Creative Caseyville

When we were in St. Louis in October to go to the City Museum, a fabulous playground for kids of all ages, and the Arch…

…we stayed across the mighty Mississippi in Illinois in a nice quiet town of about 4200 people where I got a chance to visit cozy Caseyville Public Library District.

It’s a sturdy building in a downtown park filled with big trees.  Conveniently located next to an elementary school, pretty plantings surround the entrance.

I went in through a mini lobby that manages to fit in a pleasant seating nook and a bin for recycling phone books…

…passed a large aquarium that must keep kids occupied while their guardians chat and checkout at the desk, and encountered Chris Stewart, the Director (coincidentally the same name as my nephew, though she’s a Christine), and Marge.

By a huge Halloween basket stuffed with seasonal dolls and knick knacks that’ll be raffled off to raise money, they greeted me with big smiles and we talked for a bit.  Though the building’s only 3136 square feet, it doesn’t feel cramped.  They’ve been here for 13 years and Chris has been in charge for four or five.  She told me that there’s another school just two blocks away, so they are not a very quiet library 😉

With just three staffers, it’s a small operation as I’d gathered when I’d previously checked their website and realized it was Plinkit – a website template for libraries with limited resources that I had worked with in my last job – and in fact I remembered adding them to the map of IL Plinkit libraries.

While admiring the contrast of the oriental rugs against the maroon and cream tiles on the floor, Chris asked me to excuse the plethora of book covered tables dotting the entrance and packing their study room as they were preparing for a book sale.  They get their wares via a pickup truck, which for the last three years has delivered a full load of titles from a book drive that’s part of a local golf tournament benefitting a scholarship fund honoring a young man who was accidentally killed.  At one point he did community service at the library and though he wasn’t from Caseyville, the library staff has been told that he was quite fond of the library and would have wanted to help them.  The donated books (both new and used) are either added to the collection, or sold to enrich the library coffers.  Chris said the man’s parents and everyone involved are the nicest people and in fact the initiative has been so successful, it now raises enough money each year that two scholarships can be awarded.

A vibrant Children’s Area with multi colored chairs has a terrarium…

…and a rack loaded with big storytime books and plush creatures to play with beneath
ostrich and other Muppet-style marionettes.  Chris told me that when a local church building was sold, the proceeds were divvied up and some of the money was given to the library to renovate the youth space.

In the main part of the facility, two Queen Anne chairs flank a seasonal display and table groupings hold 11 computers for the public (four are from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)…

…where they proudly show off their warped sense of humor (especially when it comes to the IT difficulties this well dressed skeleton is having).

The wacky decor continues with heaps of Halloween decorations and a surprisingly attractive hornet’s nest adorning the wall near where a bronzed bald eagle and lovely floral arrangement sit sandwiched between reference books.

The restrooms are labeled “Guys” and “Gals” and there are loads of plants, posters and hanging decorations including the shovel from the ground breaking, and a fishing net covered in seashells, highlighting the fishing poles and tackle boxes they loan out.

This eclectic display area continues the maritime theme with framed photos and artifacts from the Andrea Doria, mysteriously donated by a company they didn’t know.

Always secretive about their intentions when they come in, young orienteers are surprised to find a geocache box on the bottom shelf here beneath two other boxes.  They have to sign in showing they found the treasure trove of little dolls and trinkets (a Pez dispenser!). These stashes turn up in the weirdest places – before this pastime became widely known, I found a geocache of toys at the top of a tough-to-climb boulder and unknowingly took a couple of them as souvenirs.

Nearby, a bust and plant basket top an old card catalog kept around for nostalgia’s sake – occasionally patrons try to use it, but of course it isn’t being updated.

CPLD offers ebooks, wifi and online databases including WorldCatDissertations.  The web site links to Ask?Away, Illinois’ virtual reference service and upcoming programs are publicized on Facebook where lots of photos from previous events entice residents to attend.  They also post on Craig’s List for the St. Louis region, which I’d never heard of a library doing, and have printer cartridge recycling, a “video eye” that enlarges hard to see items and give out cute “Read All Year Long!” magnets with hours and contact info.

What a delightfully unique place!

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