On a recent trip to sample the delights of Minnesota I got a chance to visit Two Harbors Public Library (THPL) on majestic Lake Superior’s famous North Shore. Just a half hour up the iron red highway from Duluth and a few miles south of lovely Gooseberry Falls State Park, the municipality of 3800 is the county seat and as may be evident from the name, started as two separate burgs.
In 1896 the library began as some literature in an office corner. It became the official city facility a year later then moved to the graceful brick Carnegie building behind the flagpole in 1909. The 1983 addition to the right more than doubled capacity to about 8000 square feet holding over 30,000 items.
Balm for the eyes, hydrangeas, trees and a vibrant green lawn set off the locked door to the original edifice. A sandwich board advertises what’s on the agenda for today at the newer entry where there’s sunny seating on stone slabs and a rock wall enclosing an outside terrace. Its pavers celebrate loved ones, occasions and friendships and make a nice gift or memorial.
The glass fronted aquamarine lobby bridging the two structures sports a mural of a family appreciating the charms and fauna of lake life. One pane is plastered in professional program posters and I notice a crate of free discards next to a meeting space that nonprofits can reserve at no cost.
Inside it’s obviously a popular place and the bank of computers under an array of stunning photographs is fully occupied by the younger set. As I admired some eclectic touches at Circulation like DVDs tucked in drawers resembling steamer trunks, and an Eiffel Tower in rainbow shades perched on a terminal, a souvenir from a recent 3D printing pen session, Emily and Beny greeted me warmly and confirmed THPL has four half hour and three 15 minute stations and wifi.
Director Katie Sundstrom and I chatted in her office (sadly she was camera shy that day). She said they have seven part time employees and funding comes from the city and Lake County for their service population of about 8000.
Although they joined Arrowhead Library System (ALS) in 1974, the local library board is responsible for governance as it is at each institution in ALS, an operation efficiently coordinating more than twenty five smaller libraries in seven counties in northeastern MN, public, school, academic and special, for purchasing power, training, grants, online resources and other tasks.
ALS also puts on wonderful entertainment for the whole family, commissioning funny characters and comical prestidigitators. Participatory performances for the pint sized motivate the mind, mingling music, movement and magic. Customers have one card for reciprocal borrowing privileges and can return materials to any ALS location.
A regional foundation bought kits that give hands-on experience of STEAM concepts and ideas and THPL also lends bike locks, energy meters, cake pans and e readers. You can even score a microscope or a telescope.
Or go to Kid’s and check out a literacy backpack, chess sets and board games. Knowing the audience, the Lego books have their own section.
Picture book bins, plush toys, plastic blocks, and a puppet stage amuse tiny tykes. A racing rug continues the track from the Brio course on the table above. A fish tank and Lego league models distract adolescents while guardians wait on cushioned benches overlooking the verdant native grasses on the patio outside.
The case below two bears enjoying a fairy tale has board books, juvenile CDs and holiday titles.
Boys and girls go to stuffed animal sleepovers, author talks and storytimes at the county fair. The end of summer reading program (SRP) party had games, crafts, and snacks and juniors got ice cream certificates, super hero masks and vied for a chance to win five grand prizes. Teens received Pokemon packs and gift cards and adults had drawings for private art lessons and puzzles.
Prints of yore and informational flyers pinned to bulletin boards line the hallway leading to the bathrooms, water fountain, copier, elevator and tax forms. The Archive here has scrapbooks, newspapers etc. going back to the late 1800’s.
The library’s website features a book each month, new items by category and age, and a calendar with tempting treats. Poets and writer’s groups, painting classes, lectures on pollinators, and various storytimes are just a few of the options. The page promotes electronic magazines, books and audiobooks, two teen audio downloads per week, exam proctoring, volunteerism and donations, driving test practice and Homework Help. It links to the statewide catalog and distributes MN drug cards for significant savings on medications for the un and underinsured. Access Chilton’s Auto Repair or Minnesota specific collections, or search a variety of research, job and genealogical databases.
I love the plastic bag recycling containers and the brochure listing the biggest hits each month over the last year – metal tooling and jewelry making classes, a Duluth Playhouse Children’s Theatre interactive presentation, a travelogue on a couple’s yearlong journey through the Boundary Waters, a candy making demonstration and tasting, and a juggler – also details statistics evincing THPL’s bang for the buck.
The Friends take care of all fundraising and use the SRP to benefit other local projects too. This year the Band Shell Park’s proposed event venue will be the lucky recipient. An architect’s rendering squats on top of a shelf near a rack of parenting pamphlets and assistive bookmarks. Yummy creamsicle scratch and sniff cards entice patrons to the Friends book sale, or browse the permanent one in an alcove under the stairs. Area businesses contribute so the Friends can brighten the darker months via a Winter Reading Program.
Up a flight, the Carnegie portion is peaceful and calm. Muted beams from high cross hatched windows mix with the pinkish glow from old fashioned hanging lamps and tulip sconce chandeliers to illuminate the glossy dark wood trim. Antique white radiators, clocks, cabinets, a dumbwaiter and a dictionary on a stand complement the more modern blue upholstered furniture. A jigsaw puzzle on a table is a meditative way to pass some time.
Adult fiction, periodicals, newsletters, Playaways and books on CD are here but adult nonfiction is back downstairs.
Above the fireplace, an ethereal portrait framed by iron and metal flowers and frills stands out in relief. The locomotive in Girl Reading on a Train by Tonja Sell and Nancy Miller appears to spring from the nearby bay. Upon closer inspection, the border reveals patterns of mosaics and enamels, a bird lying on smooth washed pebbles and porcelain pieces resembling fairies.
THPL has a busy Facebook account. Announcements for exhibitions, the free e version of the Mueller report, Chess tournaments, handwriting and herb garden workshops, an afternoon book club, film screenings and discussions, Scrabble and Cribbage intermingle with notifications for lectures on sustainable lifestyles, talks on rare birds and how butterflies can soar and technology help for adults.
Read “How to Speak Dolphin” to Lucy the whippet. You might both learn something! I spot shots of dancing toddlers and ads for fluffy slime for tweens who alongside older youths produce stop motion movies using clay. Get in some acting practice, make paper cameras or create pixel art. One Science Friday covers the science of music and sound and a plethora of instruments appear during “Old MacDonald Had a Banjo” when musical polymath Paul plays original and classic tunes to enchant children. Tots can fashion a cardboard car and sit in it while watching animated shorts and all ages are invited to listen to a local ukulele combo prepare for the international carnival being held at the town hall.
Wow, THPL offers so many fun activities! The “Little Library by the Big Lake” is truly a huge boon to this northern community.