Balanced Barcelona

Ramp to the joint use facility

Ramp to the joint use facility

And balanced is the perfect description for Biblioteca Sagrada Família – Josep M. Ainaud de Lasarte (BSF), which is housed in a dual purpose building (the second and third tier are devoted to the library) and manages to serve both Spanish and Catalan speakers in this split personality capital of Catalonia, Spain.

When I went, BSF was in the process of changing its moniker to honor Ainaud, a much heralded parliamentarian, journalist, historian and promoter of Cataluña who lived in the barrio.

Gaudí's miracle

Gaudí’s miracle

It was originally named for the amazing La Sagrada Família cathedral, steps away down calle Provença, which already towers over Barcelona, though its completion date isn’t until 2026.

One of the largest Biblioteques de Barcelona (BCN), BSF encompasses nearly 28,500 square feet and sees more than 1000 visitors daily.  Easily accessible via the huge metro network that whisks you there in minutes, they have wifi and about forty five internet stations.  They hold daily programs, about 200 classes per year and 90,000 items including video games and role playing books, music and books on CD, movies and novels in both Catalan and Spanish.  It stretches them to buy in both languages but it’s necessary.  With few valuable tomes, everything but the most recent magazine goes out (reference materials too).

A friendly guy at the Info Point on the first level pointed the way and as I climbed the stairs, I noted the glossy black floors setting off the sleek furnishings and how plate glass windows everywhere bring the sunlight into this very stylish building which is fashioned around a courtyard that was once a communal garden.

Lobby replete with gegants - gigantic traditional parade figures that are somehow carried by the person inside (even the fire breathing dragons)

Lobby replete with gegants – gigantic traditional parade figures that are somehow carried by the person inside (even the fire breathing dragons)

The structure used to be a mall but was shuttered for 10-15 years until the neighborhood decided they wanted a facility for their barrio.  Reopened in July 2007, the basement has a farmer’s market.

Altogether, BCN has six libraries in the Eixample district, with 40 libraries in total.  Users can check out 30 items for 30 days (15 books or magazines and 6 DVDs plus music or games…) and renew twice and place holds from home.  They also lend books to institutions like social centers and private organizations.

Adults can attend writer talks, movie screenings and discussions, book clubs, lectures, exhibits, classes, plays, concerts, poetry recitals and storytelling sessions.  One series, Molt per Aprendre – dedicates a season to writing and art and the next to photography and creating technology.  You can connect to BCN through a mobil app, RSS feeds, or Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.  Ten branches rent out meeting halls and some lend laptops for in house use.

The cheery chartreuse cloud of Children’s has great views of the terrace outside and the street below.  I hear the unmistakable sounds of a youth program in an adjacent room as I wander beneath duck mobiles, passed Winnie the Pooh, bins of multilingual titles, and board books on wheeled carts.

Área infantil

Área infantil

In the storytime space, mats and vibrantly colored oblong cushions provide seating and a wooden sill does double duty as a bench.

Blue, yellow and green stickers separate titles by age and a big screen TV advertises upcoming events.   Kids can listen to stories or attend dramas and puppet shows and the amusingly dubbed Las Hormigas También Bailan (Ants Also Dance) while their guardians and teachers can get help with concerns or questions.

Decorated with niños’ artwork, red and blue fish swim all over one wall and youngsters can type on eight computers or play educational games on another two.

Talented tots - the mosaic theme recalls some of Gaudí's pieces

Talented tots – the mosaic theme recalls some of Gaudí’s pieces

Library personnel visit schools and work heavily with 11-15 year old students in particular.  They have a homework club to help disadvantaged kids and the bottom floor has an after school ludoteca (playroom) managed by the civic center where, during the school term, parents can pay to leave their child to study, play, get homework help, paint or do crafts.

BSF and the civic center share the lobby and auditorium (when I toured, a theater group for older people was rehearsing) where they put on concerts, exhibitions and other affairs.

Branch director Mònica in her office

Director Mònica in her office

Mònica Medina, who manages this location, had graciously agreed to show me around (and a big thank you to Mercè Muñoz Creus who arranged our appointment).  She’s a charming, intelligent and helpful woman who speaks impeccable English (so, any factual errors are my fault alone).  Despite her youthful appearance she’s been director at BSF since they opened.

We started behind the scenes where they have moveable storage, a staff room and Tech Services.  Much of the cataloging is done centrally so they simply add a cover, their stamp and a barcode, but since BSF can also buy books from stores, TS must catalog those.  They planned to add RFID tags in June and will eventually have self checkout and a conveyor belt for automated returns.

Near the employee area is the teen space where red and black shelves have a face out section in the middle, perfect for catching the eye.

YA (age 14-30 here) shelving.

YA (age 14-30 here) shelving

Young adults helped design this spot and it has displays of their creative efforts and an emphasis on things that appeal to youthful tastes like art, rollerblading, poems, fantasy, science fiction and computer games, plus BSF has rooms they can use for studying or reading clubs.

Mònica oversees 25 workers, 18 of whom are full time and BSF has six librarians holding at least a bachelor’s in library science (the director must have an MLS).  As a student, she always worked in libraries, first in secondary schools and a polytechnic, then in the last year of her studies she got a grant with the ERASMUS student exchange program and went to a Dutch museum library to do a practicum.

Customers can borrow/return from/to any of the metropolis’s or province’s locales, though a loan from outside Biblioteques de Barcelona costs 1.2 euro.  The website has downloadable eaudiobooks for those with limited vision (the Spanish blind have their own private foundation to get books from called ONCE), ebooks and newspaper, science and children’s databases.

They have workshops for people to learn to use technology, and if no class is going on you can use the machines in these rooms.



BCN will teach you how to use the library and you can take the exam to get the digital proficiency certificate often required to get a job here.  Their ten Antenes Cibernàrium media centers also encourage cyber skills and have modules designed especially for those 55+.

Assistive equipment is a forte with page readers, audio-description DVDs, magnetic ring transmission for hearing aids, large print volumes, Braille keyboards, talking computers, magnifiers and five branches have classrooms for new technology with joysticks for paraplegics (some operable with your chin).  Sign language interpreters are available for any class or program.

La ciutat invisible - magnetic books

La ciutat invisible – magnetic books

The installation above highlights books (the black squares magically attached to their silver backgrounds) that were produced in conjunction with The Invisible City, an effort to make voters aware of the lack of viable career choices for young adults.  The project aims to transform policies and so create new job opportunities.  As they say, “To make possible the birth of new realities, we must imagine them.”

Staff and volunteers venture into the community to work with old people, going to hospitals and nursing homes and if someone asks they’ll visit a residence.  There’s a reading club for seniors in conjunction with the civic center and they have booths at fairs and the local outdoor market where they advertise services and sell old material.  For example, this branch specializes in general and environmental sciences so they have a stall at the Barcelona science event.  BSF coordinates with social services and after the rest of the place closes at 9pm, classrooms can be used for studying until 1am!

DVD racks

DVD racks

Ingeniously, feature film DVDs are slipped into space saving plastic sleeves so you can easily flip through them.  Nearby TV series and documentaries have regular video cases, and you’ll find the language area with German, English, French, Italian and Portuguese offerings.  A yellow lantern signifies the large assortment of Chinese fiction and DVDs.  The organization of shelves here is meant to look like a labyrinth – when you get to the end you find a surprise of information.

Local history contains a part of their namesake Ainaud de Lasarte’s personal collection and lots on the Eixample/Sagrada Família section including works by those with ties to the vicinity, notably Antoni Gaudí, the inspired architect who in 1882 began that magnificently intricate sandcastle of an edifice that is La Sagrada Família.

Local history

Local history

Though four administrations help fund them (the governments for Spain, Catalan, Barcelona and its province) 60% of monies come from the city, and BCN has its own budget and can carry monies over for future requirements.

The 30 million euro (about 15€ per resident) received annually is leaps and bounds over the level of support just 17 years ago, when less than 13% of the public used them.  To amend that pitiful situation, they came up with a long term plan and formed a consortium run by Catalonian and metropolitan councils which created the thriving institution we see today.  Their mission called for sustainable construction, local involvement, a commitment to diversity and culture as well as information, and a quality professional team to serve patrons.

Llibres anglesos!

Llibres anglesos!

The system’s website helpfully has Català, Castellano (their Spanish) and English versions and I love that it defines bibliotecas as “locally based, public social centres open to everyone.”  No wonder nearly half of Barcelonians have a card, plus they mainly come on foot as a location is usually within easy walking distance!

They must do a good job publicizing as one quarter of those with cards are from outside the European Union, which mimics population statistics.  In recent polls they have consistently been rated the most valuable city service and 60% of the citizens say they use the library regularly.

BCN has lots of S/CSL (Spanish or Catalan as a Second Language) stuff to help immigrants and specific programs welcome them and address their special needs.  Library kiosks let patrons complete municipal forms and procedures and conveniently, some locales share a facility with other important neighborhood institutions like senior housing or a school.  Each branch has a director and can design their own programs to suit their community.

Intriguingly sculpted yet comfy

Intriguingly sculpted yet comfy

Your BCN card doesn’t just work here – you can get discounts at bookstores, museums, cinemas, music shops, galleries and theaters, and the e-newsletters often promote other specials.

They have Literary Itineraries – tours that explore Barcelona’s rich bibliographical heritage and take participants to places that relate to books and authors, including private quarters usually inaccessible to the public, and you can join these trips virtually too.

Ilustració científica

Ilustració científica

The maze of nonfiction stacks on the top floor reveals another delightful feature – numerous books of lovely scientific illustrations are interspersed with the rest of the special science collection.

Vivid nonfiction shelves

Vivid nonfiction shelves

Biblioteca Sagrada Família – Josep M. Ainaud de Lasarte is a marvelous addition to the area and along with BCN provides an invaluable resource to the lucky folk of this spectacular city.

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Lively Lisbon

Red tiled roofs of Lisboa and the Tagus River from São Jorge Castle

Red tiled roofs of Lisboa and the Tagus River from São Jorge Castle

Lisbon is a splendid city.  Set on seven cobbled hills, seemingly surrounded by water, there are miradores (viewpoints) everywhere.  Any road down from its heights leads to magnificent praças (plazas) and then quickly to the shore.


Since I don’t know any Portuguese, I wrote in advance to a number of the city’s public libraries about visiting and received an enthusiastic and proud response from Biblioteca São Lázaro (BSL), the oldest in Lisbon.  Now one of 17 locations in the metropolis, BSL is integrated with Bibliotecas Municipais de Lisboa (BLX), but was originally used by the (conveniently located) school next door and in 1883 became the capital’s first central library.

Beyond the yellow stucco facade and security gates lies an old fashioned tiled hallway with high cupboards and portraits on the walls.  Natural light steams in through transom openings and pale green disks hanging from above provide additional illumination.  At the far end, a cart loaded with dictionaries and a table of language learning materials can be borrowed by the sizable immigrant population, many Chinese or Bangladeshi, here.


If staff are busy, browse movies and books while you wait

Across from checkout, items on tall shelves stand with covers facing out and low white metal racks have movies.  Beneath a bulletin board another cart boasts mouthwatering cookbooks.

Painted a cheery blue and white, with gleaming dark wood floors, the first room on the left leads to the juvenile area and at the tidy Children’s station users can find out about available terminals.  I catch the sound of tots playing and a fresh scent from the tree outside breezing in through the oversize windows.

Public computers leading to Kid's just inside the entrance

Public computers just inside the entrance

It’s a hopping place.  Though not well funded, (most materials are a couple of years old and with just three staffers they must close on Sundays and for lunch on Mondays when just one person is working and for weekends in summer to get some vacation time in) they manage to serve this multiethnic neighborhood, striving to meet its specific needs, not least of which are the students in the adjacent facility with whom they work intensively.  In fact, when the neoclassical building was reopened in 2006 on the first day of school after being shuttered for a six year renovation, the cultural councilman emphasized the significance of the date and spoke of the importance of connections between libraries and the educational institutions in their areas.

Not realizing that the BSL director, Rui Faustino, was there, I just met two employees when I visited and luckily both of them spoke very good English, though there is still a language barrier, so any mistakes in translation are my fault of course.


Joaquina at the main desk

Joaquina, the reference librarian, was quite busy with patrons, but in between helping them was happy to answer my many questions.  BSL is supervised by Junte de Freguesia de Arroio, a smaller department, and will soon offer programs for older folks.  Totally free for any resident, they are barcoded, have wifi and eight public computers, French and English titles, ILL, music and a few audiobooks.  You can place holds and borrow up to five books and two DVDs.  Everything but the newest magazines go out for 15 days and there are no fines – you just can’t take anything out until you return your overdues.

My husband in the most beautiful reading room I've ever seen in a public library

My husband in the most beautiful reading room I’ve ever seen

But the best part of BSL is this six sided chamber appropriately outfitted with a hexagonal arrangement of tables.  Totally encircled, an inner table with a globe and an assortment of periodicals is lit by the luxurious quartz chandelier.   Maroon shaded lamps complement the glowing burled paneling and glass fronted cabinets protect Memórias de outras infâncias (Memories of other childhoods) an assemblage for researchers of more than 8,000 books published between 1900-1979 for Portuguese youngsters.

A piece of curved ridged wood mirrors the twist of the winding staircase leading up to the second story where an elaborate brass railing is all that stops you from flying off the path circumnavigating the space.

Spiral your way up

Spiral your way up through the sunbeam…

To get a better view from the narrow (and a little scary) walkway on the second tier

…to get a better view from the narrow (and a little scary) walkway on the second tier

In another, less opulent, room people were using the computers and perusing fiction.  While a number of homeless locals spend their days here, the São Lázaro district is slowly gentrifying.

Though they advertise events in the local papers, BSL has their own Facebook page, which they think could be another very good way for them to communicate with their audience.

Back out in the hall, I found a case of archaic library tools including an inkwell and quill pen.

Display of old library tools

Display from a forgotten era

That evening BSL was having a free astrology course for adults and each week in April and May a foundation put on a lecture series on topics such as infertility, osteoporosis, creating a CV, domestic violence etc.  Through BLX people can attend theater, writing and sewing workshops, parenting groups, musical events and family singalongs.  The system houses collections of ancient texts and digitized newspapers, and has exhibitions, yoga and meditation for young ones and classes on developing mobile apps, creating stories with your tablet, finding a job…

Dewey in Portuguese

Rather than Dewey, they use the Universal Decimal Classification (called CDU here)

The library has items for teenagers, comic books, a wheelchair ramp and the Sala de Apoio support room with moveable storage.

Snazzy moveable storage


I also got to speak to João about what’s required to work here.  As librarians, both he and Joaquina have university degrees and their director has the Portuguese equivalent of an MLS.  Support workers must get library certificates.  Before starting at BSL, João studied social animation and worked with a children’s shelter so he’s in charge of the almost daily storytimes.


Youth librarian João in his domain

The BSL employees are real go-getters and take any opportunity to supplement the meager budget.  Two weeks ago they increased their holdings by 2000 when they raided a branch that was closing for construction and they’ll rent out the building for a contributed book.  They’re really excited about the 5000 euro for new materials coming this year since many of their acquisitions come from donated volumes.

Stories anyone?

Stories anyone?

Children’s is decorated with a candy themed mobile featuring popsicles and bonbons and colorful kid’s artwork.  Squishy round lavender, teal and peach hassocks provide seating for parents and their offspring as does a triback upholstered bench. On a big foam mat in primary colors great for youngsters using the blocks and games on a nearby shelf, a happy duck and her duckling splash in a pond.

Book bundles

Book bags and board games

There are lots of toys and on a two tiered table, sunbursts lure the eye to a selection of picture books.  Small cushioned poofs stacked in a corner by the chapter books provide additional seating and shelf tops sport suggestions.

Drawings from talented adolescents, notably a lovely one of a woman in traditional dress playing a mandolin, paper a side of the flight of steps leading up to a mezzanine with nonfiction stacks, encyclopedia sets and an array of titles on Portugal.  This spacious spot has plenty of snazzy modern seating for students and customers reading beneath the heavy beams shoring up the stunning slatted cathedral ceiling.


Large loft

With its dedicated staff and mix of contemporary and bygone fixtures and furnishings, BSL exemplifies both the friendliness of the citizens and the breathtaking old world style any traveler will find in Lisbon.  This treasure is truly a boon to the community.

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Bustling Biloxi

The facility's Spanish Colonial style evokes the grandeur of the MS coast's 1920's hotel

The Spanish Colonial style evokes the grandeur of the Mississippi coast’s 1920’s hotels

I entered the magnificent stucco complex that contains the Biloxi Public Library (BPL) through a lovely, partially arched colonnade.  Separated from the Civic Center by a huge brick courtyard strung with fairy lights and sometimes used for balls, I knew from informative introductory emails from Charline Longino, the Head Librarian (since retired, Sharon Davis is now in charge), that the 22,000′ building’s early 20th century design helps ease the pain of losing so much historic architecture during Hurricane Katrina.

She’d also told me that a local film company and dentist had both used BPL in background shots.  Perhaps a not uncommon use for this stunning part of the country as later that day my husband and I stumbled onto another movie set at a sea side restaurant!

Charlie Longino at the Main Desk

Charlie Longino at the Main Desk

It’s warm outside, but it’s still winter, so the two delicate pink camellias floating in a lily pad bowl at the front desk hinting of spring’s imminent arrival are a nice touch as I meet Charlie in person and get an enthusiastic tour of a place she obviously loves.

One of four sites in Biloxi and part of the nine branch Harrison County Library System (HCLS), which, with help from FEMA, has four new buildings to replace those lost to Katrina, BPL holds the Local History and Genealogy Department (LH).

Local History

Archival area

Though unfortunately heavily damaged by the 2005 catastrophe, they are constantly adding materials and the 2500 square feet are packed with movable storage, an old card catalog with cemetery plot data, microfiche and an oversize printer for making posters.  As would be expected from those who watch over realia, it’s draped with collectables: a framed fleur de lis banner from a Krewe, prints of antebellum plantations, a cabinet full of old glass bottles, a vase holding paper flower staffs.  At Carnival processions men in tuxedos holding these sticks exchange them for kisses.

A Christmas tree is decked with the traditional purple, gold and green garlands and they have a plum hued book cart to continue the Mardi Gras theme.  LH has three employees who bring their special knowledge to the masses by partnering with other organizations to give historical lectures.

Including these three workers, BPL has four full time and three part time staff while the system has sixty.

Gorgeous ceilings grace the spacious interior

Glowing wood graces the airy interior

Opened in 2011, this location is the fourth iteration of BPL.  The third was flooded in three feet of water by Katrina and is now a green space, though luck and sturdy bygone construction practices allowed their 1920’s setting to weather the storm.  The original BPL was housed in an 1800’s cottage and around the early 20th century became the first free public library in MS.  It also survived and is still in use by the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation.

An exhibit highlighting the region's sea birds

Nature Photography by Elizabeth Graves

Conveniently situated downtown near a large park and two blocks away from the pristine sands of the Gulf, the city chose and built the structure so HCLS owns the contents but not the shell.  Gorgeous oak slat sound absorbing ceilings and enormous beams gleam above, lit by a wagon wheel chandelier and a clerestory that lets in the sunshine.

This month’s exhibition is an array of shots highlighting the region’s birds.  Another case features a dress and wooden shoes – attire worn by the French settlers (the district has a very mixed ethnicity due to the fishing industry) in the olden days of New Biloxi Colony.  The shoes were perfect for all the mud.  Across the aisle, a display contains Mardi Gras memorabilia from the Hunt family (Kevin was Captain of the Carnival for eleven years) such as a bejeweled scepter and tiara and romantic photographs of sophisticated men in capes and women in floor-sweeping gowns.

Teen spot

Teen spot

The Young Adult Area has bar stools at a counter and along with the adults and juveniles they have manga and graphic novels.

BPL’s classroom allows 10-15 students and is equipped with computers.  The meeting space seats up to fifty and has a digital projector.

Plenty of places to study

Plenty of places to study

Some sections have motion detection lighting that turns on as you walk by.  Tables have plugs and attractive lamps and there are Pacs in the stacks, easy chairs with tray tables and long banquettes for those who always opt for the booth in a restaurant.  Curved paperback spindles look like hanging plants from a distance and the Friends have a permanent book sale room, divided into nonfiction, fiction, DVDs, CDs, magazines and even genealogy.

The facility has 40,000 items and outside there’s a wheelchair ramp and a drive up return slot where the 190,000 or so county residents can drop off materials (and they can borrow from any HCLS locale).

Family circle

Family circle

In the Kid’s Room, light streams in through panes in a corner just right for telling stories while youngsters sit on a rug of the world bordered by adolescents in native costumes clasping hands.

Kid's Area


Vibrant shelf ends have holders showcasing face out titles and chains of pastel hearts adorn the portable AV carts.  Tots can work puzzles or plop down on blue bean shaped puffs, lounge on cushy geometric shapes in primary colors or peruse a volume on a wavy bench.  A bulletin board with the Shrove Tuesday festivities’ slogan “Let the Good Times Roll” looms over all and stacks are topped with holiday shaded beads and star wands stuffed into potted plants.  A sign advertises a visit from a southern MS pet therapy group for Sit Stay Read and book audio combos hang off a happy gray insect stand with springy antennae.

Friendly Liz Catalano

Friendly Liz Catalano

I chatted for a bit with Elizabeth Catalano, Children’s (and Young Adult) Librarian who, though too modest to mention it, was recently honored with the Red Rose award  for her efforts educating Biloxi youths.

February programs for tots include a pre-Lenten parade, Valentine’s Day party and Chinese New Year with sheep (since 2015 is the year of these creatures) and BPL offers storytimes and after school programs like Let’s Go Green while other HCLS branches have Tai Chi, yoga and needlework sessions, introduction to software classes, movie nights and AARP tax help.



There’s wifi, 12 PCs and 20 in house use laptops.  Databases come courtesy of MS’s Magnolia alliance and they have LearningExpress and TumbleBooks, Freading ebooks and are looking into eaudiobooks.

The website has a graphics heavy children’s catalog and the facebook page has promotions for art shows and lots of pictures of happy kids celebrating and reading to pets.

My favorite area is by the magazines where curved upholstered seating with wood dividers looks out onto pretty palms and foliage.

Seating by periodicals

By the periodicals

What a pleasant addition to the community and a great resource for the people of this beautiful stretch of land.

Blissful Biloxi beach

Blissful Biloxi beach

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Sleek Slidell

Slidell swamp

Honey Island swamp

Known for boat tours of its mires and marshes, Slidell, Louisiana lies on the northeastern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, not far from New Orleans.  A friendly town, where colorful fiberglass statues of pelicans, including one painted like Van Gosh’s Starry Night, can be found in unexpected places, the population surged to its current 27,526 when the aerospace industry moved in, but you can still find solitude communing with turtles, alligators, feral pigs and great blue herons under the Spanish moss draped cypress trees of the wetlands.

Dorothy H. Crockett Library

Harold Van Houten’s The Vortex out front

Upon first encounter, one is hard put to find a straight line in the abstract facade of the 22,000′ Dorothy H. Crockett Library (DHC).  The Slidell branch of St. Tammany Parish Library (STPL) is smartly bordered by foliage and shrubs and an enormous steel and stone sculpture.  A ramp with railings inclines up to the tiled, red metal and glass entry where a sandstone bench affords a view through one of the circular cutouts in the outer brick of the structure.

By the entrance

By the entrance

Sliding doors lead to an upholstered seat and bulletin board in the foyer then through security gates to the lobby where well lit volumes behind the glaze of oversize blond oak display cases advertise a silent auction and the book sale and a matching rack holds educational and community brochures.  Over the bubbler “Platypus Police Squad” and “Lunch Lady”, caricatures by illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka, catch the eye.  A nearby hallway accesses the meeting and storytime rooms conveniently located by the changing table equipped toilets.  Both rooms have A/V hookups and the meeting space can be used for free by the community.

The interior of the building is dominated by gleaming dark wood paneling and overhead, slanted slats reach up to the raised ceiling.  By one of the copiers, a cabinet houses dramatic shots from the Slidell Photography Club.

Nancy Little


After corresponding via email, it was nice to meet Branch Manager Nancy Little who told me when DHC got new HVAC they did a one million dollar renovation which finished in 2014.  For the six month duration of the project they had a spot in a nearby shopping center.  She also mentioned a small second facility on the south side of town opened shortly before sadly being destroyed by Katrina, but they are hoping to fund a replacement.

Circulation Desk

Main Desk

At the wavy circulation station a helpful clerk gave me a plastic bag with the STPL logo filled with attractive bookmarks that give contact info and teach you to download ebooks, eaudiobooks, Hoopla films, Zinio magazines and Freegal songs as well as a postcard hyping Pronunciator, the language learning module.  Hot titles scrolling across the big screen Overdrive computer encourage users to start downloading onto Kindles and Ipads.

They have pacs in the stacks, a conference room for up to 12 and a Louisiana Documents (they are a partial depository for the state) and Genealogy section.

Reading area by the periodicals

Reading area by the periodicals

The huge magazine section has cushioned chairs and black wire newspaper racks and there’s another lounging spot by the New Books.  Between the tall nonfiction and fiction shelving, tables with outlets line the aisles.

DHC’s collection has about 147,000 items and the system allows a generous four week check out for books and CDs while magazines and DVDs go out for one week.  STPL is financed by mil levy, has a foundation and customers can use any of the twelve locations in the parish (akin to a county).

Jen in Kid's

Jen by the book/audio packs

I ran into Children’s Librarian Jen Martin in Kid’s where the checkout desk was decorated with a Valentine’s Day motif and a pink box and sign urged young patrons to write the reasons why they love DHC on little hearts.  Pretty mottled blue and yellow end panels complement an alphabet rug and a stuffed armadillo looks down on the fray from a shelf top.  A turnstile has flyers about drop in play dates and Library Day and parents sit comfortably on the squishy rainbow hued hassocks and couches, while tots have their own tiny furniture.

Children's Area

Children’s Area

There are two AWE literacy stations and by a picture window looking onto the greenery outside is a long blue and gold bench appropriately inscribed “Secret Garden.”  Bins of puzzles and an abacus keep youngsters occupied and they can attend five weekly storytimes, sketch their own roller coaster or go to crafternoons or storywalks at a local nature center.


A plethora of DVD’s

Nearby, leaflets in Lucite containers promote a Japanese folk dance series, Scrabble Night and branch reading groups and a dual purpose stand accommodates face out CDs on top and audio books on the bottom.  SCORE business seminars, software and internet classes, gardening tips, Dungeons and Dragons and exhibitions are just some of the adult programs.

Teen Room

YA space

Glowing circles enclosed by brushed silver illuminate the Teens only area while other overhead lighting form X’s.   A young adult librarian officiates over this cozy corner where black and chrome barstools are reminiscent of ice cream cones and odd shaped tables hold trays of cards with lists recommending “Make Me Laugh”, “Fangs Anyone?”, “Harsh Realities” and “Future Tech” titles.

Go on a blind date with a book

For V Day, make a blind date with a book

YA’s can sprawl in curiously designed armchairs on a fuchsia and cyan carpet reminiscent of Picasso.  Manga and comics are available and tempting offerings for teens include movies, cooking classes, a Lego Competition, a masquerade ball and a volunteer council.

DHC has wifi, 30 computers, scanners and a color copier.  On the STPL web site you can peruse the newsletter or listen to residents’ oral histories or podcasts of Cajun music and favorite poems for children.  The System is on Twitter and Pinterest and has a busy Facebook account where new entries show youths learning French and feature an upcoming opportunity to build newspaper forts.

K-12+ students can get online tutoring from HomeworkLouisiana (which gives assistance in Spanish and Vietnamese too) while adults can get personal help with resumes, applications, cover letters and interview preparation.  A few examples of their many databases are Learning Express for test practice, a hobbies and crafts reference center and TrueFlix and ScienceFlix multimedia curriculum modules.

Carpet savers

Carpet savers :)

After finishing inside, I wandered through the surrounding plot of land.  Near the staff parking out back, a vine covered shelter is mostly used by employees eating lunch.  A park to the right of the building boasts curved concrete seats with a round table on a mud free cement pad and a picnic table under an orange canvas sail-like sunshade.  Trellises support floral growth and a short gravel path meanders through the geometrical shapes of wood framed planters holding lemon thyme and medicinal tea in the culinary and butterfly garden jointly sponsored by the Friends of the Slidell Library and the LA Master Gardeners.

The back of Dorothy H. Crockett Library from its park

The back of DHC

What a boon to the inhabitants of this unique region!

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Incredible Isla

Cancun in the distance from the southwestern side of the isla

The city can be seen from IM’s southwestern coast

Isla Mujeres, just a short ferry ride from Cancun, Mexico is a gorgeous place to live with sparkling warm aquamarine water and amazing beaches of the softest white sand.  A popular day out for tourists and locals, it’s tranquil in the evening when everyone leaves as there are only about 13,000 residents.

La biblioteca

La biblioteca

The island is small – about five miles long and very narrow, so the Biblioteca Pública Municipal 17 de Agosto is conveniently located at the midpoint in Colonia Las Salinas, a nice little village with brightly painted houses.  The library is downtown, by the stadium, tennis court, a magnificent children’s play area and a pretty white bandstand in the center of a decorative brick pavilion.

Librarian's station

Librarian’s desk with Mexican flag

Unfortunately, when we walked down there on the weekend it was closed so I came back a few days later and was warmly welcomed by Hayde and Mercy.

They graciously showed me around this pleasant facility furnished with some interesting old pieces.

Vacationer's donations

Vacationers’ discards

In the Area Infantil, youngsters amuse themselves with toys and kid’s books.  A curtained cabinet in one corner has craft supplies, a CD player and crockery for refreshments.  A bubbler provides clean drinking water and they can shut a door to prevent noise from distracting older patrons.

Donated toys

Donated animals

Colorful piñatas dangle over the miniature furniture and an alphabet chart hangs near the door with a map of the world across from it.

Children's area

Children’s room

The building is shaded by palms and flanked by tropical greenery keeping temps agreeable in the midday heat.  Out back a grassy walled space is perfect for telling stories in the emerald cool under the trees.



They manage to squeeze a lot of titles in, and the shelves of the Colección General are quite full.

Adult area with card catalogin background

Adult tables, stacks, card catalog and suggestion box

And there are even books for non Spanish speakers.

Foreign titles

Foreign titles

The staff gives great service to all customers.


Hayde on the left and Mercy on the right

What a sweet spot, and so handy for the adjacent school!


Beautiful new playground across the street

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Handy Hanapepe

Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park

On our way to Kauai’s Grand Canyon, a Christmas colored version of the AZ natural wonder, we popped into the Hanapepe Public Library (HPL). This branch of the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS – an entity I covered before in my post on one of Maui’s libraries) is conveniently located just across the main drag from the quaint downtown, where a long creaking and swinging pedestrian bridge gets you across the river.  ‘Ele’ele Elementary School and a park are close by and just up the road is a fascinating industrial area where you’ll find a beach made of small pieces of sea glass.  Beyond the adjacent graveyard, a lava arch and keyhole cave are hidden on the rocky black caterpillar-dotted coastline.

Hanapepe Public Library

Hanapepe Public Library

Other hidden (literary) treasures can be found at HPL, a one story white stucco building surrounded by ginger bushes and palm trees, that’s one of six HSPLS facilities on the island.  Outside, there’s ample parking, a water fountain, a curvy bike rack and on the glossy red concrete floor of the lanai, a fresh air book giveaway is protected from the elements by an overhanging roof.

Once through the wood lattice sliding door, I was greeted by one of their four friendly staffers who introduced me to Karen Ikemoto, the branch manager.

Main Desk

Main Desk

She told me they serve about 10,000 people in Hanapepe and nearby villages.  The building opened in 1950 and has 5,350 square feet, not including the meeting space that was added in 2010.  The collection holds more than 34,000 items.

Music CD spindle

Music CD spindle

Open five days a week, they have wifi, six adult computers (one with a sunny yellow ZoomText large print keyboard for the visually impaired and there’s a touch screen also) and items are barcoded.  HPL loans out a mobile Netbook computer equipped with Microsoft Office for up to three weeks and offers lots of manga, as well as CD’s, DVDs and books (including some Asian titles).

Cheery bulletin board

Cheery bulletin board

Stands hold informational brochures and a colorful notice site announces bestsellers, new features and events.  HPL hosted over eighty programs this year, including such hits as the Honolulu Theatre for Youth’s Peter Rabbit, and answered more than 10,000 reference questions.   Nearly 500 people read over 7,000 books for their Fizz Boom Summer Reading Program, and participants were entertained by a slack key guitarist and a session on Hardware Science.

Knickknacks add contrasting shades to the bright cerulean stacks

Knickknacks add contrasting shades to the bright cerulean stacks

A wheelchair ramp leads to the 2200′ meeting room which accommodates about 60 people and has a 50″ TV purchased by the Friends of the Hanapepe Library whose book sale (buy discarded DVD’s for $1 or kid’s books for 25¢) and crafting efforts help cross things off the library’s wish list.

Cushy bamboo settees

Comfy bamboo settees

Overhead, twirling wood fans assist the air conditioning and complement the diagonal panels in the dark timber ceiling.  Intriguingly fashioned bamboo tables, cushioned chairs and couches invite customers to sit and relax.  At a study table, tennis balls covering the ends of the sharp metal seat legs preserve the carpeting.

Stuffed animals, ceramic figurines, floral arrangements, framed photos and anomalies like lava lamps dominate shelf tops and tots can create art with the stencil machine the Friends donated.

Stencil supplies

Stencil supplies

The multiple slots of the rack attached to the side of the Reference case house flyers with parenting tips and the Teddy Bear Post.  The coin operated copier machine is near the young adult fiction and there are several revolving towers of paperbacks and a New Book spot.

HPL is a busy institution that serves its community well and has a facebook page adorned with a photo of the library and the HSPLS hibiscus logo.

Help station packed w/ paperwork and tchotchkes

Help desk packed w/ paperwork and tchotchkes

Oversize titles and civil service exams share space by cutouts of Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger too).

Beatific boar in Kid's

Beatific boar in Kid’s

The children’s corner lies beneath high curtained windows that encircle the rooms.  Plush toys are everywhere and book/CD combos sit beside suggested reading lists.

Vividly covered kid’s Hawaiiana materials (the adult ones are closer to the entry) are shelved below an educational poster of local flora and fauna (of which the wild pig shown above is the largest – they are hunted in the ravines and gorges of this lush piece of paradise).

Hawaiian text w/ English translation below

Hawaiian text w/ English translation below

As I headed out, I noticed a shelf by the circulation station with recently returned items lets users pick from presumably popular choices – kind of like “Resident Recommendations” rather than “Staff Selections.”

And a strategically placed array of oshibana products affords the Friends a last chance to get you to open your wallet and support this charmingly eclectic little library.

Pressed flowers make beautiful bookmarks and cards

Pressed flowers make beautiful bookmarks and cards


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Kicking Back at Kips Bay

Since we were dog free in NYC for the first time ever on the way back from Europe last summer, we were able to hike above Gotham on the wonderful High Line and catch a bird’s eye view from the Roosevelt Island Tramway, both canine incompatible tourist draws.

Returning to the hustle and bustle

Returning to the hustle and bustle

On the walk to the cable car, I took the opportunity to visit another eminent Big Apple attraction – the New York Public Library (NYPL, as if you didn’t know).

Touring the Kips Bay (KB) branch on Third Avenue was much more manageable than the main location on 42nd Street where you could spend days without seeing it all, and they still have the famous feline out front, albeit embossed on the book drop.

Kips Bay Library

Kips Bay Library

The two story structure has an elevator and a plaque out front with three partitions to insert notices of imminent happenings for kids, grownups and newly released movie showings.  Opened in 1972 it’s named in honor of a 1600’s farmer who owned huge tracts in the district.

A rubber mat keeps mud in the foyer and leads to a glossy brick floor by the entryway.  Colorful shopping baskets and a cloth covered table with pamphlets and a box for adult summer reading contest submissions flank the doorway.

Friendly staff greeted me and took time from their busy schedules to secure permission for me to take photos.

New Releases

New releases

A colorful summery scene bordering encouraging slogans and cutout letters announcing their name adorns the Circulation Desk.  Bamboo plants there and over a display of recently acquired DVDs, bestsellers and titles for tots join vibrant paintings and glass covered dioramas with abstract contents in this pretty area.

In the adult section downstairs there are lots of patrons using computers.  A third of all New Yorkers don’t have home internet, so the wifi, twelve laptops, five desktops with word processing, two YA terminals plus three for kids are invaluable to lower income folk and those who want to save a buck.

Large clear black print points to mysteries, large type, urban and science fiction books and high windows over the cases let a green glow filter in from the foliage outside.  Most shelves are uncrowded enough for face out suggestions and customers pick up their own non A/V reserves.



Like all branches, KB has assistive software (some have Braille writers or machines that pronounce text too).  You can request ASL translators or close captions for programs and the disabled get a cut rate on fines.

The system has a publishing arm which puts out that wonderful tome, The New York Public Library Desk Reference (I have a passion for trivia so when I was getting my MLS my librarian mother gave me this and I immediately read it cover to cover), and many other classics including ones for kids on mythology, explorers and geography.  There are new titles on Kerouac and the Afghan conflict and they also create a number of digital works – I was fascinated by the scans of old menus though the thought of sweetbreads is kind of disgusting and 60 cents seemed a bit outrageous for lamb’s tongue in 1918.  The historical map collection is quite informative and I enjoyed William Henry Jackson’s old stereoscopic photos and original diary entries.

Upstairs red, white and blue stencils proclaim Welcome to the Teen Zone, which has Manga, adolescent fiction, upholstered seating and promotional posters.  Cushy cherry chairs with attached tables form a ring where youngsters can read or work together.

Great spot for study groups

Great spot for study groups

The system provides young adults with a wide variety of entertainment options – they can explode melons, play board games, design an Anime character, attend beading workshops or offerings such as From Planes to Silly Putty: How Things Work.

KB also has baby lapsits and playtimes, exercise for those 50+ (other locations have yoga and meditation as well), a science club for kids, films for all ages, toddler sessions, Spanish programs, hoarder support groups, book discussions, free art workshops for seniors and classes on how to Skype, online banking, and using the cloud.

Construction paper stars brighten the cinder block especially on top of YA NF where college and SAT prep paperbacks are prominently featured.

Cheery signage

Cheery area

Multihued hand prints on the panes, sunny yellow walls and serviceable furniture let you know you’re in the children’s space where a plush cupped palm lets youths browse technology volumes in comfort.

Corner in Kid's

Corner in Kid’s

A long banner studded with butterflies and the slogan Catch the literacy bug publicizes summer reading and there are sections for media, picture, easy and board books, and fairy tales (as a child growing up in the Village, my mother, a voracious reader, could only borrow two fiction selections but cleverly skirted this limit by also checking out fairy tales since they are considered NF) in the low stacks that allow a clear sight line.

Practical replaceable tiles carpet the storytime room.  Though KB doesn’t have meeting areas, NYPL rents eight incredible venues holding between 44 and 750 people depending on the layout.  Marble and maple trim lavishly appointed halls and soaring atriums perfect for secular weddings and corporate fetes.  The renowned front steps can be even be used as a movie set.

Table for the small set

Table for the smaller users

On one side, sturdy furniture in primary colors is impervious to roughhousing and mesh backed chairs by a two tiered shelf overlook the street below.  Behind audiovisual, a wood panel covers the back and meets the plaster high above the stacks.

NYPL’s facilities are scattered around Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island and include centers for the performing arts and for science, business and industry.  A few are open on Sundays.  ILL is free and chat is available 24/7 through Ask NYPL or you can email questions.  Employees visit nursing homes and homeless shelters and a four person department, not counting the volunteers, is dedicated to reaching prisoners.  On the net, guides for everyone from job seekers to immigrants and business owners highlight sources, links, ESL coaching sessions and free school delivery for educators

The statistics are staggering.  The system dates from 1895 and a number of its 88 sites were built by Carnegie.  At these, along with the four research libraries, they help more than 18 million residents annually.  Columbus’s missive declaring that he’d discovered America and Washington’s farewell speech are some of the prized possessions for perusal among the more them 51,000,000 items.  They have digitized over 800,000 documents and have 755 databases and compilations.  Everyone from infants to the eldest benefits from the astounding 55,000 free events each year.

Long view of Chilren's

Long view of Children’s

Kids have Toddler Hangout, crafts, martial arts, creative writing, Chinese ribbon dancing and they can learn about bionic bodies and squirt gun volcanoes or hear Big Jeff sing.

Older inhabitants can take classes on topics as specific as puppetry, photo editing on tablets, recovering data, belly dancing, public speaking, Windows or Skype for Spanish speakers and making jewelry.  They seem to be a social director for your neighborhood – play Italian card games at Belmont or Mahjong at Riverside, or got to a film and discussion.  Recently a trivia contest with backing music was held at a nightclub and the subject of clothing design inspires symposiums and a Lindy Hop Fashion Show.  On the first Friday of the month they host a party with cocktails where people with something in common (like historically black colleges alumni) can mingle after hours in their galleries.

Ground level

Ground level

The web site’s home page advertises a community oral history project about NY’s neighborhoods and an exhibit of illuminated paint – 3D works from artist Peter Bynum.  The blurbs are intriguing – I immediately wanted to read about impostors and their scams and take the quiz on what kiddie lit character I am (Pippi Longstocking – yay!  I love Astrid Lindgren’s tales).  Listen to podcasts from interviews with creative figures, lectures on the woman of NY or recordings of poetry readings and WWI songs or watch videos of immigrants becoming citizens.  If you become a friend of the library you get 40% off tickets to hear writers like Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) speak at LIVE from the NYPL.  The fall calendar includes George Clinton, Salman Rushdie and Neil Gaiman.  Toni Morrison, Lou Reed and John Waters have appeared previously.  Other events are usually free like those from The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers where researchers discuss their work.  Past programs have seen John Lithgow conversing with Bill Moyers and lecture topics such as the decline of American institutions and travelling in Siberia.

The online store sells everything from cuff links to baseball caps, and of course I have a lion coffee mug so I was delighted to see the iconic creatures on our way home.

On the way back from our trip across the river, we passed by the flagship building

By the flagship building

It’s easy to understand why this venerable organization is arguably the world’s greatest public library, and Kips Bay is no small part of that.

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