A huge one level brick and glass structure Superior Public Library (SPL), in this Wisconsin city of 27,000 nestled on the shores of the greatest of the Great Lakes, is bordered by a park full of intriguing sculptures and verdant flora. It’s just as pleasant inside as out with a blown up photo of yesteryear underneath a giant welcome sign in the foyer.
Shopping baskets and a Rollator walker make browsing comfortable while a convenient kiosk dispenses public transportation tokens.
As Twin Ports, the largest freshwater harbor in the world, Superior and Duluth are also an MSA and are connected to the Atlantic via the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Steeped in maritime traditions (the Edmund Fitzgerald left from here on its fatal voyage), Superior is the seat of Douglas County and since the two small branches in Solon Springs and Lake Nebagamon have limited hours, SPL serves the entire county population of 44,000.
I spoke to the friendly staffers at the circulation desk. As it borders Minnesota, I shouldn’t have been surprised to encounter Emily from THPL. Working at both systems gives her enough hours to make a full time job and she gamely posed for me yet again. When Judy heard that my blog covers international libraries she was curious as she has a cousin who works at the Lillehammer Bibliotek, but sadly I only visited Bergen.
Founded in 1888, SPL moved to the this location, formerly a grocery store, in 1992 and renovated last year. Bright and airy, vivid blue poles direct patrons to the proper section and consoles present tempting titles as do the “recently returned” cases (a great to cut down on the number of things to reshelve).
My eyes were immediately drawn to one of the library’s most arresting elements. A series of thirty five panels just below the ceiling ring the interior. Commissioned by a previous director and painted by regional artist, Carl Gawboy, they chronicle prominent points and places in the timeline of the district from the earth creation myth of the Algonquian-Ojibwe up to the current era. Take an employee led tour of them or click to examine the works closely as copies scroll by on the home page.
The website has email reference and features a banner asking people to take a survey on how SPL should address their future needs with entry into a $25 gift certificate raffle as an incentive to participants. The latest news advertises museum passes, movie nights, the Friends’ sale and a club for young bookworms.
It’s an access point for WI’s BadgerLink, an extensive collection of interactive learning, guides, Spanish language stuff, image, video and business databases, consumer and medical advice, test and career prep, dissertations and more. Educators download lesson plans and scavenger hunts and the electronic resources for K-12 and college students, academicians and the general public are searchable by format, subject and audience. WI specific anas include genealogical and First Nations records and information as well as theatrical and cultural performance visuals. WI also partners to bring e books and e audio books to residents.
A newsletter lists new acquisitions by category and I note that the library has an all ages Winter Reading Program and a variety of clubs and lectures. Bingo, yoga, “crafternoons” and an after hours fundraiser for area artists are on offer or complete a form to make a tax deductible donation or volunteer with the Friends or the Foundation.
Open six days, SPL belongs to a consortium of institutions in northern WI that share materials through Merlin (cool acronym!). Choose from Playaways, puppets, puzzles and the more typical fare to request up to twenty items. Find what’s available now using the Superior only limit or if Merlin doesn’t carry it, try ILL from the WISCAT state catalog. Two renewals are allowed and seven days to pick up holds. Borrow DVDs and periodicals for one week and tablets, books etc. for three.
The 14 adult computers have Microsoft Office and guests get complimentary wifi for three days.
The muted gray and blue carpeting provides a neutral background for the eclectic seating options. This surface has privacy partitions, embedded power strips and small trays of succulents at eye level.
I love the funky fun furniture – geometric tables and dangling lamps and high-backed hideaways.
Nifty leather handled hassocks and varnished oak trunk stools can be shifted around to form impromptu conversation pits.
On Facebook, reviews give accolades for personnel, contents and activities – one customer commented that SPL is one of the few things that make him feel good about paying property taxes. Posts promote Technology and Me sessions, a writing group, Dungeons and Dragons for teens, and talks on Lyme disease, cooking jam, monarch butterflies, becoming a foster parent and zero waste living. There are singers and choruses and hundreds of users expressed interest in listening to ghost hunters from a nearby paranormal society. Nostalgic film clips of a homecoming celebration from the fifties and stills of the old library building mingle with ones from the rehab.
By Youth, coat pegs on wooden trees and abundant storage closets keep things neat and plants and plush animals adorn the stack tops. Beyond a colonial soldier bean bag toss and bins of board books, frogs climb over the backs of tiny chairs in an alcove with a tiered stage where tots attend pajama and holiday themed storytimes. The regularly scheduled weekly one usually has a craft and music.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the moon walk, Blast Off! is this year’s summer reading program and is publicized by a display of astronaut food from NASA (the Army Labs in Natick, my hometown, cooks this unappealing muck and I still remember (unexpectedly tasty) freeze dried strawberries from a field trip). Affiliated events include making flying saucers and star bracelets and fashioning, then launching, rockets.
Jennifer and I chatted for a bit. SPL lends video games and the three young adult computers for ages 13-17 and five restricted juvenile ones for 13 and under have games and word processing software.
They encourage advance notice for school or day care center tours and kids have a plethora of functions from a glow in the dark dance to author appearances. The invitation to the PBS station’s birthday party mentions cake and a special honoree, Curious George.
Tykes select from a rack of toddler toys and playthings, rearrange the dollhouse, race cars on a track, plop into a pint size fire engine to peruse a picture book or curl up on a cushion under the heavy duty paper canopies above these enticing nooks.
As I walk by furry foxes and fauna floating up the walls by the family facilities and a bulletin board of community happenings, I realize the library has several two and four person studies.
The meeting room holds 105 occupants and a classroom fits 25. The conference spot and creator room (perfect for making a glittery colorful mess as it has erasable walls) both take 12. The spaces can be rented for non financial purposes and the larger ones have screens, lecterns and kitchen access for light refreshments. A small fee gets you a laptop, projector and mic, and government and nonprofit entities may be eligible to reserve for free.
What a delightful asset for the denizens of this important shipping zone!