(Practically Antarctica) Punta Arenas


La ciudad and the Strait of Magellan from a mirador

Though Biblioteca Seis Punta Arenas (#6) in Chile is not the southernmost public library in the world, it’s awfully close (I think Puerto Williams, just over one hundred miles south, probably gets that honor if one rules out McMurdo).  In January (their summer) while in Punta Arenas, the largest burg in windy and wild southern Patagonia, I had the pleasure of visiting it.

I spotted the bike racks, pretty wrought iron and varnished wood benches and Biblioteca street sign (as opposed to our reader symbol, it’s an open book) a few blocks from central Plaza de Armas and across from a bus shelter.  Admiring the pink and white etched bricks on the sidewalk…


…I entered a foyer where standing banners advertise available resources and invite users to submit their complaints, suggestions and compliments.  Amid maps of Chile and informational pamphlets, a table captures natural light streaming in through plate glass.  Tots waiting for parents to finish perch on tiny seats next to a small display of kid’s stuff.  Crossing the gleaming tiles, I went down to meet Ninfa S. Vidal, Jefe Biblioteca Pública N° 6, whom I had written to in advance for permission to take pictures.



Ninfa came when they moved here in 2001.  Her degree is in Technical Administration but through the years, she’s taken continuing education classes, earning a diploma in Library Management from Alberto Hurtado University and other credentials.  She also spent time at libraries in Spain learning about their practices and policies so she could implement the best of them at Número Seis.

We started in the basement with Biblioteca Infantil, which can be sealed off to keep noise from filtering upwards.


This charming room boasts multicolored chairs and fancifully painted furniture – little movable shelves are painted with scenes of sharks and orcas, literate teddy bears and crowded streets.  Patterned pillows and primary hued carvings accessorize while a poster proclaims reader’s rights and suitcases full of cultural titles whet your desire to travel, at least virtually.


Wonderful mural wraps around to the right to cover the door

First year students start reading in March, and five months later can read a little by themselves.  So in August, for El Mes del Niño, each six and seven year old gets a book.  Having their very own book encourages reading and during the same fun filled evening, beginners receive a #6 membership as parents and teachers beam with pride.

The library also had an exhibition of images of outstanding children’s authors and does a lot with kids in both government and private kindergartens.  There are school visits and at least one story session per week (often daily during the school year).


Facebook shows chess workshops for kids and teens and a lively story hour with puppets, kamishibai and other activities.  Youngsters in costume perform plays and speak to a regional writer and painter.  Halloween brings Tales of Terror and game playing nights.  Adults get lectures on Antología de los extremos de Chile (Anthology of the Extremes of Chile) and Gnostic Astrology or go to health and UFO talks or scrap booking with all the tools provided.  Photos of community meetings and the latest titles pepper the page.


Catherine Navarro

Up one floor we stopped to chat to the incredibly friendly and obliging staff.  Three full timers work in the 6500 square foot facility.  Catherine’s spot is near the comics, anime and manga.


They also have Rincón de la mujer and Rincón Jurídico y Referencia – women’s and legal and reference corners.  Large heaters occupy each level as even in summer it’s usually pretty chilly this close to the pole.

We headed up three flights…


…passing the lobby where what looks like a life size sculpture of an orc guards your possessions on coat hooks below cut out letters warning if you don’t hang your stuff you risk misplacing it…


…to the light and airy study mezzanine at the top.  Students are on holiday now, but during term, #6 is hopping and gets 150 people a day.

Magazines and newspapers are here and, its windows plastered by flyers of library happenings, a nicely appointed staff room with storage and overflow crafts, as well as cooking equipment, a fridge and television.


Their kitchen and bathroom

There’s a second stairway and a spiffy technology lab where all ages can learn Word, Excel, internet and e-government.  Perfect for older people who may need skills to write to youthful relatives or find a job, you get a certificate once you’ve completed the course successfully.  Outfitted with a printer, cabinets, whiteboard and overhead projector, it’s a benefit of DIBAM, the National Library and Archives Department.


Punta Arenas has five bibliotecas públicas – #6 is the largest and is a legal depository too.  Along with Number 47, it belongs to, and so receives materials from, DIBAM.  The other three libraries depend on the municipality for support.  Ninfa’s location also has Friends who apply for federal grants and raise funds for projects and books.

To promote literacy, each month, #6 brings “Traveling Boxes” to neighborhood associations, charities, sports clubs, retirement homes, hospitals, prisons, preschools, and day care, community and senior centers.

On April 23, World Book Day (designated since it was the date in 1616 when Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (early Peruvian writer) all died), they have events and prizes for readers in five categories – the very young, children, adolescents, adults and elders.  The gift books are sponsored by a local company or donated by an institution (part of Ninfa’s job is soliciting contributions) and winners get a diploma certifying them as the best readers as well.


In the estanterias

Above the stacks, a saying on a plaque roughly translates to Mistreating a book is destroying a dream and a print of an old woodcut of a woman retrieving a book from a well is captioned When a good book quenches our thirst.

Smiling Waleska was busy barcoding things for the national catalog, (a project begun in 2008 by Sistema Nacional de Bibliotecas Públicas (SNBP), ensuring a future when all Chilean public library materials will be accessible online) but along with Catherine, took the time to make me feel at home.


Waleska Ruiz

The Sistema does some printing and produced a lovely diary and a calendar tailored to libraries in Región de Magallanes y Antártica Chilena (there’s even a shot of happy toddlers in #6’s adorable children’s space).  And SNBP handles the website, which offers downloadable articles, books, movies and audios.

Number Six has wifi and five free public computers that are first come first served and if no one is waiting the 45 minute sessions can be extended.  They have around 17,000 books, magazines, graphic novels and a small selection of media that people can borrow, but most videos and DVDs must be viewed in the building.  Cards are free for residents and with the Aleph System, customers can borrow from any library in Chile.  The 2000 cardholders can check out three items for a week or more depending on demand.


Cozy area by Colección Patagónica

It seems wherever you turn, the cultural heritage and bountiful beauty of the country are celebrated and old black and white photos of indigenous people and past events emphasize this.  Ninfa proudly showed me volumes by Pablo Neruda and Isabel Allende, perhaps the country’s most well known literary icons, and a prehistory of Chile.  Number 6 also has a sound archive for Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego with 737 recordings spread over fifty compact discs.  On National Heritage Day, #6 hosts programs and last year to commemorate Chilean chanteuse Violeta Parra, they positioned a speaker to play her songs onto the street.


Justine, Ninfa and Vicky

It’s been a fascinating tour and I feel so welcomed.  Ninfa is lovely and personable as she rattles off answers to my questions, but my Spanish is so bad I can’t understand much until patron Vicky Guisande pops in.  Now living in Croatia, but here on family matters, her work in the tourism industry ensures her English is great.  What a stroke of luck!  Vicky was tremendously helpful in garnering information for this post, though all mistakes here are mine – well, perhaps a few are Google Translator’s as a question about home delivery, their service for those too sick to leave the house, came back implying home birth 😉


Nearby Cementerio Municipal Sara Braun – the most beautiful I’ve seen and a national monument

I was so impressed by the dedication and hard work of the #6 employees.  Everyone is very committed to improving the lives of the population by bringing them books and activities. Citizens of this remote city are truly blessed to have such a marvelous library!

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Clever Clive

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.

img_3867The 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.


Note the futuristic self check behind Steph

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…


Affable Amanda in back

…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.


Cozy up with a coffee

Back in the main section I relished the views of vast trim meadows from a reading spot by the fireplace.


Bucolic setting

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,


Teri and two of her magical drawings

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.


Dazzling designs

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…


Exposed pipes pull your eyes to the soaring ceiling

… 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.


Big enough for everyone

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.


So cute, but not big enough for the hoard

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.


Fish tank outside Children’s

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).

img_3933Pretty 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.


Cushy leaf cutouts are perfect for parents

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.


Stunning painting by family facilities

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!


Julia bade a friendly farewell

How clever of the library to create such an attractive and hospitable environment.

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Dynamic DuBois

Driving home from New England in November we stayed in a pleasant hamlet, bigger than expected considering it’s in the “Pennsylvania Wilds.”


Michael amused by the coincidence of Shaffner’s Music House across the street

The lower doors to DuBois Public Library (DPL), a two story structure in the middle of downtown, lead into the meeting room or to a small foyer where autumn leaves decorate a well lit display case of Thanksgiving books.

img_3750In a curved part of this oblong community space, little square windows let sun stream onto the short stage.  Abutted by lots of closets to stow programming stuff, it’s got stackable seating for 50 people and a kitchenette.  On the far end, gorgeous oak and glass cabinets, perfect for exhibitions of collectibles, line the wall.


Rebecca in Youth

Though director Rebecca McTavish was busy organizing the Chamber of Commerce After Hours Mixer and Grand Opening (of their new elevator), she kindly took a few moments to take me around.  DPL’s service population is about 18,000, extending beyond the 7800 or so within city limits.  The budget comes from DuBois (like its namesake in Wyoming  it’s pronounced du boys) and Sandy Township residents and the state.


To main section

At the top of the steps, a skylight provides more natural light.

When DPL began in 1920, it was the only municipally funded library in PA.  This location was constructed in 1979 and has had several renovations.  In 2008 a drunk driver unfortunately slammed into the building so despite a rehab in 2005, they had to fix that, plus some HVAC issues, and a federal grant let them make DPL more accessible.  Both floors have ground level entrances, as per Rebecca, “nothing in Pennsylvania is flat” and total around 12,000 square feet.

img_3773Up here, plants and classy revolving racks set a welcoming tone and tables and the circulation desk were decorated with paper pumpkins.  Wifi is free and there are five public computers and one for the visually impaired.

Online, customers can get chat assistance 24/7 via Ask Here PA or take a survey that keeps staff apprised of what is most important to users.  You can download TumbleBooks and Overdrive ebooks and audiobooks or peruse topics in the numerous journals and databases of the PA Power Library.  A to Z World Map is a good resource for students and the Facebook page publicizes upcoming happenings.

img_3782Browse mysteries and the booksale shelves then follow helpful overhead signage to World War II volumes or the PA history collection of about a thousand items.

A bench in memory of Mildred E. Hafner and a wheelchair ramp flank the upper entrance where a tall C of C banner Stand Up and Stand Out lists local business sponsors and a bulletin board and posters advertise DPL and district activities.  Next to the lobby, a quiet study space for research has audiovisual equipment and a microfiche reader for the Courier Express in all its iterations from the 1800’s forward.  Continuing their tradition of frequently revamping the premises 😉 it was just remodeled so a bathroom for the disabled could be added on the other side.

Grownups go to GED classes and lectures and get fit at line dancing or yoga and relieve more stress at coloring group, and both adults and teens can have fun geocaching.

img_3788A psychedelic carpet and patterned upholstered armchairs announce the spot where YAs have a biweekly reading lounge choosing from over 1200 books, graphic novels and manga.

In the center, long tables hold enticing gift baskets for the Friends’ raffle – they also have a Works of Heart craft raffle in spring and sell tote bags.  A reading alcove presents a view through plate glass.



I headed back downstairs to Children’s, conveniently separated from the rest of the place so older folks aren’t bothered by the joyful noise.


Robyne lit by Tiffany

Robyne Spillers, the Children’s Librarian, started here a year and a half ago.  While chatting, she mentioned her last position was in a Steuben County, IN Carnegie redone by wrapping an exoskeleton around the existing edifice in a fashion similar to my hometown institution.  She’s full time and appreciates the proximity of the performance area in the meeting room as she uses it a lot and keeps storytime cushions in the adjacent cupboards.

I looked around delighted by all the cool distractions.  Kites and mobiles dangle from the ceiling, Tigger and Clifford perch on carousels and an oversize bear slumps by another stack.

img_3716Caterpillars above easy readers highlight the goal of 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.  Plush toys and picture books top the shelves and the slatted surface above promotes titles.

In one corner, caretakers can find parenting information and pamphlets.  The checkout station has indents featuring materials and a family comfort station behind it, and the coatroom is plastered with drawings.

Kid’s events include science and art sessions, bingo, dog shows, kite day, the Halloween parade and three different storytimes per week and they can attend all ages outings like the bike rodeo, potluck picnics and nature hikes.

img_3718DuBois hosts a branch of Penn State who donated a physics pinball table to introduce young ones to the concept of trial and error.

A sturdy wood dollhouse and a neat orange and teal play house catch my eye…

img_3746…by a BRIO train set with drawers beneath for extra tracks.  The panels on the colorful rug it sits on teach the names of animals in English, Spanish and sign language.

img_3726Storage behind puppet show curtains holds jigsaw puzzles, busy boxes, an assortment of blocks and a plethora of planks that let tots learn about everything from hinges to cogs.  Plastic bins contain themed Discovery Kits – insects, music…  All you could want to keep boys and girls entertained.

The citizens of this pretty pocket of Pennsylvania are indeed fortunate to have such a lovely library.

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Comely Cornwall

Continuing our tour of the splendors of rural New England, my mother and I headed down to the northwest corner of Connecticut, where for eleven years, starting in 1939 at age nine, she’d been a St. Luke’s camper then counselor, never missing one glorious summer.  Growing up in the dirty concrete streets of Greenwich Village, the nature and beauty of the area was a balm for her soul.

Each year the priests took their charges on a couple of very long hikes from West Cornwall over the mountain to Cornwall Bridge then along Route 7 (cars were a rarity on this now busy road) to splash and picnic at Kent Falls State Park.


Drought has greatly reduced the brook that feeds the Housatonic River

She was also a teacher here and lived across the common from the library in 1955.  In fact, she moved here shortly after a flooding creek damaged the collection and contributed a number of her own treasured tomes to build it back up.

Driving passed the historical society we came to an idyllic green framed by village offices, two churches and the library.


Brilliant trees above a weathered park bench and verdant meadows with a few brown cows surround a pretty building evoking a colonial barn.  You enter Cornwall Library (CL) up a path and steps reminiscent of the ubiquitous dry rock walls of the region.

The tiny foyer manages to squeeze in a spindle of paperbacks for sale, notice board and a rack of brochures.


Once inside the farm theme continues – the whitewashed post and beam style and soaring ceiling lets sunbeams stream in.



Over the granite counters of the main desk we talked to Director Margaret Haske, who bears a strong resemblance to actress Maggie Gyllenhaal.  Though five distinct communities, all incorporating the name Cornwall, comprise this small village of 1400, just 80 kids now go to the K-9 school where my mother taught.


Clerks have a view over the whole realm

Margaret works 35 hours per week and has two part time employees.  They supplement this with 20 hours of unpaid staffing – just a small part of the way volunteers and the Friends help out.  She handles all the technology and wifi is free as are the five internet terminals in a spiffy black and chrome alcove.


Computing corner

The web site features new materials and a PayPal account for any generous bequests.  Facebook links to e-newsletters and promotions and YouTube videos of happenings.

CL is open five days a week and circulates about 15,000 items annually plus has Deliver It CT for ILL.  It belongs to the Bibliomation consortium for resource sharing so patrons can download any of 7000 Overdrive ebooks for all ages or borrow any of the 29,000 books, CDs, audios and DVDs here.  A Nook e-reader is available for loan and the visually impaired can use VideoEye.


Embedded tiles show the changing seasons

Started as a dues paying organization in a private house in 1869, it became free to residents in 1945.  The library moved to the renovated office of a lawyer in 1874 and in 1908 a Mr. Calhoun gave them a graceful stone structure, its home until the trustees realized an expansion was necessary.  The association raised over a million in a capital campaign and tax payer dollars added nearly a quarter to that amount so in 2002 they relocated to the current premises leaving the old one exclusively for Town Hall.

The Polly and Frank Calhoun Community Room seats 48 and can be accessed via a back door off the parking lot when CL is closed.  Attendees can even go into the bathroom in the main part of the facility, if they eschew temptation and leave the books alone.  Equipment includes Acer DLP and DVD projectors for the flat screen TV and a kitchenette.


Any clutter is due to the just finished booksale

Free to local non profits, CL gets 25% of proceeds from anyone who uses it to make money, like the Zumba, yoga and Pilates class instructors.

The majority of library funding comes from the Annual Appeal, then the town.  Grants and donations, their cut of meeting room proceeds and art sales, a tiny stipend from the state, and drawing on the endowment make up the rest of the budget.

There’s lots of media by the magazine section where tilted stands make browsing a breeze.


Have a chat over coffee and a snack

The eclectic and comfortable décor has window seats, hassocks and cushioned armchairs.  The district’s spectacular scenery is evident in myriad paintings and through plentiful panes of glass.  Low shelves feature recommendations and along with potted plants, give CL an airy, uncluttered feel.


At the end of the art exhibit, you can record your impressions on the ledger supported by an antique pedestal.

Hot water pipes running beneath the stained concrete floors bring radiant heating while 63 solar panels on the roof feed energy back into the grid, so even though CL sometimes relies on the power company for lights, electrical bills are a thing of the past.


The Children’s Area is crowded with huge stuffed animals and offers book/cassette kits, board games, puzzles, toys and an assortment of parenting titles.

Youngsters have fun at Toddler Play Group, ice cream parties, family movies, Halloween Trick or Treat or a five day summer day camp in August.


The space is big and bright with colorful autumn leaves draped atop stacks and miniature wood tables and chairs stained in a variety of shades.


Adults can choose from author talks, a newcomer’s tea, fiction and poetry classes, healthcare seminars, writing workshops, Cornwall Conversations, Mahjong evenings, senior socials, a monthly knitting circle, garden tours, a quilt show, 3D printer demonstrations and artist’s receptions.

A winter film series, jazz band for Valentine’s Day, the Après Ski Cocktail Classic, Whiffenpoof alumni concert and Winter Swing are all signature events.  Lena Dunham, acclaimed creator and lead actor of HBO’s Girls, lives close by and last year came in to read from her bestseller, Not That Kind of Girl.

Gorgeous professional looking photographs from high school students make the entire place a gallery.


Handsome modern furniture

Truly, the library is a sparkling jewel enriching this little hamlet.



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Arresting Arlington


Though the rope swing is gone, the covered bridge is intact after the 2011 flood

In the early 1950’s my grandmother bought a property in Sandgate, so as a child I spent many happy hours swimming in the Batten Kill River in neighboring Arlington, VT.  Fifteen years after selling the cottage my mother and I went back for a nostalgic tour of the area and stopped in at The Martha Canfield Library (MCL), yet another attraction in this quintessential New England hamlet where Norman Rockwell lived for years.


Down the hill from the middle and high schools, MCL conveniently shares a lot with the elementary school and the playing fields.  The handsome pale yellow building meets the ground at an angle, so on the right end scarlet shrubs cascade down the landscaped incline while an almost flat cement path serves as a wheelchair “ramp” on the left.

Up the stairs on the patio, a bench lets you enjoy the bevy of bushes and flora.  Embedded in a rounded rock in the center, a plaque reveals it’s Jean Woodman’s Garden.


Creative arrangement – love the paper clips!

Forming a buffer against icy winds, a small entryway papered by notices has a free book cart and leads to a tiled two story lobby lit by a chandelier and furnished with an antique secretary, an arrangement of arrowheads under glass and a lovely portrait of their founder.

You can borrow reading glasses, pick up well designed bookmarks and handouts or buy pretty hand drawn note cards and ten cent (!!) greeting cards at the circulation desk where we met friendly Phoebe.  One of the volunteers vital to the ongoing success of the institution, she and my mother Carol were soon chatting about NYC and VT in bygone years.



Founded as a society in 1803, the library first dwelt in the railroad station, next it moved to its namesake’s home.  In the 1940’s part of a house deeded to the Community Club was set aside for books so they shifted over, but after outgrowing those quarters, in 1996 construction on this facility was finished.  Martha’s Book House, now occupying their previous premises, is the main venue for booksale income, though items are also sold in a small nook off the foyer.



MCL’s website highlights new titles for all levels and has reviews, including some by members.  There’s a monthly e-newsletter, the VT On-Line Library for reference and journal databases as well as local newspapers and Mango language learning.  The Vermont Department of Libraries brings customers Universal Class with over 500 online choices and since they belong to the Green Mountain Library Consortium, users can download audio and e-books via Listen Up! VERMONT.

The facebook page has job postings, slogans and promotions for events here and in the vicinity.

Wifi is free and juveniles have two computers while adults have four – two of which are found in an alcove just outside the young adult area.


Spot for teens

Dedicated to the Jaffee family’s passion for reading, adolescents access the internet from four terminals lining a wall decorated with posters.  Nearby, a long table lets friends study together.  By the YA magazines, cushy chairs and a plump hassock are great for lounging and bean bags are scattered about.  Jigsaws cram into one tall rack while board games fill another.

I spoke to LA Peggy Hanson who was very informative.  She mentioned this section was originally nonfiction but is now very popular among students and quite busy outside of school hours.  Luckily doors here and in Youth keep the library quiet.


Space saving tip – CDs on shelf ends

Peggy extolled the virtues of their volunteers and said they are an integral part of everyday operations.  Five staff the front desk in shifts of a few hours each per week, and some organize functions and solicit monies that help make the library such a fine resource for citizens.

Along with the town of Arlington, bordering Sandgate and Sunderland contribute to the coffers as does interest from an endowment.  Fundraising, donations and The Canfield Advocates Group’s efforts to find grants and corporate partnerships (among other things) supplement the budget.


Bucolic nook

Everywhere greenish light, tinted by the meadows outside and the flower pots on ledges, filters in, mellowing the atmosphere.

A case offers new DVDs and books by a paperback exchange.  MCL is open Tuesday to Saturday and only charges fines for videos.  There’s ILL, delivery for shut-ins and reading groups.  Residents can attend the Sunday Afternoon Series, the Dessert Party and Auction, seminars on ancestral research, crocheting and knitting circles and a workshop on how to make memory albums.

The small set gets Santa visits, and on Tuesday mornings, Preschool Story Hour with two to four fables, songs and finger play centered on one topic e.g. autumn leaves.  Anyone who works at the library can lead them and occasionally they’ll have tale telling sessions for Happy Days Playschool.


Inside Children’s, coats and hats hang on hooks above collapsible cloth containers of board books.  Stuffed characters perch by panes above piles of plush pillows for programs and Book Express kits for teachers and homeschoolers.  These plastic boxes have 10-12 titles and activities on a specific theme like Tools and Machines.  Furry animals nestle in rocking chairs and big soft puzzle pieces and cupped hands provide movable seating in the aisles.  Enticing materials are propped atop low shelves abutting the games corner and in the display openings on higher ones.

Tables and chairs come in two sizes, neither appropriate for older folks 😉  Craft supplies have their own cupboard and milk crates hold paperback picture books.


Peggy in Kid’s

The main adult space is what my ideal front parlor would be – expansive views of fall’s brilliant hues on the nearby mountains cozily observed from a smart leather armchair.  Volumes are stored beneath window seats and multipurpose consoles topped with plants present recent periodicals while back issues are stored in cubbies underneath.


Mysteries, biographies and science fiction are kept on the sunny top floor across from a wood railing enclosing its four sides.

Through a door I can make out the Dr. George Russell (the model for Rockwell’s The Family Doctor) Collection of Vermontiana, which has rare village, county and state annals dating from the 1700’s.  Farm ledgers, genealogies, diaries and stagecoach records are just a few of the historical documents, but after postmaster James McCabe’s ten year archival stint it’s been run by volunteers so you must have an appointment or come on a Tuesday (unlike me) to see it.


Balcony level

Down two flights (or take the elevator), the Canfield Gallery (whose first director was Phoebe’s husband, artist Julien Sheres) is widely respected throughout the region.  Exhibitions change monthly and showcase area potters, shutterbugs and painters who hold receptions on the first Saturday afternoon of the month.  During the winter holiday season it becomes a craft fair – perfect for unique, quality gifts.  Here I encountered a patron appreciating the scenic works of David Frey Utiger.


Travis admiring the art

Also in the walkout basement, the pleasant meeting room has an upholstered love seat and patterned curtains.  Its kitchen has an ample fridge, gas range and lots of cabinets.  Though free for nonprofits like the Girl Scouts, people can rent it for baby and bridal showers and someone once hosted a tea here.


What an appealing place with such nice staffers, both paid and unpaid, running it!

Thanks so much to Phoebe and Peggy for being so hospitable and to Phyllis, the volunteer, who relayed my request for permission to take photographs of this charming library and to Phyllis, the director, who granted it.


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Neighborly Newport

Downtown, across from an old stone church, Rhode Island’s Newport Public Library (NPL) is a long low two story modern brick building set in a large park.  White projections cap the clerestory and complement the pale stucco entrance, as do the flanking trellises and planters.  A pocket garden frames the handsome marble bar announcing their name and bushes, flowers and trees dot the property.


Newport Public Library

Nestled in a hill, it’s an interesting setup.  Accessed from a large parking lot, the doorway on the opposing side is somewhat higher.  Just a few steps lead from the foyer to the second level where the materials reside.  Though probably energy efficient, this could have contributed to a costly and ill timed flood over Memorial Day weekend.  Debris from a violent storm backed up a drain and they were still recovering from the inundation when I visited towards the end of July.


Other lobby

Back at the street front “cellar” entrance, despite patching and renovating operations, a Friends book sale was in full swing.  Though they have a substantial store, with presentation shelves outside, it spills onto folding tables in the vestibule.  CDs, records and choices for the little ones join the hardcovers and subjects are revealed by cheery handwritten placards on tall sticks.  Five paperbacks for a dollar tempt vacationers  while literary themed knickknacks add to the mood and framed art features pictures from the city and surrounding Atlantic.  Hanging just under the ceiling, a big screen advertising current and upcoming attractions lures browsers upstairs.


Permanent place for fundraising efforts

Alongside this bibliophile’s bonanza, the basement is home to administration and employee quarters, comfort stations, vending machines, bulletin boards, a program enclosure, and meeting and board rooms.


Papered suitably 🙂

And to my delight I came upon a portrait of Natalie Savage Carlson, author of one of my favorite childhood reads, The Empty Schoolhouse, who lived and died in the vicinity.

A glass and wood cabinet combining sailing and jazz volumes celebrates two of the municipality’s more obvious claims to fame – the Newport Jazz Festival and the America’s Cup.


Kelly at Main Desk

Going up one flight I passed security gates to check in with friendly Kelly standing behind a verdant arrangement of seashells, sandcastles, potted plants and ivy at Circulation.  After assuring him that I had permission (thanks for the help Kirby!) to take patronless photos, I scanned the premises, slightly in awe of the ample space for the collection.

A mounted television promotes free museum passes and a stand lets you inspect the 3M ebooks (plus NPL has Zinio and Overdrive).  There are return slots for media and books too.  Sadly, I also notice sign of the times bookmarks educating you on how to respond to an active shooter, but on a happier note, another handout lists weekly exercise classes.  Zumba, Hatha Yoga, CrossFit, T’ai Chi and Boot Camp are just a sampling of the options.



Directly across from the entrance, the media zone is expansive.  TV series have their own racks and they carry Blu-ray.   It’s adjacent to a huge magazine area with plenty of seats, but I head towards YA, drawn by the welcoming cutout letters at its information desk.


Decorated for the Get in the Game… Read! summer reading program, Teens sports a manga and anime stack and a wide selection of new titles and audios.  Six computers are provided and students get support from a homework console.  Offerings include 3D Printing, Dinner & a Movie and sewing, cooking and crafting seminars.

Back in the grownup sections, unoccupied aisles are illuminated as you approach and I see graphic novels for adults and Spanish items.  As elsewhere, fiction is conveniently categorized as romance, mystery…   Pretty baskets contain beach books and a small reading spot has easy chairs overlooking the verdant landscape.   Local history emphasizes the past with antique printer’s tools and old tomes and seafaring photos packed in an Asian influenced hutch.


Intriguing pale wood cases match the furnishings and market NPL’s latest acquisitions while in the seemingly endless corridor beacons shine on a neon green niche pushing large print and a second indentation of staff picks and biographies.


Looking lengthwise

Admirably, hand sanitizer stands and recycling bins are abundant.

The Maker Lab Computer Room is dark but customers can sit on brightly hued plastic wheeled chairs at any of the twenty public internet terminals and wifi is free.

Saving the fun for last, I passed holds self pickup by kids’ music and CDs and went to the storytime enclave where purple paper wrapped tables let toddlers express themselves by a sink and toy and supply filled cupboards as they wait for a session or puppet show to begin on the colorful alphabet rug.

Sun streaming in from the lofty panes just below Children’s raised roof give it a light and airy ambiance.  Racing flags draped from above herald the youth SRP On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! as do the golf bag, pennants, hula hoops, footballs, mini trophies, foam hockey sticks, NHL player cutouts and glittery spiraling sports memorabilia mobiles.


Junior area

Kid’s has multi hued wavy stacks and geometric flooring.  Two early literacy no internet computers preloaded with age appropriate software and games reassure parents and busy boxes engage tots, while six PCs attract adolescents.  Outdoors, massive trunks bear sweeping branches that shade the red and yellow stools at the ledge halving the plate glass window or you can curl up in painted nooks embedded in the shelf wrapping around the walls.


Starry Night cubbies?

Juveniles attend raptor encounters, math and Lego clubs, movies and guitar sing-a-longs and Pokemon and dance parties.

Topped by tiny cartoon faced hassocks, the marine motif is found here as well in a vivid carpet portraying a scene of varied creatures from the depths.  Three spacious playhouses in primary tones accommodate a passel of youngsters and older ones can peer through attic openings.  Board books are stowed in a diminutive version of these domiciles.


Easy ingress from back

They are open six days a week and the website has Twitter, flickr, Pinterest, Instagram, and facebook accounts.  Outreach is available for the ill, preschools and nursing facilities.  Users get assistance in a variety of tech topics or chat on AskRI with the Providence PL reference department.  Adults have travel slideshows, gardening, organizing and genealogy talks, films, a paranormal investigator’s supernatural evening, and crochet and book groups.

NPL is a great resource for surrounding communities, but all Little Rhody residents can use it via the Ocean State Libraries consortium, which lets you borrow and return almost all materials to any RI location and gives taxpayers more bang for the buck by sharing a catalog, telecommunications network, research databases…


Sunset from a wharf

In a fascinating state of bridges, islands, boats and water, water everywhere, Newport is the crown jewel – how lucky to also have such a gem of a library!

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Beguiling Beijing


Great Wall at Mutianyu – 1.5 hrs away

The magical land of China, full of friendly, obliging citizens, is endowed with a fantastic civic benefit in Beijing’s Capital Library (CL) in the Chaoyang District.

Like so much of the ultramodern city’s architecture, it’s enormous and impressive.

Close to the subway, CL’s two gigantic edifices reside in a vast campus enclosed by a green and gold brass fence.  Steps from a beautiful plaza pass decorative characters and lead to the marvelous pagoda shaped mirrored front door.  Rough hewn stone blocks at the foundation supply stability for the gleaming tiles covering the higher levels of monolithic Building A, the juvenile and young adult sector.


Capital Library

Signs all over specified no snapshots were allowed, but as I put my knapsack in the security scanner I asked a guard if I could shoot the elegant marble staircase, appropriately festooned with balloons as it was Dragon Boat Festival time.  After he agreed I noticed EVERYONE was taking pictures of EVERYTHING, totally ignoring the ubiquitous rules and the employees seemed untroubled by the flagrant violations, so I went crazy.  I’ve posted far more photos than usual this time, partially to make up for my lack of understanding since I was unable to secure a tour in English and I have only the (poor) translation of the website to refer to, so my apologies in advance on the paucity of data.


Entry to Children’s

A statue of a doting parent sitting on a bench and her son looking up at the sky is echoed by two live models.  Inside Youth it’s light and airy with attractive wood accessories and a golden path curving through the sensible blue linoleum like the yellow brick road.



Cushy multi-hued, movable benches and chair and table sets in primary colors front a curtained stage, its top held up by tree branches.  Kid’s has a forest motif.  Pillars spread as they get higher just like the oaks their boards are made of and green and gray leaf cutouts splatter the walls.  Plants and mobiles add to the effect.

Elsewhere solid wood upholstered couches are perfect to curl up in.  Close by, flat dark surfaces and stools and pale tilted easels let youngsters do some serious studying.


Classical presentation of multilingual dictionaries

Bone white figures on a glossy ebony wall update the famous stages of man – a crouching ape starts the series and a body hunched over a computer evincing an amusingly similar silhouette ends it.


Not the most practical storage but a cozy home for paperbacks

On comfy turquoise sofas, moms chat while a father reads aloud to his rapt daughter, head resting on dad’s lap, beneath a gigantic pumpkin complete with a colossal snail climbing up it.

A corkboard has an endless display of juvie drawings.


Budding artists share their creations

An extensive case holding magazines is complemented by this long rack with an astounding amount of kid’s newspapers on rods.


Periodicals for tots!

Before you get to the numerous state of the art self check machines where smocked attendants lend a hand, there’s a long squat circulation spot with at least five stations.


Omnipresent crimson coated clerks assist at checkout

Back in the vestibule, pillars soar to a fretted ceiling letting in rays for the playful framed photos here.  Vending machines dispense refreshments and comics by a large map.

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Steps to YA

While tons of boys and girls are running around downstairs, the more self conscious tweens on the second floor are sedately reading, working or watching flicks on a mammoth TV under tilted hatch shells affording almost complete privacy.  White with light blue neon bands, these eye catching eggs are set off by geometric light fixtures.

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Pods for adolescents

I walked through a rainbow of reflections emitted by the orange neon rimming the domed slatted enclosures that house stylish conversation pits.

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There are tall stacks of DVDs, tables have attached Ipads and privacy screens on PC carrels let multiple patrons share one surface.  A Plexiglas lamp dangles just above a listening station fitted with chrome and leather cushioned bar seats.  Further along the gorgeous knotty blond plank wall, I discovered yet another theater, this one circular.

Plenty of computers here and both children’s and teens stations have preloaded games.  I think they provide free wifi, though the iffy Google translation means I can’t be totally sure of anything.

Besides the public sections, this five story “A” side has a cultural and exhibition hall, four meeting rooms, two VIP spaces, a lounge and staff only areas above YA.

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Corridor from A to B

The grownup “B” facility is at least eight floors and is reached by stunning glassed-in bridges overlooking curvy landscaped walkways and hedgerows lit by old fashioned street lamps.  Giant stands celebrating the countries of the world start with the A’s (ah, even Andorra, an obscure place I actually spent six weeks visiting when I was 17, appears) and proceed alphabetically down the flyway.  A second span sporting massive red posters describing the current state of China leads to the soaring lobby that links the two structures.

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“Navigation Hall”

This fabulous zone has a suspended mesh bird cage construction which could be decorative or hold a stairwell.  Soaring stained glass panels top a foliage filled eatery.

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Sunbeams stream in on browsers combing the book sale.

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And I was delighted by a wonderful “nook” (if you can call it that considering the atrium roof is at least 50 feet up) of book themed sculptures and partitions.

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Installations inspired by literature

CL seeks to be a “public learning space” and has nearly 100,000 academic videos and will be launching something called Mobile HowNet soon.

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Online, the Local Classroom has what looks like lots of videos (but I couldn’t get them to play – not unusual, I couldn’t get Google or Facebook while I was in China, so I probably need some program to make it work) with lectures on Ming Silver Currency, ancient architecture in Japan vs. China, wine, plant painting, international law in the South China Sea and its resolution, being a participating father, strong teeth, culinary tradition, stories about Huanggu Temple and so much more.

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Lovely version of the 13 digit ISBN

Videos are categorized by Health (maybe the “Environment and lung cancer” one will improve China’s reputation for pollution), Special Planning, Culture and Arts, Social Sciences…  Subjects range from fitness tips, obesity, and mother’s breastfeeding, recovery and postpartum care (even more useful now that China permits two offspring per family) to Sino-US relations, Lu Xun and Lin Yutang’s Humour, learning English, Calligraphy, Mongolia’s past, a grotto art tour, how to tell stories to wee ones and household disinfection – and these are just a small sampling of the offerings.

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Help Desk

The adult quarters are expansive and shiny.  Each alcove seems to have its own theme, be it contemporary, futuristic, or furnished with exquisite intricate traditional Chinese pieces.

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Asian influence evident in high back chairs

Mahogany shelving marches along the glowing tiles and paintings depicting scenes from a bygone age hang over antique catalog cabinets.

Contrast that with the 21st century sorting assemblage.

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Sadly, despite all the luxury, the bathrooms (at least those I came upon) were the dreaded squat toilets.



But perhaps that will soon be rectified.  The website has several requests for bids for new construction and equipment.

China.org has a good summary of the complex history of CL and of Chinese public libraries in general and IFLA has an interesting paper on their development.  The chart showing growth after the revolution is fascinating.

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Neat and cheery

A deposit appears to be required for cards, but I may be misunderstanding something and I think borrowers can take out two DVDs and up to six other items, depending if you’re a teacher or student…  Titles come in over twenty languages and they have email reference.

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It’s almost like he’s posing

Technology is everywhere and countless internet access points have various functions.  The foyer’s immense obsidian half globes’ touch screens give direction.  Large monitors in media let users watch or play individual preferences.  Lattice work separates the “outdoor” section of the café where spiffy green umbrellas and potted ficas hide the workstations that comprise the actual purpose of the space, and you can peruse this huge console below.

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Flasks of learner’s tea

I’m not sure what the policy on eating is, but drinking must be permitted as everyone has their typical bottle with stems and leaves visible in the tan liquid.

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Loads of opportunities to get online

The nature design for the younger set is carried over to this side with a tree shaped cutout holding suggested materials.

Staffs and clefs float through Music which provides receivers and tuners for composing your own melodies.

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Oodles of CDs, audiobooks and DVDs are available as are three cinemas and three media rooms.


Clear, bright 45s and LPs

Admirably, in the spirit of freedom of information, CL has a government disclosure center and a museum holding over 138 kinds of Chinese books.

The Republic Books Collection has nearly 40,000 pictures and there’s a bibliography of the three million Chinese volumes accessible online or by email.

Members have nearly 60,000 ebooks to choose from in subjects like economics, IT, history, geography, politics, law, medicine and literacy as well as Duxiu Academic Search with 900 million full text pages and “Elegant First Map” with another 50,000 digital books plus 30,000 audios.


Enjoying movies

There’s an all-city reading program and events like the French political capital forum.  They also teach a variety of courses on topics like database management and studying abroad.

With government guidance, CL pools resources as part of the Capital Library Alliance consisting of over 100 school, hospital, university, research, Party and military libraries.


Views of metropolitan skyscrapers and lush grounds

Magnificent vistas beckon from all the panes forming the exoskeleton.  It’s almost overwhelming – I haven’t been to that many big libraries, but this stupendous institution compares favorably with the best I’ve seen.

And outside one of the new book ATMs doles out items 24/7.


Self serve kiosk

What I loved seeing is how people really use CL.  Engaged and intrigued by films and talks or lounging, studying, working, reading, gossiping, playing, sleeping and living, customers obviously value this exciting location!

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