the human contact and says it’s always a pleasure.


The spinner contains ordnance survey maps for the many hillwalkers to consult

Continually striving for satisfied patrons, HLH employs mystery shoppers.  Even using exacting standards, such as helping someone within five minutes, reports are quite positive, though street signage will be improved – a good way to bring in new members.

At the circulation desk, I spoke to the two cheery and informative library assistants.IMG_0929Nicola and Emma explained that HLH has vans to move things around since they can be dropped off at any site.  Fort Williams is the second largest settlement in the northwest, so gets delivery each Thursday and second Monday while the main city, Inverness, gets it daily.  New acquisitions often go back to their original home, but otherwise items stay so supplies are constantly refreshed, one more advantage of connecting so many locations.

Materials are barcoded but people preferred to have a chin wag with staff, so the self check idea was abandoned as was, due to the odd stuff people threw in, an outdoor book return.

Sconces give off a muted glow in this pleasant meeting space.

IMG_1005But the two reading groups, Craft and Chat, author appearances and the weekly adult programs usually happen in the larger Community Room.

HLH institutions put on a wide variety of activities.  Take guitar or mandolin (!) lessons, discover photography and flower arranging, play Scrabble, attend the Mad Hatter’s Tea party or a family bake off, seek college guidance or have fun decorating rocks at Dotty Stones.  Residents enjoy Books and Brews, frequent art days and quiz nights, and go to origami, calligraphy, jewelry making, writing, genealogy and poetry workshops.  Expand your garden at the annual plant swap, get fit at Tai Chi and chair based yoga, or improve your watercolor and advanced knitting techniques.


Gaelic tome

On the website, peruse reviews, Gaelic titles, LGBT volumes, and special collections by branch or download free electronic newspapers, magazines, books, audios and over 19,000 digitized classic comics and graphic novels.  Show support by clicking the donate tab, link to adult learning, or complete an entry form for the writing competition.  The online reference library has a plethora of test, consumer, literary, language, business, research and cultural databases, plus software training videos.IMG_0975FWL has Playaways and lends audios for one pound and DVDs for less than two pounds for two weeks.  It doesn’t cost to place holds or renew and adults can borrow up to 20 items at once for three weeks.  Policy dictates that seniors aren’t charged late fees, under 16’s don’t have fines for adult books, and no one pays on juvenile and teen things!

Facebook is awash in images of HLH at festivals, videos of Teddy Bears’ Summer Camp, advertisements for Technobots, dyslexia advice, drama club and an architecture exhibit as well as cross promotions of district government entities and job postings.  Walking tours, board game nights, assistance for Ipads and smart phones and an intergenerational gathering where the young teach the old computer skills round out the offerings.

The page is kind of an online gallery – one cluster of photos highlights different types of bikes (love the concrete one sporting a superfluous lock and chain).  The Journal of the Van Man is a virtual ride with the bookmobile driver.  Shots put you on the ferry he takes to one of his island stops and let you see the seasonal changes of a scenic viewpoint on the route, but the best was his favorite road sign – Caution Otters!


Summer reading challenge, Bookbug is below the pirate ship

A third set features Bookbug as the stuffed animal mascot travels to castles, Roman baths and a safari park.

FWL stages story, song and rhyme for preschoolers four times a week.  One of these sessions is in Gaelic and kids can choose titles from Polish, Russian and Lithuanian also.  The library encourages class visits and instruction and the parents’ nook has materials on pregnancy and birth, special needs, difficult issues…

IMG_0979Children’s is furnished in primary hued picture book bins, bean bags, and a scarlet cushioned bench over storage drawers.  Vibrant posters use cartoons to simplify Dewey and sequined crowns and princess costumes in the dress up crate let imaginations soar.  Plush toys include a patchwork quilt pig, Kanga and Roo and Tigger too.

Tots get numbers practice from a carpet and wooden jigsaw puzzles and learn the alphabet via shelf separators with upper and lower case letters and an example noun.  A colorful painting by a young talent of Hugless Douglas, the bear in a Celtic language translation for kids, adorns a wall by junior fiction…

IMG_0981…where a papier-mâché Nessie joins a monstrous carpet to remind you this is Loch Ness country.

How nice to find such a charming and useful establishment amidst the natural wonder of the Scottish Highlands.


The leabharlann lies between the mountains and an arm of the sea

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Porthmadog’s Positioned Perfectly…

…for the community’s convenience.

Llyfrgell Porthmadog (LP) or in English, Porthmadog Library, on the west coast of Wales by lovely Snowdonia National Park, shares quarters with the leisure centre.

IMG_0652A few steps from downtown by the supermarket and tennis courts, it’s fronted by a garden with raised plots, potted plants, wooden tables and benches, and a charmingly painted shed.

IMG_0659Sian and Gwen, library assistants, greeted me warmly at the circulation desk.

The foyer is separated from the gymnastics and swimming by a partition with a middle ribbon of frosted glass etched in books and soccer balls highlighting the dual purpose of the building.


LP’s lobby looks out onto a busy cafe and pool

Cases of new books, DVDs, top sellers and district informational pamphlets fill the lounge and inside the brick wall, shelves on wheels featuring Quick Choices, Travel, Westerns and Biographies, wend their way around the place.    IMG_0722

End panels boast recommendations and everywhere bilingual signs acknowledge that, for many people here, Welsh is the primary tongue.

LP has free wifi throughout the structure and six internet computers for adults (UK card holders can use them whilst here on vacation and overseas visitors are charged 2 pounds per half hour).  They can regulate the amount of time individuals are on the station in Children’s.


Online, Resources gives free access to school, literary and test databases, encyclopedias, and the National Library of Wales’ e-subscriptions and trove of old digitized newspapers.

The website is in Welsh, of course.  A discreet tab provides the English translation and links go to pertinent sites like the Twitter account, nationwide virtual reference, the family advice service, Open University, and what sounds like a wonderful idea for preserving your heritage – People’s Collection Wales, a multimedia repository for storing your memories.

In good examples of interagency cooperation, the page promotes the local archive, appointments with Macmillan Cancer Support coordinators, and Bookstart, the UK’s national scheme for early reading that supplies parental instructional brochures and baby’s first books.


The atmosphere is cheery – patrons perch on bright furniture and a futuristic vermillion and gray couch by Youth ensures the comfort of tots’ guardians.

LP is part of Llyfrgelloedd Gwynedd, which joins thirteen libraries in this sparsely populated region that was once an ancient kingdom.  Materials are chosen by the User Services Manager and a regular bookmobile goes to remote villages.  The system also delivers to the mobility challenged and their full time carers.  Users can borrow 20 titles for three weeks and checkout two DVD’s for one.  There’s no charge for most books, any Welsh language tapes and the electronic books, audios, magazines and comics.  Interlibrary loans are all free within Wales except when they buy a brand new book for a specific request.  They charge £1 to £7 for books from outside Wales or from the British Library (usually books for study or more specialised volumes).

You can rent a meeting room and teachers can order stuff for classes.  Large print texts and items for those with visual impairment are available, as well as therapy books for youngsters trying to overcome problems or understand touchy issues.


I was pleased Anna Yardley Jones, the Llyfrgellydd Ardal (Area Librarian) was there.  Though based at LP, she’s responsible for Nefyn, Pwllheli, Cricieth and Blaenau Ffestiniog too, so luckily is full time though her three staffers work more limited hours.  Anna studied Welsh History in college and did a joint honors in Welsh and librarianship.  She told me they are supported by the council and were able to move here in February 2015 after winning a 250,000 pound grant to become a shared space for residents.  It was sad to move from their old premises, but there’s more parking here.


In the children’s area the stacks of audios, novels and easy readers become a smiling steam train and board book bins resemble box cars.

I went during summer when they have several Welsh story and rhyme times which will assist the effort to reach a target of a million Welsh speakers that Anna mentioned.

For the Reading Challenge, Anifail-Ysbiwyr or Animal Agents, LP hands out incentives such as wrist bands, scratch and sniff stickers, key fobs, door hangers and bookmarks.  Kids who come three times and take out nine books receive a certificate and a medal.  Associated activities include animal shows, movement, music and story sessions and various crafts (participants are wisely advised to wear old clothes).  Other branches have Spies Academy (ah, the meaning of Animal “Agents” becomes clear), treasure hunts, face painting, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier…Spider?, and a fairy folk trip to Lyn Barfog, the legendary origin of the country’s black cattle.


One of the many offerings in Welsh

Announcements on Facebook appear first in Welsh then below in English.  Pictures of customers enjoying head massages, babies playing, tots proudly showing off egg carton monsters or examining crates of critters, and masked kids posing for agent IDs pack the page.  A post invites you to join a group making a library mural and banners herald new acquisitions and a host of enticing events like magic and clown shows, picnics, beginner’s web classes, relaxation training, maths revision, book and art sales, wellness walks with refreshments, and 3 D modeling, weaving, art or drama workshops.  The holidays bring a Christmas raffle for the small set and adults can fashion felt ornaments.

LP has bimonthly storytimes…


…and story sacks containing pop up and touch and feel books, games and toys.  Books Bags have multi sensory contents appropriate for juveniles who have learning disabilities.

Students can spread out by the reference tomes, then treat themselves to a teen title after finishing.


Suitably for a location in a fitness facility, the library presents an array of health and well being programs on subjects like cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, travel insurance and sun safety and has aroma, gardening and music therapy and displays on cancer.  Adults attend talks on planting herbs, dementia and energy bills or go to tai chi workouts, get laptop help, listen to poetry in the garden and relieve stress in coloring groups.

Llyfrgell Porthmadog seems to have thought of just about everything to better the lives of citizens.


Yet another reason to visit – beautiful Black Rock Sand Beach

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Fulfilling Füssen

While in the highest town in Germany’s Bavaria last summer I went to Stadt Bibliothek Füssen (SBF).


SBF is on left

Housed in a baroque monastery, the stairs down are half-timbered so I’m surprised to find sleek glass and steel fixtures.  Futuristic sconces and floor lamps dot the premises and attractive Plexiglas and brushed metal stands hold staff suggestions and informational pamphlets.  At the spiffy circulation desk, Tina greeted me warmly, but due to policy, couldn’t be in the photo.

IMG_0385It’s one level, and though quite hot outside, its cellar location means air conditioning is unnecessary.  The building is on a steep slope, so despite the catacomb style entry, as you move further in, the vaulted ceilings, tall arched windows and whitewashed walls impart a bright and airy feel.

IMG_0395The crisp white racks have lots of holes to allow adjustment for displays.  Sandwiched between two normal cases acting as end panels, tiers of audiobooks are presented face out.

Sliding drawers let you easily browse the 6,400 CDs, films and brand new releases in Media.

IMG_0388SBF is one of the largest public facilities around.  Founded in 1958 as Volksbücherei (people’s library), a 2011 expansion brought modernized equipment and turned it into the ideal community gathering place where people chat to friends, surf the web or relax over a cup of coffee and a newspaper.



SBF has an association that, like a Friend’s group, advocates for them and seeks relationships with regional schools, cultural organizations and governing bodies.  

There are three internet computers and free wifi for all.  Use has tripled to 130,000 loans per year in just a decade.  Up to age 18, you don’t pay, and then it’s 20 euro a year or buy a family card for 30 euro.  Materials go out for four weeks except periodicals go out for two and ILL is available.

It’s a very different layout from a typical library.  Long cabinets are custom fit, sinking below openings and creating exhibition areas on top.

Fascinating sculptures and art constructions catch the eye.


Infinity effect

Classics and bestsellers are propped up on a long single ledge running down one side of the corridor and shelves are off the ground so can be cleaned underneath.

The library does a monthly tour, and has concerts, lectures and author appearances.   Discuss books at LiteraturCafé or go to a cinema night or “Bittersüß” (bittersweet), a series of happenings from October to April.  In summer, Martin Harbauer, an actor and professional storyteller from the Bavarian Theater Academy, reads from Hesse, Goethe, Melville and London.

IMG_0399In Teen’s, high seats by a PC, graffiti splashed walls and manga make a statement about the expected audience.  SBF carried video games until 2015 but got rid of them in hopes of encouraging people to play board games together (they have a whole slew for checkout), so the TV console and headsets are now solely for previewing movies.

IMG_0420Exploring the attached courtyard, I admired the exterior’s whimsical details – terracotta tiles cap a high wall and a small bronze roof covers an octagonal enclosure perched on a buttress.

The friars slaughtered animals in this little garden and during the renovation lots of small bones from chickens and rabbits were unearthed.

Youth and Fiction are in what was once storage for the cloister…

IMG_0430… while colorful Children’s used to be the Conditorey (confectionary).  Knotted pine planks and scatter rugs lead passed offerings for tiny tots encased in stackable cubes to titles for older kids.  Wheeled contraptions hold picture books in crates and rows of paperbacks beneath.

Youngsters lounge on beanbags, benches and stools painted with favorite characters or read ensconced in curving primary hued plastic chairs.  Parents have comfortable furniture options too.IMG_0452The wonderful flag stone floor is exposed here, though I imagine the carpeted sections must be warmer in winter.

Plush toys keep toddlers occupied as juveniles select Kinder DVDs in a curtained alcove.  Backpacks contain a mixture of themed items including CD Roms and quizzes.  Appropriately for a district where crenellations are common, one was on knights and castles.  Handouts featuring upcoming adolescent activities hang from a carving of a cheerful pig-tailed girl in patchwork clothes by a charming papier-mâché giraffe.

img_0448.jpgJuniors attend regular storytimes and online the Antolin-Buchportal provides interactive reading support.

The website also has a program calendar and a slideshow of the bibliothek.  A library value calculator lets you discover taxpayers’ return on investment or subscribe to the newsletter.  Download electronic books, media and serials via Onleihe Schwaben or search the Brockhaus Encyclopedia.

SBF lends energy conservation kits and has a wide array of map packages for recreational adventures like cycling, crosscountry skiing or hiking (“wandern” in Deutsch – what a great word for it!).  Wicker seats by a fretted sun streaked window make an inviting spot and near a bulletin board with patron tips and reviews, a frame around a PAC supplies even more promotional space.


Lots of light for studying

In the only place with anything resembling stacks I met Sabine Frey, the director or Bibliotheksleitung (library management).  Until 2010, SBF had a mere 144 square meters (1550 square feet) and now it’s 946 square meters (more than 10,000 square feet) and has 42,434 items.  The city budgets 35,000 euro annually for acquisitions and takes care of employee salaries and infrastructure costs.  Four people work here – full timers Sabine and Monja (who answered my initial inquiry) and part time Tina and Moni plus several volunteers who read to children and they currently have an apprentice as well.

Sabine enlightened me about the abbey’s past.  Originally, this room was the kitchen and its former Komedihaus (theater) is now a repository for 4500 volumes of local history and its special collection on Totentanz (Dance of the Dead – there’s a famous one here) and violin and lute fabrication, crafts inextricably linked to Füssen.

All the paintings and installations have some connection to the area.


Fanciful instrument

I was intrigued by this piece and by three similar ones in a recess above Travel.

Sabine then led me into the pièce de résistance, the Orangerie, a stunning chamber   perfect for library functions and meetings.

img_0512-e1501713616371.jpgAt other times, the conservatory is open to anyone who wants to enjoy a beautiful venue lit by the soft glow of chandeliers.  Read papers attached to spindles or choose one of the 50 magazines from an antique white vitrine.  If you’re thirsty, help yourself to some water from the pitcher on the portable bar by the small kitchen or grab a macchiato from the Café, where a cupboard filled with crockery flanks an honor system coffee machine.  A woodstove sheathed in a towering pearlescent gray unit effectively disperses heat to keep it cozy as you ease into a striking blue and fuchsia cube shaped cushioned chair.

Füssen gets so many tourists they can borrow from SBF for free using the KönigsCard.  Without it, visitors pay five euro to use the library while here.  So if you ever go to Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for the one at Disneyland, be sure to take a “peak.”


Surrounding scenery

You won’t regret a side trip to this magnificent edifice on the banks of the Lech, and the delightful library inside will welcome you with open arms as you gape at its architectural gems.

What an appealing destination!  The citizens of this lovely old town are very fortunate.



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Liking Little Liechtenstein’s Library

With Austria to the east and Switzerland across the Rhine to the west, the mountainous terrain surrounding the Liechtensteinische Landesbibliothek (LL) or National Library of the Principality of Liechtenstein, for those of us who don’t speak German, is breathtaking.  LL is in Vaduz, the monarchy’s capital, where about 5200 of the 37,000 or so Liechtensteiners live.

IMG_6009Situated here since 1968, the library and the Office of the Environment share a large building.  The front has ample parking for cars and bikes, pretty landscaping, and benches, tables and chairs under shade trees on the lawn.

Entering on the second tier, I chatted to friendly Beat Vogt, Antiquarian, and Livia Amstutz, Fachfrau (Specialist) at the desk.


Beat and Livia

To become a librarian here requires three years of training – two days per week at school and three days in a library and some people go to Chur for a Masters.

Residents pay 10 CHF once (about $10) and are then members for life.  The card is good for the other public libraries in Liechtenstein (adults can use them though most are in schools and one’s in a church) as well as for the hundreds of Swiss ones that recognize BibliOpass.  It’s free to borrow anything except via the interlibrary loan system they participate in with nearby countries like Germany.

LL has wifi and six or seven public internet stations and, not including periodicals, about 40,000 things users can take home.


Self check

Books, audiobooks, video games, movies and CD-ROMs go out for a month and can be renewed, but you must watch and return feature films in a week.  The big media area is separated by categories – thrillers, sci-fi, sports, nature, biographies etc., and a spot for just released DVDs.

IMG_6052Children have a neat space with a playhouse and an array of kid’s prints.  A huge crocodile lurking on the stage makes a great cushion for readers.  Tall stacks on wheels carry plenty of choices and they have storytimes three to four times a year.  Short story competitions, a scavenger hunt for the Lost Manuscript and writing workshops are a few of the activities for tots.

IMG_6025Or they can play foosball in the cloakroom conveniently located next to the vending machine lounge where tables sporting petite flower filled vases impart a café mood and newspapers on spindles keep diners engaged.

IMG_6065Back in the lobby, pegboards have staff picks or bestseller covers so you know what to put on hold or hot titles brought back that day.  I admired the glowing floors and a plush azure chrome and velour couch in Magazines.  A bin labeled “Book Bazaar” sits next to a PAC and a carved tower of tomes.

IMG_6055Walking up the wood slatted staircase, I passed mounted pamphlet holders, tempting travel titles and dangling green fronds from plants on the landing to reach Sachliterature.  Literally “proper literature” (love the inference), it’s nonfiction.  At the perimeter lie management offices and a computer room for classes and meetings…

IMG_6081…and the center is filled by a soaring atrium.  Futuristic brushed metal lamps and radiators add to the modern air.  A sturdy table and colorful stools on an auto racing rug by a basket of toys and stuffed animals keep little ones busy so adults can browse in peace.


The windows have wonderful views of the Prince’s hillside castle

Connected to 180 libraries in eastern Switzerland plus ten in Liechtenstein, the Landesbibliothek has ebooks, eaudiobooks, emovies, emagazines and databases.  More than 600,000 digitized pages of documents searchable in full text are available for historians on eLiechtensteinensia.  Online there’s an RSS feed, promotional banners, tidbits about personnel passing final exams and links to reviews, purchase suggestions and the newsletter.  Lists of new acquisitions can be sorted by subject, audience, language, purchase date, format etc.

Occasional tables have cheery literary themed centerpieces made from cut out pages,

IMG_6088and beneath slanted panes, a sunny nook must be so cozy in winter when the landscape is blanketed in snow.  In summer it almost feels like you’re outside.

IMG_6097LL has ebook seminars, book afternoons for seniors, author appearances, exhibitions, literary salons and right before Christmas, on the last open Saturday of the year, they throw an annual thank you tea for customers.  The spring Buchtage festival has a book exchange and poetry readings.  On Facebook, images of teens in virtual reality glasses and chatting over board games mix with snaps of stages of the recently finished construction project, job postings and announcements about the new website.

Back downstairs to Belletristik (fiction) and the areas for younger patrons, I was pleased to run into Dr. Wilfried Oehry, the Landesbibliothekar (translates to Country Librarian, like the US Librarian of Congress!).


Dr. Oehry by some of the DVDs

When he graciously emailed giving permission for me to take photos, I was flattered he’d taken the time to peruse my blog.

LL has a budget of 1,800,000 CHF and 16 employees, most full time.  As the national library, they collect patents and everything written by citizens, published in Liechtenstein or about it.  Affiliated with the national archive, it also serves as the largest public facility in the region, recording 50,000 visitors and 180,000 loans a year (using ProLitteris to pay authors for checkouts).

Of the 285,000+ items, 88,000 are deemed cultural assets and an essential part of the country’s heritage.  The accumulation of “national memory” started privately after the Second World War, but in 1961, a law decreed the Landesbibliothek as a central gathering point for these materials.  It became a physical entity in 1962 at the Vaduz School of Education and moved here in 1968, with at least one expansion after that.  The library belongs to various international bodies like the Conference of European National Libraries and serves researchers, students and scholars too, so has academic volumes and provides infrastructure for their work.

img_6067.jpgWilfried told me I had timed my tour perfectly.   Two days prior they celebrated the completion of the renovation splitting Jugend (Youth) and Kinder.  The whole populace was invited for “culinary delights”, clowns, games and a story-teller and a sign up charge amnesty for those who registered that day.

img_6129.jpgA display shows off the submissions in the wettbewerb (competition) held for teens to create a logo for their new quarters.  The winning entry above shows Ko-Libri, listening to an audio encircled by books and media.  As kolibri means hummingbird in German and incorporates “libri” the Latin term for book, it’s very appropriate.


YA section

White DVD racks on wheels complement the royal blue walls and wire legged loungers clustered around a black steel table.  A cabinet offers graphic novels while a magnetic words panel encourages your inner poet.  Popular titles occupy the tilted middle and lowest shelves near a big screen Nintendo console sandwiched between young adult classics.  And through the glass, vistas of peaks dappled with dark forests and green meadows abound.


This valuable Vaduz library is quite a boon for a small alpine enclave!
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Chuffed about Chur’s Libraries

Chur (pronounced coor) is in the idyllic “Heidi” country of eastern Switzerland, so the sounds of ringing cowbells echo from the surrounding verdant hillside meadows.

In the heart of the pretty old town, through a vaulted passage, lies Kantonsbibliothek Graubünden (KBG).


The “kanton” in the name should have tipped me off that though open to all, KBG is more like our state libraries and Canton Librarian Petronella Däscher similar to a state librarian.  She’s also president of a commission providing guidance and promoting leadership to and cooperation between public bibliotheks in Graubünden and some specific financial support if needed.

Initially part of a government school, KBG has existed since 1883.  The inside of this lovely old building has been thoroughly modernized with carpet tiles, potted trees and ample light supplemented by lamp bars over study tables.  Chrome, glass and black leather furnishings and vibrant posters set off pristine walls.


Perhaps original to the structure?

I admired one of the few interior reminders of its antique architecture as I looked for the email from Leitung Stv. (Deputy Head) Andri Janett kindly giving me permission to take pictures.

Their three stories begin in the basement.  Being down here ensures it’s cool despite the lack of air conditioning.

At circulation, I chatted to friendly and informative Martin.


Martin Leuenberger, Katalog (Verbundkoordination)

He works mainly in cataloging and collection development and is only on the desk a couple of hours per week, so I was lucky to encounter him.  As usual, I asked about schooling and Martin said you can do a three year apprenticeship after you finish at 16 or complete a three year Bachelor’s course at the university here.

Art exhibitions, garden tours, haiku readings, presentations and lectures are advertised on the big screen by the entry.


KBG has wifi and, including a thousand magazine and newspaper subscriptions, over 400,000 items in the three official canton tongues, German, Italian and Romansh.  The website is translated into these languages and the heading “Neuzugänge”, leads to monthly lists by subject of the 9000 units added each year.

The tab for DibiOst, links to downloadable books, audios, videos and databases supplied by a consortium of district libraries.  Or access world newspapers alongside Swiss periodicals and digitized historical documents.


The library employs about 24 people, mostly part time, and has a microfiche machine and a scanner near the comics and graphic novels.  Thirty Swiss francs (CHF) a year let you borrow books for four weeks and A/V for two.  Renew up to five times if not reserved or source your stuff via ILL.

Browse face out movies and music in mobile cases or choose them from spinners and wall mounted baskets.  Wire grids, tilted shelves and pegboard stands offer plenty of display opportunities.


Benedikt’s last week

Place holds online and give feedback or peruse the monthly newsletter and sign up for the RSS feed.  Under a photograph of Benedikt, is an invitation to apply for the annual internship.

Up past the glass elevator I notice a dumbwaiter and conveyor belt by crates waiting to be unpacked.


Tables sporting chess and backgammon sets tempt you to have a game or you could step onto the balcony to relax in the fresh air.

Or explore the Raetica Collection, completing the Graubünden archives (housed on upper tiers here), it carries delicate old prints from before 1800, and manuscripts, books, images, movies, etc. about or made in the canton or written by inhabitants.  Other specialties of KBG are regional radio and TV broadcasts, postcards and topographical maps.  The Evangelical Synod’s Pastoralbibliothek compiles valuable works produced after Reformation in the sixteenth century.  More recent inventory is on the web and available in the media portal.


Leaning over the railing I watched the activity below

KBG’s focus on education means an acquisition policy based on scientific quality and allowing textbooks…


Wonderful views of mountain villages perched high above the crystal clear Rhine

…but nothing for the little ones, so passing through cobblestone squares with fountains, statues and outdoor cafes, I strolled a few hundred meters to Bündner Volksbibliothek or Stadtbibliothek Chur (SC), the city library.


Painting above appears to be an axe wielding man leading a flower crowned cow to slaughter!

More like our public libraries, there’s an outside book sale and lots of popular materials, this institution (and its other facility, which closes in summer) works closely with KBG.


At checkout, Stefania greeted me warmly and was very helpful, though camera shy

Downstairs is spacious and nicely arranged with divided boxes of Manga and flower branches adorning groups of recommended titles.  Padded red armchairs and a warm window seat over a radiator let you read in comfort.  Stacks are on wheels for flexibility – the Swiss are so practical!

The Children’s Room was so busy, I couldn’t take any long shots, but it’s sizable and has a wide selection for kids in their three vernaculars.


Decorated by illustrations of beloved literary characters, plush animals and striped throw pillows, the various plants and colorful magazines, CDs, DVDs and picture books also brighten the area.

Behind desks, storytime paraphernalia is neatly stowed in drawers built into the wall.  Like Brugge and Punta Arenas, they have kamishibai sessions (meaning paper play, it’s Japanese street theater) and alpine fairy tales.  Adults have book talks and author appearances.


The library is a jumble of at least three floors – book lined stairs bring you to the top levels.  Up here it resembles a house or a fascinating warren of nooks and alcoves.  Dark beams bolster the ceiling while wood framed doorways and short flights of steps take you from one distinct space to the next.  I find a tablet for customer use and a vitrine containing a miniature toy store with tiny stuffed teddy bears, hobby horses and drums.

The website has print and A/V suggestions and employee photos plus their thoughts on life and literature.  It connects to DibiOst, annual reports, a local school learning platform and prices – yearly privileges starting at 120 CHF for families, 60 for individuals and 40 for juniors under age 26, or pay per item for 3+ CHF (about three dollars).  For schools SC gives class tours, lends kits and assists on reading projects.


Love this curved staircase, but the catwalk is for staff only

Facebook announces they’ve got 70,000 items for your pleasure and promotes future films and events.  Shots of writer visits, storytelling and rapt audiences, young and old, pepper the page.  Bibliotheksfest had activities, puzzles, raffles and prizes for kids and refreshments for everyone and another time youths created a video.

And it said – “Now it’s official: the public library Chur will become an enlarged, more modern and more attractive library in 2018!” – though this is a translation so I can’t confirm it.


The attic’s layout is like a maze

Still, if true, it would mean that patrons of Chur have even more to be grateful for.

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Inspiring Innsbruck

I got a taste of this pretty Austrian metropolis many years ago, a few years after their 1976 Winter Olympics.  Bigger now, it retains its charm.  A short walk from the pastel houses lining the sparkling Inn River I came to the Stadtbücherei Innsbruck (SI).


Behind a facade of stately structures, tucked into an ivy smothered cobbled courtyard with a little playground and covered bike racks, lies the sheltered entryway.  Taking advantage of the brush rug protecting the marble lobby tiles from shoe grit, I perused posters of district happenings before meeting Dr. Markus Jäger, who spoke perfect English (as usual, all translation errors are mine).



Markus studied political science and has a PhD in American Literature and Culture and has been here five years.  He worked at SI as a student and oversees children’s and teen books, much of the social media presence, public relations and group visits.  The latter are often set up by Sonja Unterpertinger, who, though employed by the Tyrol, has an office here running Servicestelle für Lesepädagogik encouraging reading in youngsters using outreach to schools, workshops and Markus’s introductory tours.


Atrium style roof

The interior is stunning.  Geometric walls and ceiling set off the cushy overstuffed sofas and armchairs by classic forest green lamps.

SI is under the cultural branch of city government, has 6000 members and costs 19 euro per year, but a family card is 23€ and kids and the retired pay eight.  Everyone can checkout up to twenty items (books go out for three weeks and audiovisual (magazines, CD Roms, audio books, DVDs, games, music CDs) for a week), reserve for less than a euro and renew.

This area of Austria has some very small libraries organized by town churches but independent of this stadtbücherei.  The unified catalog has their holdings and via Innsbook, users can borrow at any location and return to the same institution.


Children’s is for 11 and under but similar cabinets sporting purple instead of yellow at the bottom indicate fantasy and other YA materials

As we headed into Youth, Markus told me they lend a wide choice of board games but PC ones were abandoned as everyone gets them from the internet now.

Stacked primary hued boxes hold picture books and make for flexibility in presentation and odd angular seats promise parents a padded perch.  A perfectly positioned skylight illuminates the stage.


For daytime performances, there’s a natural spotlight

Tuesdays to Fridays mean school tours and storytimes, all done before the ten a.m. opening.

English, French, Turkish, Russian, Spanish, Italian, and Serbo-Croatian titles spark curiosity about our wide world.  Adults can choose from these tongues and I spotted German as a second language and Farsi too.  Europeans are close to so many destinations that their huge travel book section has overhead signs directing you to Africa and the Americas, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe etc.


Drink coffee anywhere

Movies and music are easily browsed in carts on wheels.  Lacking a meeting area, the omnipresent mobile shelving is handy for evening events as it can be shoved around to create all kinds of spaces.  The portable stacks are used all over and in Kid’s they have an accordion room divider as well.

IMG_5816Crime fiction is their biggest seller so there are recommendations stands by the door.  Online, SI has a journal database and offers e-books and e-audiobooks but evidently in this country, publishers can prevent electronic sales to libraries, even though the Austrian Library Association does pay royalties to authors.

Display subjects range from running to Kafka to International Women’s Day to sustainability to LGBTQ topics.


Glass elevator

I see interesting touches everywhere like sleek chrome support columns and coat racks.  Four internet computers arranged in a pod and one for word processing are for cardholders – show yours at the desk and you’ll get the keyboard, or a wifi password.

The website has snaps of all personnel and describes their roles.  Additionally it links to Seitenwechsel (Page Break to us) the twice yearly newsletter, annual reports and Sommerleseclub, the adolescent summer reading initiative.

Facebook has promotions for Innsbruck Reads (a yearly project where they give out 10,000 copies of the selected novel for free) and for new magazines and titles, a prose festival, contests and “Bloody Valentine”, a crime author talk.  Studded with quotes about libraries, votes on boys’ and girls’ favorites, photos of people enjoying lectures or a good book, new interns and hires, staff posing in an array of T-shirts for World Book Day, foreign colleagues and readings from local writers (often sponsored by corporations), it’s very active.


Kathrin Mader-Walch (former Head of the City Library – she just retired)

We chatted for a bit to Christina Krenmayr (in June, she was in charge of the digital end of things, but now she’s the new Head) .  She has a Mag.a – an Austrian master’s degree.  It is possible to get a master’s in information science, but to join the team you need the equivalent of a high school diploma plus twice a year you’ll spend a paid week in Salzburg for continuing education.  Also, you must do a library course with a final presentation.

Markus’s presentation was a model for a new library (and one will be completed next year).  A big part of its premise was that a public library is a mirror for diversity – he mentioned the collection only had Catholic volumes in the seventies and early eighties, but now carries all religions.


Magazines overlooking the green bushes of the garden

Select from periodicals in English, French and Italian as well as all the German newspapers.

Markus mentioned it’s a very social venue to come and read or meet friends.  Noise is acceptable as people should feel welcome.  They have an educational function and strive to reflect the needs and wishes of inhabitants.

IMG_5823A few thousand refugees call this region home.  Many come to study German and they can checkout two items.  Markus co-organizes wer bist du?  (Who are you?), a series allowing students to learn about the cultures of representatives from different nations and the advantages of diversity.  It’s also designed to welcome the newcomers and ease integration.

Programs include games afternoons, readings, poetry slams and storytelling for adults.


Cool stairs draw your eyes up

The second floor is teen and adult nonfiction but it gets awfully hot in summer because of all the glass.  Low shelves of coffee table tomes ensure natural light is plentiful, not just from the panes above.

IMG_5850The ends of tall steel and wood cases have tilted ledges for suggestions and a conference table seats eight.

IMG_5847As attractive as it is, SI has been in this building for eighteen years and it’s much too small – about 590 square meters (6350′ square) for patrons and 100 for offices and technical support.  Austrian library standards are two units per resident, but they’re physically confined to 55,000 for a population of over 130,000.  The city approved the future stadtbücherei three years ago.  At the entrance to the aldstadt, by a popular shopping mall and public transport, it will be at the base of the new cultural center with some local archives and the Andechs gallery and will be quadruple the size and more modern, e.g. self check…


Posted photo of home in 2018 (courtesy of SI)  – plans are available to examine

There’ll be study rooms and an event hall (so staff can stop shifting furniture).  New hires will supplement the team of eleven working Monday to Friday plus the three on Saturday.


Mountain views from our nearby hotel

What a wonderful place and after moving into the new digs, they’ll be even better equipped to fulfill the Stadtbücherei Innsbruck’s Leitbild (motto) envisioning a “city library for all” that embraces their multilingual community.

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Serene Sežana

Just 11 miles from Trieste, nestled in the rolling green hills of tidy southwestern Slovenia, lies the town of Sežana.  Once belonging to Austria, they had to hide all Slovenian books while occupied by Italy after World War I.  During WWII it was a dangerous spot to be in as natives put up quite a resistance against the Nazis and Fascists.  After liberation it became part of Yugoslavia until the country achieved independence in 1991.

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What a great slogan! genij=duh+razum means Genius=Spirit of Mind

We pulled into a tree shaded parking lot for some shops, an intriguing octagonal wedgewood blue bar, and Kosovelova Knjižnica Sežana (KKS), the headquarters for the javna knjižnica (public library) of the four municipalities in the region.  Three branches and a portable collection in Senožeče ensure that a library is always accessible.

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Magdalena Svetina Terčon, who manages all the locales, kindly offered to give me a tour and we chatted before she showed me around.  She spent time in Limerick, Ireland via a cultural exchange and speaks excellent English so I apologize for any mistakes I’ve made.  Google can’t seem to translate Slovenian as accurately as it does other languages.

KKS has 12 employees.  Ten work as librarians and Magdalena sometimes helps out with customers.  They have free wifi and though most citizens must pay for borrowing privileges it’s less than 20 euro for a family for one year.  All K-12 students and the unemployed get free membership and seniors just pay half.  Of course, if you want to use things in the library it costs nothing.

Like the rest of the facility, her second story office is quite stylish.


Conference table

And along with three informative multilingual brochures on the topography and sights in the vicinity that she gave me, she keeps some rare materials here.  Published in 1689, The Glory of the Duchy of Carmola, a four volume tome by Janez Vajkadd Valvasor is one of the oldest…


…and she even has a tiny version that delights young visitors.


After studying and teaching Slavic languages, Magdalena took the exam that is a requirement of any non clerical or janitorial personnel who work in a Slovenian library and has been the director here for four years.

She writes poetry so has an affinity for Srečko Kosovel, for whom the library is named.  Though just 22 when he died in 1926, he wrote more than 500 poems (many unpublished until the 1960’s), and as a voice against forced Italianization and for international socialism is considered a major central European talent of the modern era.  His family home and its beautiful garden, Kosovelova domačija, are nearby and are preserved by KKS who organize visits there and published a book of his sister’s recipes.

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The Kosovelova Study Room up here has a number of items by and about the poet plus its glass cases contain books, newsletters, articles, postcards, audios, videos and realia from the district for scholars and elementary pupils working on local history projects.  Some materials can’t be checked out, but others are lent for up to a week.

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The adjacent periodical area is also a good place to study and I love how the rose and white colors of the furniture are used in the magazine and newspaper racks.

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This level is mostly for younger patrons and the library is great about involving its audience.  A secondary school painted the zone for knjizni moljis (bookworms) age six through fifteen and the comfy couch, red bean bags, chess set and board games are sure to attract them.

All over the glossy tile and marble floors, potted pines and ferns, ficus, philodendrons and further foliage in gorgeous glazed ceramic bowls bring the outdoors inside and pale walls emit a magical glow.  Simple touches amuse and engage.  A bare branch spray painted black in a silver vase perks up a corner cabinet, and arrays of matted drawings grace both sides of the stairway where a little gnome squats next to plants on the landing.

In Ciciban, for those age nine and under, each year school kids repaint the central pole, imbuing the space with their chosen motif.

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The cars on the trolley carry precious picture book cargo and instruments, a dollhouse, stuffed animals, puppets, Legos, and toys encourage the imagination.  At the desk, an overgrown daisy and a framed series of illustrations catch the eye.

Kids four and younger come once a week for storytimes and though schools have libraries, kindergartners must read five titles and talk about them, so KKS throws a party where the small set receive a diploma.  Since they host at least three class outings a week, the extra room fold down leaves on a big table affords comes in handy.

Colorful hardcovers propped on end panels lure older readers into the stacks and the windows supply lovely views of the bucolic meadows outside or for train obsessed youths, the tracks right below.

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Kid’s creations are everywhere – portraits and artwork are pinned to clotheslines and taped to a column in the storytime section where cloth draped bulletin boards and tables are awash in amateur watercolors.  A brilliantly hued macaw and brightly colored scenes on cloud shaped backgrounds affixed to the glass panels on a sliding door reveal some major skills.  Sandwiched between two hutches, a cardboard castle stands by boxes of soft fabric books and free discards to take home.

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A curtain between tall cases topped by peaked roofs turns one part of the room into a stage so the more theatrically minded can invent their own plays.

With 471 events each year, the system’s Facebook page gives an idea of some of the activities available for children.  Videos show paper dragons and a pirate ballet and photos depict everyone costumed for Mardi Gras, the snowman tots made at the holiday fairy tale and a beautiful Christmas tree adorned by crocheted snowflakes.  Sessions on crafting tiny creatures or reading to dogs or learning about the world under the sea are heavily promoted…

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Most people have a device so the seven public computers are sufficient

…as are the myriad offerings for adults.  A doctor talks about a humanitarian expedition to Papua New Guinea and an author expounds on the customs in a small African village.  Residents hear from tornado and UFO experts, dog trainers, dieticians, architects, historians, spiritual gurus, gardeners and firemen or listen to guitarists and flautists, bands, a partisan choir or national poets at the “Merry Day of Culture.”  Attend exhibitions from needlework clubs, famous painters and Karst artists (folks often use this geological term to refer to inhabitants) or singing workshops and literary teas.  Go to book discussions and launches or offsite programs at the botanical gardens.


Down here, the split personality of KKS’s 11,000 square feet is more apparent.  The portion built in 2000 has a modern feel and shelves radiate out from the middle.  It’s open and airy and displays dot tables or become portable when affixed to easels on wheels.  Whether it’s an arrangement of Srecko’s titles or running books to highlight a popular marathon or an impromptu assemblage of the works of a Dutch writer who was speaking the next day, attractive layouts introduce users to new genres.  A push to read Slovenian authors includes a physical compilation and a virtual one on the website.


The furnishings and fixtures have flair.  A curved silver sign mirrors your image as it directs you to the various departments.  Large rocks hold long wands of postcards the library has designed to celebrate each year.  Oversize acrylics mix with Picasso style prints and borrowers can easily find sought after titles as recently returned items are stowed on a black wire cart by circulation.

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Near the foyer, alcoves hold numerous articles about the knjižnica or upcoming happenings.

In Media, orange smiley labels separate the children’s DVDs from adult’s and the CD console has plenty of storage in the drawers underneath.


As in Italy, movies for loan are subject to copyright laws, but a large selection of videos are just a year or two old and go out for a week.  Books go out for a month and can be renewed.

As well as the novels and nonfiction, KKS has volumes for college students and lots of materials for learning foreign tongues plus literature in English, Italian, French, German, Spanish and Croatian.  Some of the 120 periodicals are in English, Italian or Croatian too.

For ILL, they belong to an association of 58 libraries, but if you order out of this group you must pay.  Their budget comes from the government ministry and the towns, but they have 7,263 members and can keep those fees and fines.


As we ventured into the old structure, Magdalena told me that Kosovelova Knjižnica Sežana has been in this location since 1948 but this section dates back to 1850 and has charming flourishes.  The cheery rust linoleum and wood wainscoting have a retro appeal that’s perfect for Marta’s local history collection – as is the card catalog kept for nostalgia’s sake.

The website has a calendar, annual reports and provides access to e-books and databases searchable from home including the Dictionary of Slovenian Literary Language, EUROPEANA: Think Culture, and mCOBISS – digitized information from more than 400 Slovenian libraries.


The original entrance before the addition

Magdalena and her staff have fashioned a wonderfully eclectic place that enriches the lives of their community.

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