Handsome Hilton Head

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

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Yikes!  Luckily we didn’t encounter any voracious reptiles

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

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

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Bernie and Sue, Friends and friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So open and airy

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

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

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

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

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

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Signage courtesy of denizens of the deep

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

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

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

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Love these two handy holders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Timeless Tybee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In the stacks

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

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

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Sally is on left, Barbara to the right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What an asset to this charming laid back town!

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(Practically Antarctica) Punta Arenas

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La ciudad and the Strait of Magellan from a mirador

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

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

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

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Ninfa

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

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

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

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Wonderful mural wraps around to the right to cover the door

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

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

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

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Catherine Navarro

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

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

We headed up three flights…

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

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

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

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Their kitchen and bathroom

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

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

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

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

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In the estanterias

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

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

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Waleska Ruiz

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

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

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Cozy area by Colección Patagónica

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

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Justine, Ninfa and Vicky

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

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

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

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Clever Clive

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

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

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

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

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

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Note the futuristic self check behind Steph

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

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

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Affable Amanda in back

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

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Cozy up with a coffee

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

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Bucolic setting

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

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

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Teri and two of her magical drawings

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

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Dazzling designs

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

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

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Exposed pipes pull your eyes to the soaring ceiling

… and on the romances hidden back here.

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

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

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Sadagat

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

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

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Big enough for everyone

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

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So cute, but not big enough for the hoard

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

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

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Fish tank outside Children’s

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

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

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Cushy leaf cutouts are perfect for parents

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

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Stunning painting by family facilities

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

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Julia bade a friendly farewell

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

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Dynamic DuBois

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

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

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

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

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Rebecca in Youth

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

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To main section

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Magazines

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

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Robyne lit by Tiffany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Comely Cornwall

Continuing our tour of the splendors of rural New England, my mother and I headed down to the northwest corner of Connecticut, where for eleven years, starting in 1939 at age nine, she’d been a St. Luke’s camper then counselor, never missing one glorious summer.  Growing up in the dirty concrete streets of Greenwich Village, the nature and beauty of the area was a balm for her soul.

Each year the priests took their charges on a couple of very long hikes from West Cornwall over the mountain to Cornwall Bridge then along Route 7 (cars were a rarity on this now busy road) to splash and picnic at Kent Falls State Park.

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Drought has greatly reduced the brook that feeds the Housatonic River

She was also a teacher here and lived across the common from the library in 1955.  In fact, she moved here shortly after a flooding creek damaged the collection and contributed a number of her own treasured tomes to build it back up.

Driving passed the historical society we came to an idyllic green framed by village offices, two churches and the library.

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Brilliant trees above a weathered park bench and verdant meadows with a few brown cows surround a pretty building evoking a colonial barn.  You enter Cornwall Library (CL) up a path and steps reminiscent of the ubiquitous dry rock walls of the region.

The tiny foyer manages to squeeze in a spindle of paperbacks for sale, notice board and a rack of brochures.

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Once inside the farm theme continues – the whitewashed post and beam style and soaring ceiling lets sunbeams stream in.

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Lobby

Over the granite counters of the main desk we talked to Director Margaret Haske, who bears a strong resemblance to actress Maggie Gyllenhaal.  Though five distinct communities, all incorporating the name Cornwall, comprise this small village of 1400, just 80 kids now go to the K-9 school where my mother taught.

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Clerks have a view over the whole realm

Margaret works 35 hours per week and has two part time employees.  They supplement this with 20 hours of unpaid staffing – just a small part of the way volunteers and the Friends help out.  She handles all the technology and wifi is free as are the five internet terminals in a spiffy black and chrome alcove.

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Computing corner

The web site features new materials and a PayPal account for any generous bequests.  Facebook links to e-newsletters and promotions and YouTube videos of happenings.

CL is open five days a week and circulates about 15,000 items annually plus has Deliver It CT for ILL.  It belongs to the Bibliomation consortium for resource sharing so patrons can download any of 7000 Overdrive ebooks for all ages or borrow any of the 29,000 books, CDs, audios and DVDs here.  A Nook e-reader is available for loan and the visually impaired can use VideoEye.

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Embedded tiles show the changing seasons

Started as a dues paying organization in a private house in 1869, it became free to residents in 1945.  The library moved to the renovated office of a lawyer in 1874 and in 1908 a Mr. Calhoun gave them a graceful stone structure, its home until the trustees realized an expansion was necessary.  The association raised over a million in a capital campaign and tax payer dollars added nearly a quarter to that amount so in 2002 they relocated to the current premises leaving the old one exclusively for Town Hall.

The Polly and Frank Calhoun Community Room seats 48 and can be accessed via a back door off the parking lot when CL is closed.  Attendees can even go into the bathroom in the main part of the facility, if they eschew temptation and leave the books alone.  Equipment includes Acer DLP and DVD projectors for the flat screen TV and a kitchenette.

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Any clutter is due to the just finished booksale

Free to local non profits, CL gets 25% of proceeds from anyone who uses it to make money, like the Zumba, yoga and Pilates class instructors.

The majority of library funding comes from the Annual Appeal, then the town.  Grants and donations, their cut of meeting room proceeds and art sales, a tiny stipend from the state, and drawing on the endowment make up the rest of the budget.

There’s lots of media by the magazine section where tilted stands make browsing a breeze.

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Have a chat over coffee and a snack

The eclectic and comfortable décor has window seats, hassocks and cushioned armchairs.  The district’s spectacular scenery is evident in myriad paintings and through plentiful panes of glass.  Low shelves feature recommendations and along with potted plants, give CL an airy, uncluttered feel.

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At the end of the art exhibit, you can record your impressions on the ledger supported by an antique pedestal.

Hot water pipes running beneath the stained concrete floors bring radiant heating while 63 solar panels on the roof feed energy back into the grid, so even though CL sometimes relies on the power company for lights, electrical bills are a thing of the past.

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The Children’s Area is crowded with huge stuffed animals and offers book/cassette kits, board games, puzzles, toys and an assortment of parenting titles.

Youngsters have fun at Toddler Play Group, ice cream parties, family movies, Halloween Trick or Treat or a five day summer day camp in August.

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The space is big and bright with colorful autumn leaves draped atop stacks and miniature wood tables and chairs stained in a variety of shades.

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Adults can choose from author talks, a newcomer’s tea, fiction and poetry classes, healthcare seminars, writing workshops, Cornwall Conversations, Mahjong evenings, senior socials, a monthly knitting circle, garden tours, a quilt show, 3D printer demonstrations and artist’s receptions.

A winter film series, jazz band for Valentine’s Day, the Après Ski Cocktail Classic, Whiffenpoof alumni concert and Winter Swing are all signature events.  Lena Dunham, acclaimed creator and lead actor of HBO’s Girls, lives close by and last year came in to read from her bestseller, Not That Kind of Girl.

Gorgeous professional looking photographs from high school students make the entire place a gallery.

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Handsome modern furniture

Truly, the library is a sparkling jewel enriching this little hamlet.

 

 

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Arresting Arlington

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Though the rope swing is gone, the covered bridge is intact after the 2011 flood

In the early 1950’s my grandmother bought a property in Sandgate, so as a child I spent many happy hours swimming in the Batten Kill River in neighboring Arlington, VT.  Fifteen years after selling the cottage my mother and I went back for a nostalgic tour of the area and stopped in at The Martha Canfield Library (MCL), yet another attraction in this quintessential New England hamlet where Norman Rockwell lived for years.

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Down the hill from the middle and high schools, MCL conveniently shares a lot with the elementary school and the playing fields.  The handsome pale yellow building meets the ground at an angle, so on the right end scarlet shrubs cascade down the landscaped incline while an almost flat cement path serves as a wheelchair “ramp” on the left.

Up the stairs on the patio, a bench lets you enjoy the bevy of bushes and flora.  Embedded in a rounded rock in the center, a plaque reveals it’s Jean Woodman’s Garden.

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Creative arrangement – love the paper clips!

Forming a buffer against icy winds, a small entryway papered by notices has a free book cart and leads to a tiled two story lobby lit by a chandelier and furnished with an antique secretary, an arrangement of arrowheads under glass and a lovely portrait of their founder.

You can borrow reading glasses, pick up well designed bookmarks and handouts or buy pretty hand drawn note cards and ten cent (!!) greeting cards at the circulation desk where we met friendly Phoebe.  One of the volunteers vital to the ongoing success of the institution, she and my mother Carol were soon chatting about NYC and VT in bygone years.

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Phoebe

Founded as a society in 1803, the library first dwelt in the railroad station, next it moved to its namesake’s home.  In the 1940’s part of a house deeded to the Community Club was set aside for books so they shifted over, but after outgrowing those quarters, in 1996 construction on this facility was finished.  Martha’s Book House, now occupying their previous premises, is the main venue for booksale income, though items are also sold in a small nook off the foyer.

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Booksale

MCL’s website highlights new titles for all levels and has reviews, including some by members.  There’s a monthly e-newsletter, the VT On-Line Library for reference and journal databases as well as local newspapers and Mango language learning.  The Vermont Department of Libraries brings customers Universal Class with over 500 online choices and since they belong to the Green Mountain Library Consortium, users can download audio and e-books via Listen Up! VERMONT.

The facebook page has job postings, slogans and promotions for events here and in the vicinity.

Wifi is free and juveniles have two computers while adults have four – two of which are found in an alcove just outside the young adult area.

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Spot for teens

Dedicated to the Jaffee family’s passion for reading, adolescents access the internet from four terminals lining a wall decorated with posters.  Nearby, a long table lets friends study together.  By the YA magazines, cushy chairs and a plump hassock are great for lounging and bean bags are scattered about.  Jigsaws cram into one tall rack while board games fill another.

I spoke to LA Peggy Hanson who was very informative.  She mentioned this section was originally nonfiction but is now very popular among students and quite busy outside of school hours.  Luckily doors here and in Youth keep the library quiet.

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Space saving tip – CDs on shelf ends

Peggy extolled the virtues of their volunteers and said they are an integral part of everyday operations.  Five staff the front desk in shifts of a few hours each per week, and some organize functions and solicit monies that help make the library such a fine resource for citizens.

Along with the town of Arlington, bordering Sandgate and Sunderland contribute to the coffers as does interest from an endowment.  Fundraising, donations and The Canfield Advocates Group’s efforts to find grants and corporate partnerships (among other things) supplement the budget.

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Bucolic nook

Everywhere greenish light, tinted by the meadows outside and the flower pots on ledges, filters in, mellowing the atmosphere.

A case offers new DVDs and books by a paperback exchange.  MCL is open Tuesday to Saturday and only charges fines for videos.  There’s ILL, delivery for shut-ins and reading groups.  Residents can attend the Sunday Afternoon Series, the Dessert Party and Auction, seminars on ancestral research, crocheting and knitting circles and a workshop on how to make memory albums.

The small set gets Santa visits, and on Tuesday mornings, Preschool Story Hour with two to four fables, songs and finger play centered on one topic e.g. autumn leaves.  Anyone who works at the library can lead them and occasionally they’ll have tale telling sessions for Happy Days Playschool.

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Inside Children’s, coats and hats hang on hooks above collapsible cloth containers of board books.  Stuffed characters perch by panes above piles of plush pillows for programs and Book Express kits for teachers and homeschoolers.  These plastic boxes have 10-12 titles and activities on a specific theme like Tools and Machines.  Furry animals nestle in rocking chairs and big soft puzzle pieces and cupped hands provide movable seating in the aisles.  Enticing materials are propped atop low shelves abutting the games corner and in the display openings on higher ones.

Tables and chairs come in two sizes, neither appropriate for older folks 😉  Craft supplies have their own cupboard and milk crates hold paperback picture books.

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Peggy in Kid’s

The main adult space is what my ideal front parlor would be – expansive views of fall’s brilliant hues on the nearby mountains cozily observed from a smart leather armchair.  Volumes are stored beneath window seats and multipurpose consoles topped with plants present recent periodicals while back issues are stored in cubbies underneath.

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Mysteries, biographies and science fiction are kept on the sunny top floor across from a wood railing enclosing its four sides.

Through a door I can make out the Dr. George Russell (the model for Rockwell’s The Family Doctor) Collection of Vermontiana, which has rare village, county and state annals dating from the 1700’s.  Farm ledgers, genealogies, diaries and stagecoach records are just a few of the historical documents, but after postmaster James McCabe’s ten year archival stint it’s been run by volunteers so you must have an appointment or come on a Tuesday (unlike me) to see it.

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Balcony level

Down two flights (or take the elevator), the Canfield Gallery (whose first director was Phoebe’s husband, artist Julien Sheres) is widely respected throughout the region.  Exhibitions change monthly and showcase area potters, shutterbugs and painters who hold receptions on the first Saturday afternoon of the month.  During the winter holiday season it becomes a craft fair – perfect for unique, quality gifts.  Here I encountered a patron appreciating the scenic works of David Frey Utiger.

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Travis admiring the art

Also in the walkout basement, the pleasant meeting room has an upholstered love seat and patterned curtains.  Its kitchen has an ample fridge, gas range and lots of cabinets.  Though free for nonprofits like the Girl Scouts, people can rent it for baby and bridal showers and someone once hosted a tea here.

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What an appealing place with such nice staffers, both paid and unpaid, running it!

Thanks so much to Phoebe and Peggy for being so hospitable and to Phyllis, the volunteer, who relayed my request for permission to take photographs of this charming library and to Phyllis, the director, who granted it.

 

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