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.
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.
The 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.
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…
…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.
Back in the main section I relished the views of vast trim meadows from a reading spot by the fireplace.
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,
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.
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…
… 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Pretty 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.
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.
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!
How clever of the library to create such an attractive and hospitable environment.