While visiting one of my best librarian friends, Charlotte Heck, and her husband Terry at their gracious home in Louisville, I got a chance to see the Jeffersonville Township Public Library, just across the vast Ohio River in Indiana. It serves a pretty locale that has a village feel despite its 45,000 people and panoramas of the skyscrapers and bridges of bustling Derby City. The vibrant foliage surpasses New England’s this year, and red sumac bushes contrast with yellow wildflowers on the green grass to create abstract paintings.
Right downtown, next to the post office, the library is a huge, gorgeous, three story glass and cement structure with nice landscaping and a large parking lot.
As the facility was closed for staff training until 10 that day, I got a chance to talk to Theresa, a regular customer who said she loves the library with its wonderful selection of books and great programs (especially crafts and speakers). She belongs to a book club at Clarksville, the other branch, and she uses the downloadable e-books. They have e-audiobooks as well, plus a number of databases and an email Ask a Librarian service.
I checked in with Laura and Jennifer at the Reference Desk and we chatted about the renovation that was completed in 2007. Though they expected to be in their temporary quarters in Quonset hut style buildings on US Census property for 18 months, it turned out to be three years. A second floor and the back parking lot were added, and they expanded on the north and east sides for a total of 47,000 square feet.
Justifiably proud of their lovely building they told me the stone behind and in front of the desk resembles the fossil beds at nearby Falls of the Ohio State Park and is original from when the library opened in 1970. The Falls of the Ohio are historically significant as well as geologically, and are mimicked in the Lewis and Clark water fountain out front which was dedicated on the bicentennial of the day the pair began their Great Expedition there.
The fossils are evident in an intriguing but untitled Barney Bright sculpture – positioned next to driftwood, primeval plants and a water element it brings to mind waving seaweed suggesting the flowing river, and is meant to represent the Devonian time period when the beds at the park were being formed. The incredible fronds were an “attractive nuisance” – kids loved hanging on them, even after they moved it outside – so the redesign constructed an eye catching three story atrium to protect it (by that point it had become quite valuable) and give natural light to the Tech Processing folks working in the basement.
Customers enjoy the sunlight it casts on a reading area with gleaming dark wood furniture, overstuffed chairs and plate glass windows affording views of downtown. A Business Reference display case close by has signs in Braille and the Indiana Room has a standing magnifier and other tools for historical research.
On Fridays and Saturdays, you can access the big Friends of the Library booksale from this section.
On the other side of the building, the area by the main entrance is spacious, with tons of book shelves…
…and the etched glass paneled Circulation Desk. A wall sculpture above the elevator and a witch in a rocking chair in a glass display case drew me into the glass topped tiled lobby I’d spied from outside. Here you can sit on an upholstered bench to admire a stunning fountain splashing behind the curving staircase, or better yet gaze at the blue water through the steps as you ascend.
Children’s on the second floor was decorated for Halloween when I visited.
And the Kid’s Desk was loaded with information about programs and events celebrating the holiday like Undead Got Talent and a Halloween craft class.
For older ghouls, there’s The Gargoyles and Grotesques of the Ohio River Valley and A Paranormal Program @ the Library.
Youngsters can attend English, bilingual and Silly storytimes, Family and Groovy (teen) movies, Wacky Wednesdays, Freaky Fridays, Dungeons and Dragons, and the Lego Challenge. There are lots of Teen Game Days, writers and Anime (Anime-niacs) clubs, an International Games Day (board games and Xbox and Wii), Christmas cookie decorating, ornament crafts and duct tape gifts.
And in the this cool activity room replete with two enormous televisions and animal silhouette chairs, teens amuse themselves and the tots by creating puppet shows on three mini stages. For the holidays there’s Tricking the Trolls, based on Scandinavian folk tales.
In a spot for younger children, a big wood alligator holds alphabet books and by an ABC display case there’s a shelf with supersized titles. A long couch lets parents supervise in comfort and foreign book/audio combo packs are available.
When I asked Jan, a friendly and helpful page in Children’s and mother of seven about the Young Adult space, she told me they are looking for a grant to get café tables and a couch to supplement the study tables in there now. She also mentioned that because of the vistas, adults like to sit up here…
…especially when it’s too chilly for one of the two magnificent roof gardens. How nice it must be to relax above it all at the old fashioned white wrought iron tables. Or, encircled by lush flower-filled planters that fringe the edge of these special spaces, easily view your computer under this tent providing welcome shade. Leaf cutouts in the black metal supports echo the surrounding bushes and greenery.
Back inside Jan showed me the computer lab the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave them. There’s a second lab too, intended for job support – a person at the local employment office taught a Work One course there (since all Hoosiers must file for unemployment online) and she eventually became an employee of the library. This location has 35 computers total – including ten in Kid’s (one a touch screen for toddlers with a colored keyboard).
They also have wifi, Overdrive, four library blogs, a Facebook page and an active Twitter account, all attractively adorned with photos and images. A reciprocal borrowing agreement with two local library systems expands the collection and patrons have their choice of classes in Publisher, e-books, eBay, Basic Computer and keyboarding. They can join five book clubs (including African-American Literature and Chick Lit), do paper craft, knit or go to genealogy lock-ins, workshops and one-on-one appointments. Proving that the library isn’t just concerned with stimulating your mind, they offer Beginning Yoga and Zumba Classes and a Health and Wellness Fair.
As I exited via the patriotically themed Reference Area lobby…
…I spotted yet another highlight. An eating space with vending machines off this entrance is a great place to meet a friend or for tired students to have a quick pick me up.
What a beautiful place! They seem to have thought of everything to give their residents a special community space.