Bewitching Kalispell Library

Close to Glacier National Park –

– Kalispell, Montana is another surprisingly large city (especially for a population of just over 14,000) with a nice downtown area surrounded by residential streets with green overarching trees that create a tunnel effect.  The Main Library of the Flathead County Library System is just off the main street in an old square, federal? style building that reminds me of my junior high.  Outside, there seems to be plenty of parking, and wonderfully old fashioned globe lamps on pedestals frame the tree shaded entrance.

I spoke to Director Kim Crowley (another former CO librarian, she was at Fort Collins for quite a while) and she told me the facility was built in 1917 as a post office.  The FBI and other government agencies have shared quarters here over the years, but the PO gave it to the school district.  They have the 3rd floor but let the library use the basement (housing Technical Services and a meeting room anyone can use) and the first two floors.  

Jennifer was there to help at the front desk by the main doors.  They also have security gates there, and self pickup of holds as well as one self check that patrons do like to use.

The system has four locations to serve the 96,000 residents of the 5000 square mile county.  Including Kalispell, there’s Bigfork, Columbia Falls and Marion, which is in a school and so open just 10 hours per week.  A fifth location in Whitefish seceded July 1st, but there’s basically a 20 library system with the Partners Resource Sharing Group (love to see this kind of collaboration as it makes the most of taxpayers’ money).  Libraries across the state from Libby in the northwestern corner to Glendive 665 miles away near the eastern border share a catalog.  You can borrow from any participating location, including Mineral County or Missoula, and the item is immediately checked in wherever you return it.  If they don’t have something they just ILL it.  FCLS’s courier runs within the county and Greyhound is used for out of county deliveries.

Across from Jennifer, there’s a comfortable area to browse the new books –

– right below this great staircase leading to the second floor where a delightful space greets you. 

It’s a huge, light area – like a lovely, open, airy attic.  Lighting fixtures resembling skylights add to the bright, fresh ambiance as do the views of the streets below and mountains in the distance.

I fell in love with the gorgeous arched windows up there.  It’s quite busy (so I couldn’t get a nice long view of this wonderful area), with 11 internet computers (there are also three downstairs plus five in Children’s and wifi of course).  There’s even a typewriter for filling out 1099s and W2s at tax time.  Reference is up here as well as lots of reading/work spaces and the media section.  CDs are conveniently housed in music store style racks (so great for browsing), with genre grouping – Pop/Rock, Rap/Hip Hop, Latin, Folk/Blue Grass…

Lovely leathery armchairs on wheels by round tables share space with sturdy and glossy old wood furniture.  There are lots of big tables to work at, cushioned chairs with pullover tray tables and a cool antique desk (and it’s OK to sit here).

The center arch of the unusual windows have chains so they can open to a half moon to let air in. 

Teen Crossing is up here too.  It’s got beanbag chairs with pillows, a cool rug and a nice couch with a table to put your feet on.  There are comics, graphic novels and teen magazines.  The teen summer reading program’s grand prizes are an iPod Touch and Nook eReader and related programs include t-shirt decorating, collages and creating a journal.

Landscapes of amazing scenery decorate the walls up here, though I was surprised to see pictures of ships so far from the sea.  But steamboats once cruised Flathead Lake (which is enormous – about 40 miles long – it gives the area a seaside or Finger Lakes feel).  The photos of buffalo herds are more what I expected 🙂

Back downstairs, the Children’s Room has its own entrance with a community billboard and a wheelchair ramp (and the elevator is right there – it opens onto a white rickrack bordered hallway on the second floor).  Like Sheridan, they are also doing the One World, Many Stories summer reading program and have events with puppets, world food, a fiesta party and American Indian Storytelling.  There are two grand prize drawings which appear to be for a mystery prize, though waterpark passes, paperbacks and candy are also being offered.  The Friends of the Library will also be using the program as an opportunity to donate money to Readers to the Rescue.

There are colorful ovoid planks as you enter the department and lovely painted wood panels flank the shelves.

The main action takes place in an interesting enclosed red accented wooden area with a book shelf pillared entrance and padded chairs on wheels for parents watching kids.  Incredible masks made of hard paper adorn the walls and the entire space matches the Children’s Desk which has nice paneled cupboards behind it and a tree trunk grizzly bear (holding a dead fish) next to it.  The kids can access an email a librarian service and there are a number of storytimes to choose from.

The library also offers computer, digital camera and eReader classes as well as book discussions and book club kits.  Electronic resources include auto and small engine repair, test prep and college guide databases and downloadable ebooks including iPod and MP3 compatible ones.  There’s also a Homebound Service that deliver materials to customers unable to visit the library.

What a positive feature for this remote corner of the Rockies.

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6 Responses to Bewitching Kalispell Library

  1. As ever, another inspiring library with so much to offer…what a great virtual tour!

  2. jshaffner says:

    Thanks so much Angela! I’m thinking of compiling a list of all my favorite things that I’ve seen in this year of visiting libraries. I’ve seen so many great ideas out there that are cheap or free and sometimes nearly effortless.

  3. I would like to see that list! with libraries the possibilites are endless…I’m surprised you don’t get more comments about your great reviews because i am sure i am not the only one reading them!! : )

    • jshaffner says:

      Thanks Angela. From my blog stats it looks like people are reading the posts so I like to think that my readers are just shy and that I could do a better job of encouraging comments. In any case, I’m going to write a post requesting people email me directly with comments on their favorite library features -be they libraries I’ve written about, or ones they personally use, work at or have visited etc. – w/ jpeg pics if they want – and I’ll include their comments (anonymously or attributed) in that column (to be written October-November), so please if you’ve got anything you’d like to tell others about cool things you’ve seen in libraries, email me at And thank you again for commenting, it’s so nice to hear from the great web void!

  4. Pingback: These are a few of our favorite things (at public libraries) | The Librarian is In

  5. Pingback: Marvelous Missoula | The Librarian is In

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