Genuinely Inviting Grand Island

Though we’ve stayed at highway hotels here many times on cross country trips, I never took the eight mile drive into the city proper, so hadn’t encountered the Grand Island Public Library (GIPL) until I visited while passing through Nebraska once again this spring.


Edith Abbott Memorial Library

Wow! I had been missing something big – a lovely, sprawling facility for the 50,000 lucky townsfolk.  Even the parking lot is impressive.  Vast and tastefully landscaped, the award winning bioinfiltration (aka rain) garden has budding fuchsia and lilac hued trees, xeric shrubs, native grasses and bushes.  Last fall, for a grant assisted by matching fund monies from GIPL’s Myrtle Grimminger estate, 65 volunteers managed to finish all the planting in two hours.  A Legacy of Literature, the sculpture of a grandfather reading to children, flanks one side of the protected patio at the front while mesh seating with wide arms for coffee cups beckons from the other.  A drive through book drop and window where you can pick up outreach crates are outside too.



In the expansive lobby, tall green stems and ficas are interspersed amid chair and table arrangements, busts of the Abbott sisters and donor plaques.  Jumbo pots of prairie flora frame the threshold by security gates and at the far end, meeting rooms can be divided into four configurations holding up to 150 people.

The vestibule actually has lots of functions and I lingered, listening along with the rapt audience to the mystical strains from Andean musician, Oscar Rios Pohirieth’s flute and drums, courtesy of a series sponsored by Humanities Nebraska.


Enterprising Friends grab your attention as you come in

Under the raised curved ceiling by the entry, stacks spoke off from the center and small rolling cases feature suggested and hot titles or you can purchase something from the book sale to your right.  GIPL has existed since 1884, but interestingly, both the Friends of the GIPL and the GIPL Foundation predate it and their continuing activities still enrich the lives of the 50,000 or so in their service population and the 45,000 cardholders.

Passed the circulation desk, the Art Alcove is an intriguing spot for contemplation with metallic looking Eames chairs, captivating canvases and a display of Fordite.  This substance, also called Detroit agate, is actually layers of hardened paint created by auto assembly lines then cut and polished into fascinating, often sparkly, designs.



Celine, the Youth Services Librarian, showed me behind the scenes where I noticed a staff kitchen and plenty of room for technical services and processing.  They doubled in size in the 2007 expansion and it feels so airy and spacious now.  There’s ample storage for big cardboard dinosaur shaped cars (each school got one as part of last’s year’s campaign to advertise the SRP) and spinners where they cleverly keep bulky program detritus in plastic bags so it all stays together and can easily be recreated.  Parts for more complicated events are stashed in large plastic tubs.

GIPL’s budget and IT services come from the city and they have 30 total staffers.  Now that the recession is over they are going back to more full timers and they recently extended their hours until nine four nights a week year round, instead of just during the school year.


Checkout terminals

Members pick up their own holds.  You can access a variety of databases from the website and download books, movies, magazines, audiobooks, music and comics.  Users stay informed via the GI Library Journal newsletter, Twitter feed and Facebook page.  The latter is splattered with happenings and GIPL Foundation announcements and adorable shots of cherubs at pajama storytimes and having a blast meeting firemen and Eddie the comfort dog.

A bright baby zone has a rocking snail and colorful cubbyhole book carts by a cheery yellow wall.  Playthings are everywhere, but the blocks, dollhouses and model towns are all on practical high sided tables so toys don’t get scattered everywhere.


Bouncy bolsters for boisterous babies

The juvenile area has all sorts of imaginative touches.  A glowing poster of Snoopy perched on his doghouse was fashioned from bottle caps for a recycling themed event.  A poster board trunk decorated by butterfly shaped leaves looms over one miniature park bench and a massive plush moose lolls on another.  Towers of huge cubes spell out READ and offer seating on top and primary hued paintings and wooden games on some sides.  Circle cutouts dot other squares – if you’re small enough, the cushions inside make the perfect hiding place.

Large stuffed bears laze under a display shelf sharing a column with an info screen.  GIPL puts on an annual Bear Fair with Bearobics and bear tales and ER nurses who come in and check the health of youngster’s teddy bears (teaching tots about nutrition in the process).


Tiny toddler tables

Dragons appear at the top of the castle puppet theater at one end of the storytime spot while a rabbit princess seems to be imprisoned in a turret at the other end of the room.  Banners from fairytales hang from the walls and a pile of red double pillows ingeniously pop up so wee ones can lean back while listening.


Resources for guardians

Juniors’ watercolors deck the glass panes near a wooden house with a kid sized kitchen to inspire budding chefs.  Headphones hang by listening stations and long easels make it easy to draw or assemble jigsaw puzzles.  A small space with cushy couches and a blue and red number rug to crawl on lets parents get away from the general hubbub.

Giant busy boards with car seats and beads on wires, vibrant dinosaurs, and racetrack spreads amuse adolescents.  Laminated images of Winnie the Pooh, Peanuts, Peter Rabbit and Curious George at the front of each bin lead you right to your favorite picture books and a separate case holds the oversize books.  Banners, leaf kites and balloons dangle from the ceiling and they have a wide assortment of Spanish items.


Imaginative furnishings in Kid’s

Infants love lapsits, and youths have fun at BookBop with music and dance, gatherings for homeschooled and Spanish kids, crafts and movie matinees.  Plans for the Summer Reading Program kick off in May include life size board games, bounce houses, a concert and a bike rodeo.  It should be well attended as last year’s SRP had 300 boys and girls.

Prime Time Family Reading provides a structured six week reading program where participants have a meal and learn about critical thinking.  It’s especially good for Spanish speaking parents as it gives them a chance to practice their English.


Tons of A/V items by Reference

Windows in the clerestory shine natural light onto the stacks and a kiosk promotes the convenience of Playaways.  Twelve PCs are available in a lab and flower bouquets dot the tables holding the 15 public stations.  Along one wall, machines satisfy all your copying, printing and scanning needs.  Four small conference rooms as well as several big tables give groups a place to study together.

Around each corner I find little reading nooks with plaid chairs or conversation pits circling artistic arrangements of branches or a tantalizing weeping willow sculpture (cordoned off since people can’t resist playing with this valuable piece and it’s already sustained damage).


Welcoming place for new residents

The multicultural section showcases dazzling Latin handicrafts and has a framed mélange of bookmarks children created from drawings, dreams and memories of the countries where they were born.  Some talented soul used needlework to reproduce these charming pieces on fabric.  The result hangs by an array of flags of the world and a mariachi’s sombrero above the Spanish materials and pamphlets.

Grand Island’s population is quite diverse.  Somalians, Sudanese, Hispanics and Vietnamese are a few of the many nationalities working in the meatpacking industry here, so the collection has Arabic, Spanish and Vietnamese texts.  Along with these languages, a placard announces “sign language spoken here.”

Large print has rockers and upholstered hassocks and lamps for gentle direct illumination.


Unwind and put your feet up in the Senior Lounge

In the middle of the library, the Reference section has low racks topped with bronzes and globes.  At the friendly Help Desk, fluorescent words encourage you to grow, hope, inspire and excite.  A carousel crowned by a red umbrella puts a positive spin on the weather with the slogan “April showers bring more reading hours.”  Nearby recommendations are identified by a “Pass the tissues please – books that will make you cry” sign while a heap of luggage under a post with arrows pointing to world destinations highlights travel guides.


Celine in Teen

Friends can chat in the Teen YA Zone’s booths or surf the net on one of the eight desktops.  Chill out on the couch facing the big screen TV and watch a flick using the wireless headphones, or browse the New Teen Books, graphic novels, music CD’s, DVD’s, audios, and magazines selected specifically for your age range.  Join the Super Heroes Reading Club, anime group or the Minecraft Club or go to Teen Tech Week during spring break.

Original artwork is everywhere.  I love this coverlet which appears to be composed of silk screened squares of adolescent’s sketches.


Corner of a quilt

GIPL has wifi and you can print wirelessly.  Customers can book a librarian for reference help, tech training and reading advice or attend English and Spanish computer classes on finding a job, learning the web, genealogy, Overdrive and social networking. Adults have poet and author lectures, their own storytimes, book clubs, Zentangle art demonstrations and cinema nights.  For the Adult Summer Reading program, a native will talk about Indonesia and prepare regional dishes.

Employees make deliveries to the home bound and child and elder care centers and host booths at schools and community events.


Roberta A. Lawrey Heritage Room

Near the Literacy Niche you can find out about your roots in the Abbott Sisters Research Center which covers local history and genealogy.

I spoke with patron Richard Ross who said he loves the library and finds it relaxing and enjoyable coming here.  Like me he is really impressed with it.  He thinks it’s the best he’s ever been to in Nebraska – much better than the one in his home town.


Richard at the YA banquettes

Kudos to Grand Island for realizing how vital the library is in bringing inhabitants together and for supplying them with the necessary resources to fulfill that role.

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Hospitable and Knowledgeable Hong Kong


A bit of Kowloon at right and a portion of Hong Kong to the left from the famous Star Ferry

Despite the inordinate number of skyscrapers clinging to its shores, three quarters of this Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China is undeveloped precipitous pinnacles and seemingly unlimited parks and hiking trails.  Hong Kong (HK) Island across the harbor and its quirky Soho neighborhood and massive Victoria Peak are fabulous, but Kowloon and the New Territories at the tip of the peninsula adjoining the south coast of mainland China, along with HK’s 200 plus islets, have many of the best attractions.  A steep temple path is adorned by ten thousand buddhas, the Chi Lin Nunnery and Gardens takes your breath away, and Lantau’s incredibly long left angle cable car, that passes over ocean and mountains on its way to Po Lin Monastery, is an engineering feat.

Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui Public Library (TST) is the closest institution to the ferry, one component of HK’s wonderful public transportation network.


Since it was just one kilometer from our hotel, I walked to the lovely Concordia Plaza by the HK Science Museum and the HK Museum of History. Surrounded by brick sidewalks bordered by ferns and shrubs, the black marble with gold metal inlay edifice has a definite Asian flair.  I entered passed the royal blue and lilac book drop via the wheelchair ramp instead of the outdoor escalator leading up to the first floor of TST.

TST’s hours are ten to seven o’clock Monday through Wednesday and Friday (Hong Kong Public Libraries (HKPL) staggers hours so it’s easy to find an open library), and as it was right after Chinese New Year’s when, as at our Christmas or Thanksgiving, many businesses close for days at a time, Judy and I weren’t able to meet until my last day.



We spoke in Chidren’s which serves infants to twelve year olds and is furnished with framed posters and multihued stools and tables for tiny tots.  It’s painted light pink and the guides above the matching shelves in shades of salmon and aquamarine are interspersed among potted plants that also top the adult stacks.  Stylized scenes and characters from the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and other fairy tales decorate walls and hang from the ceiling.  A carpeted two tiered bench, great for listeners at Saturday storytimes, wraps around the sides.

HKPL has 68 permanent locations and twelve bookmobiles and a collection of over 14 million pieces.  Regional studies volumes can be accessed at the six major buildings.  Hong Kong Central is the leading one and has a lecture theater, gallery and six subject departments as well as toy and young adult libraries.  It’s the legal depository for HK and for big international organizations and has a variety of new technologies and digital capabilities.



A colorful geometric pattern is splashed over the main desk abutting a juvenile display case plastered in stickers.  Bright yellow rubber Braille trails lead the visually impaired through the space.

Occupying one level, the pristine carpeted place has plentiful overhead signage.  Opened in 1996, it’s one of the small-sized premises of this massive system (two of the four Yau Tsim Mong quarter ones are district institutions and are much larger and Kowloon Public Library, less than two miles away, is a major library), so most of their patrons live nearby and they get a few tourists.

Panes behind the intriguing checkout stations overlook the Children Library.


TST has a reference section, periodicals, DVD, CD’s audiobooks and some German and Italian texts, but most titles are in Cantonese.  Cards are free for residents and you can take out eight items or 16 older magazines for up to a fortnight and return to any of the facilities, but you pay a fee to transfer materials from another site.  Even visitors can become members if they pay a $130 HK deposit (about $17 US) for each unit borrowed.


Fiction and nonfiction

There’s wifi, three public terminals and about 500 square meters (@ 5400 square feet).  Most of the ten workers here are full time.


Vertical blinds cover the glass facing the entry and a bulletin board announces upcoming happenings and important reminders.

Like much of TST the security gates are a pretty pastel and two huge black vases filled with flowers stand sentry on either side of the automatic doors.


To the foyer

HKPL arranges reading programs and loads of exhibitions of photography, HK historical sites, ink painting, agricultural, health and societal issues…  Many of them move among the various locales.  They also strive to promote literary arts with awards, competitions and the annual HK Literature Festival.  Offerings include workshops, poetry writing contests, author events, book clubs and classes on the internet, catalog and e-resources.

A tiled lobby has more foliage, a recycling bin, plastic bags for wet umbrellas, and two spots and a banner for notices about TST and community activities.


It leads to the exit (whose handle is disinfected four times a day) for an outdoor balcony with benches that look onto the trees, pocket gardens and intricate balustrades of the corner below (ingenious barriers that stop you from jaywalking are common in this part of the city).


Because HKPL is very concerned about privacy it has a strict no photo-taking policy, so I’m grateful to them for allowing me to take (under supervision) these shots.

The website is available in Chinese and English and you can renew (a generous five times) and reserve (up to eight things at $2.50 HK a pop) online or ask questions by email, retrieve information from a selection of databases and download journals, videos, and books.  Electronic repositories hold a smorgasbord of wisdom and experiences ranging from the Kowloon-Canton Railway, HK art and artists, HK music and oral histories, old newspapers and language learning.


Past and present come together on Kowloon’s Signal Hill

HKPL is a beneficial and essential ingredient to this magnificent area!

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Gracious Charm in Grand Cayman


George Town Library’s (GTL) front is designated a “building of historic interest” and is bordered by towering palms and foliage.  Across from a peace memorial and plaza with tropical trees, a fountain and a bronze sculpture of a dinghy, it’s set in a verdant locale near the law courts and Truman Bodden Law School.  The white stucco and timber edifice has been closed since 2009 when the sleek three story steel structure attached to its rear opened, but it’s scheduled to reopen quite soon.

A cobbled walk leads to the entry where the elevator whisked me up to Director Ramona Melody’s spiffy third floor office.


Ms. Ramona in her pretty office

We chatted for a while and I was surprised to learn she’s a Nebraskan by birth but has lived in Grand Cayman for 20 years.  At GTL since 2013, she’s in charge of the six locations (one even has a boat in the middle of it!) that comprise the Cayman Islands Public Libraries Service (CIPLS).  Five branches benefit Grand Cayman’s 53,000 or so citizens, but the sixth is about 90 miles away on Cayman Brac which has, along with its close neighbor, Little Cayman, some 3000 residents (the latter just has a book exchange not managed by them).  All have been renovated fairly recently and their collections updated to make them more appealing to patrons.


Great for teaching a class

Ramona showed me around this level where a conference room seats 35.

She told me the eighteen employees are wonderful – very easy to work with and such nice people.  Five of them are having the tuition at Cayman Islands Civil Service College paid for by the government and will get associate’s degrees in public administration specializing in libraries.  Some schools have no librarians on staff so, in addition to their in-house tasks, CIPLS personnel help them out.


Reference tomes await the rest of the texts

They’re switching things around a bit.  A stunning curved desk has already been installed in anticipation of reference coming up here and many of the titles can be checked out.

It’s very attractive with veneer planks and a lovely arched meeting spot where light streams in from high windows and a lamp dangles from a burnished oak crossbeam.


Mr. Stanley

So we could get into some of the locked zones, Ramona called up Mr. Stanley, the security guard.  From sultry Goa in India, he ensures customers have cards (minors don’t need them if unaccompanied by a guardian).  Membership is $5 per year and under 18’s get cards for free.  You can take out ten items at once and the courier between premises means things can be returned anywhere.

The juvenile sector closes at five so workers have a chance to make sure no children are left behind at the six o’clock closing time – a very good idea as I remember staying late on several nights with forgotten tots anxiously expecting parents.


Adolescent’s alcove

While the place is beautiful, I’d love to see the old section when it’s finished.  Construction crews were putting in carpet tiles, but we got a chance to poke around.  The ceiling is just marvelous!  Shipwright Captain Rayal Bodden was the architect and he designed the roof so you’re looking up at a ship’s hull instead of walking on it.  The ends of the hammer beams are adorned by shields of important United Kingdom learning institutions.  It’s really sturdy and they’ve had no problems since it was finished in 1939, though boards have been replaced occasionally.

Service started here in 1920 with an annual government funded budget of 40 pounds for a subscription library.  Originally it was in a room above the old jail, but by 1937 work started on a larger facility.  When the doors opened in 1940, it was heavily stocked with materials from England’s Ranfurly Library.  Lady Ranfurly, the colonial governor’s spouse, also sought out used volumes from far and wide to send to the literature starved British Overseas Territory.  In 1980 CIPLS got its first trained librarian manager.


What a gleaming and unique way to cap this architectural gem

Ramona’s mission is to have a solid succession plan and open the new (old) room which in her vision will turn the establishment into even more of a cultural center with local authors, exhibits on the Caymans, tourist information and histories where visitors can find out about the island’s fascinating past.  It’s amazing how many wordsmiths have called the Caymans home – nearly 100 authors live here now and Ramona sets aside money to promote local history and writing.  She’s received some one of a kind donations of older books from natives, but ideally CIPLS will carry six copies of each title.

The public was solicited for suggestions and opinions about what they wanted for the space and to fill in details and tell stories about the old library.  Once done, it’ll be perfect for adults who want to read or study quietly.


Library Assistants Ms. Emily and Mr. Mikhail at Circulation

I met more of the team downstairs by this polished granite counter.  Mikhail, who has a bachelor’s in English, started in 2013 and showed me the rest of the place.  He informed me that many expatriates live here and that they have DVDs, CDs, audiobooks and a wide assortment of items on the Caymans.  I saw spaces for new books, biographies and oversize titles as well as appealing lavender carts, a bulletin board with CIPLS notices and business flyers, and a wire rack holding brochures about safety and legal rights.

Huge portholes allow views onto the street outside.


An opening emphasizing a nautical heritage

Ramona mentioned the Friends of the Library group is helping with the renovation and she’s hoping to be able to do some great stuff with a teen area.

The government supports them well and CIPLS recently acquired a smart computer table for juniors.  Kids can compete in a poster contest where winners get a Kindle as a prize in an awards ceremony.  The entries will be exhibited throughout the first two floors of GTL.


For the smaller set

Hardy blond furniture in Children’s can take a lot of wear and tear.  A colorful strip featuring flags of the world is under cutout multi-hued hearts and a little map surrounded by nationally costumed ethnic figures.  Short rows contain easy and picture books.

There’s a small selection of Spanish titles for all ages plus YA materials and juvenile reference.  Youngsters participate in the summer reading program and a spring fair where you can share your favorite read through a storyboard and dress up like one of the character while presenting.


Adorable ladybug display case

Weekdays between three and five, adults are encouraged to go upstairs to leave their eight internet stations free for students, as there are only four more in youth.  Plus people can still plug into the ether via laptop or wifi.


Fiction and the stacks

Shiny cable and chrome railings are on the steps leading up to Adult’s on the second story where cushy pale green chairs and couches and well lit shelves invite you to escape the sun and relax with a good read.  Books with green crosses indicate religious content.

Helpful Deanna sits with the blue volumes full of island gazettes and local magazines from the seventies behind the information services desk.


Ms. Deanna is guardian of the documents

So the individual facilities each have their own page, Ramona is redoing the website.  The system offers Ebsco ebooks and articles, Libratech online technology training for skill sets ranging from newbies to advanced, SIRS Discover database for K-12 and SIRS Issues Researcher for older learners.

Just two blocks from the rocky harbor GTL is easily accessible from the quaint downtown.


The shore

What a blessing to the affable inhabitants of this exquisite region!

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Keen Wisdom in Key West


Southernmost city in the contiguous US from the naval air station

Despite the town’s raucous reputation, the Key West headquarters branch (KWL) of the  Monroe County Public Library is a gracious pink stucco building.  A specimen of the island’s ubiquitous roosters perches on one of the low walls that hold back an array of jungle foliage and swoop up to the steps leading to a doorway framed by white hurricane shutters.


In 1892 the Key West Library Association opened the first public library in southern Florida in a Masonic Temple.  After 1896, other groups assumed responsibility – notably the Key West Woman’s Club who ran services for 44 years and obtained the money to construct the May Hill Russell Public Library, opened in 1959.

As I entered the bustling locale I noticed a stunningly vibrant mural sporting a mass of tropical flowers.  By Suzie dePoo (Zuzak), its border is composed of artfully designed donor plaques.

IMG_2118I was greeted by friendly Wendi at the light wood Circulation Desk, one of several staffers who advised me to be sure to see their famous local history department and extolled the talents of Tom, the curator.


A warm welcome and a sparkling smile from Wendi

Inside it’s a pleasant one story facility.  Pale green carpeting and flooring beneath beige walls complement the plants atop the stacks and the verdant street scene visible through the windowpanes.  Raised ceilings above higher shelves give it a light and airy feel.  Shorter racks have tempting titles and show off recommendations.

Mardi Gras beads adorning a bust and a model of a Tudor house give the décor an eclectic feel.  An abundance of handwritten or printed signs and Plexiglas pockets displaying information sheets or advertising upcoming amusements make sure you don’t miss a thing.


As we all know, Key West has had more than its fair share of famous inhabitants.  Black and white photographs above a case of brochures proudly honor some of them, including a number of Pulitzer Prize recipients.  In a different section, by the book sale and its honor box, a cart presents a map of Florida.  “YOU ARE HERE” is printed tongue in cheek at the very tip.

There’s a big choice of A/V items and separate spots for new DVDs, Blu-rays, audiobooks, nonfiction, large print…  All 14 of the public internet stations by Reference were occupied.  They have four in Children’s as well, plus wifi and teach two computer classes weekly on Macs, Androids, iCloud etc.

The system website offers homework help and Learning Express for adult and K-12 educational help, career and college prep, and tests.  You can chat, email or text in questions to AskALibrarian or download ebooks and eaudiobooks or access a selection of databases.


Patricia in her domain

When I met ebullient Patricia, the Senior Librarian for Youth Services, she was wearing her favorite I love Karma t-shirt.  Starting here at 15, she adores KWL and minored in art therapy, which is really helpful for her work, especially with minors from the Department of Juvenile Justice.  Program participants who seem really interested become part of her cadre of teens working on kids and young adult services, and she now has quite a big group.

She works with youngsters on the autism spectrum and does socialization and various gatherings for adolescents include two weekly gamer times, Smoothie Day, glitter bottle crafts, costume parties, Graphic Novels Club, and Teens, Tweens and In-between hangout/reading sessions three days a week.  The small set has art, mother/daughter and father/son sessions and toddler and preschool storytimes (some have singing and dancing).


Space for the smaller set

The kid’s area was in a state of pleasant disarray.  A chalkboard table top gets creative juices flowing and benches dotted with throw pillows, plastic boxes of toys, stuffed animals, quite a few pop up titles and a mini puppet show box draw the young ones in.  The older and younger users are separated by a partition lined by materials on both sides.

Summer reading events seemed pretty exciting.  At one, a farmer brought in rescued alligators, pythons and even a sloth!  At another, firemen talked about the job and later, Navy and Coast Guard members explained the details of theirs.  But to me, the water balloon fight sounded like the most fun 🙂


YA Area

A PAC sits on top of an old card catalog and in Young Adult, posters and artwork abound and lime and chrome bar stools are perfect for chatting.  Cheery handmade penguins sit beside the terminals and a globe and chess set reside above the graphic novels while a glass cabinet contains seasonally appropriate dolls and trinkets.



Last Halloween was fantastic despite a budget of just $250 to do the haunted house.  So for Haunting in the Stacks, the Stephen King’s It themed affairthey had to be inventive.  Body bags were fashioned from garbage sacks and milk jugs, and they somehow acquired a donated skeleton and use it to make a mummy via a plastic heat gun, insulation foam, Mod Podge and paint.  Later she had a teen compose an award winning video of someone dancing with the mummy by the Christmas tree.  How convenient she studied art and what a great idea person!  Patrons were very enthusiastic, and over 300 people of all ages came.

Patricia frequently uses board games like Dungeons and Dragons or cards and video games.  This year she had a “wonderful poetry slam, 20 students read their original works. It was inspiring.”  Themed Anti Valentine’s Day, it concentrated on the tragic story of the saint 😉  Each year’s slam has a focus such as anti bullying, Love for Races, (as the populace here is very diverse)…

A popcorn maker turns a large room with a big screen and projector into a theater where attendees order from a stand just like they would at the cinema.  Storytimes are also held in this podium and easel equipped auditorium accommodating 80.  A pinball machine in a corner comes in handy for the mechanics program when they take it apart to understand the inner workings.


In addition, there’s a conference enclosure that seats 15.

Over the Adult Literacy Collection, old brass tablets remind you of the Samuel L. Golan wing, the Mary Esther Bedford Children’s Library and the natives who helped create this fine institution.  In foreign languages, there’s a fair amount of Czech, Russia, Hindi, Creole and Spanish items.

One side of Fiction is covered by a huge holder with pamphlets about the culture of the Keys, Key West and how to use Overdrive and there’s an assortment of magazines.



For me, the pièce de résistance was the fabulous brick courtyard.  Iron and wood benches are scattered around and lush fanned branches provide shade.  Grasses and trees rim the space while little emerald oases sit atop polished rocks.  An ancient burbling fountain is music to the ear and drones out the noise from cars letting you read and relax in a magical setting.


Terrific patio!

When I went, the duo Hungrytown, who, along with other shows, have been on TV’s quirky Portlandia, was scheduled to perform after hours in the palm garden and Friends of the Key West Library were sponsoring a lecture series at the nearby Key West Theater.  Customers can attend astronomy sessions including stargazing opportunities, 3D printing instruction, author talks, needlework, job fairs, documentaries and popular movies, jazz concerts, plays, Indian cooking demonstrations with free henna tattoos and Café con Libros has guest speakers on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.


Tilted tiers

KWL has three active Facebook pages with lots of great snaps and clever promotions.  A general site is for everyone  and profile snaps for the teen page are from last year’s Holi festival, that brilliant Hindu holiday of colors and love, held in the library garden since the sheriff wouldn’t let them do it on the beach.  Patricia said there are lots of Indians here so Holi was done as a family celebration.  During the day there were more adults than juniors, but at three the kids poured in to throw Rangoli powdered paints around.  Children’s shows examples of no-sew dolls done at crafts, happy boys and girls creating watercolors on newsprint or enjoying play group and eating snacks and encourages tots to come in for milk jug art and the Easter egg hunt.

I spoke to Ann, the Library Administrator, who said the Friends help out a lot, and they have two full timers in the Florida history room and about a dozen full time employees at this location.  She’s justly proud of the archives and their 18,000 images on Flickr (over 13 million hits so far).  Lots of oral histories and a Key names gazetteer can be retrieved online too.


Florida Room

Unfortunately the amazing Tom, who manages local history and writes a blog on the topic, wasn’t in.  I was a bit disappointed as I’d heard so much about him, but Patricia let me in and told me of the fascinating handwritten Santeria tome with spells, her favorite thing to show to visitors.  I saw all sorts of realia and memorabilia, ship models, eagle sculptures, lots of old photographs, documents and paintings, as well as a model of how the library looked in 1952 (Children’s and this space now occupy the new wing).


Original painting of Duval St. by famous local artist Mario Sanchez

What a marvelously stimulating place benefits the citizens of the Conch Republic!



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Delving into Delhi

India’s roadways must truly be experienced to be believed.  Though the south zonal headquarters of Delhi Public Library’s (DPL) sprawling system was only a kilometer away, one glance at the surging traffic on the roundabout in front of my hotel convinced me that I’d risk my life crossing the street, so I took my first tuk tuk to the Sarojini Nagar Library (SNL).


Pleasant grounds are the perfect venue for fair weather amusements

On a very busy street with throngs of carts where vendors ply everything from plastic containers to fruit, I found the vivid vermillion and cream stucco structure.  Backing up to a multistory mall replete with American fast food franchises, SNL is enclosed by a sturdy red iron fence in a huge cobblestoned courtyard where benches beckon beneath the boughs of tall trees and young ones can run around on a large grassy lawn bordered by bushes.  Potted ficas and flowers fringe the foundation and the wheelchair ramp leading to the entrance.


Meeting room – Photo courtesy of DPL

The previous day I’d spoken to SNL’s Library Information Officer, Mrs. Sudha Murkejee, about visiting.  She’s in charge of the South Zone of DPL, which also includes six sub-branches, a community library and one in a Resettlement Colony (where the dispossessed, and former slum dwellers and squatters are housed).  And she informed me that “Sarojini Nagar DPL has distinguished itself with the strength of the varied services it offers. Its leadership is committed to expanding its portfolio to serve the population better in the increasingly digital space.”


Mrs. Rautela

Though disappointed we wouldn’t be able to meet, Mrs. Murkejee proudly offered me an escort from one of her passionate professionals, Mrs. Urmila Rautela, a Library Information Assistant working in Reference, whom she depends on to carry out her ideas.

I’d call Mrs. Rautela an absorber and dispenser of knowledge.  She sometimes contributes articles, poems and essays to magazines like Pusta Kalaya and Pragati, and has a masters in both Hindi Literature and Library and Information Science, as well as certificates in English/Hindi translation (despite which, my usual caveat (that any mistakes in this post are mine) applies as it always does when I am out of the US) and sports and science journalism.  An employee here since 1991, she likes working as a public servant because she gets to help all sorts of people.


Internet stations

Sarojini Nagar has wifi and 20 web access terminals for adults, plus five in Youth with games and learning software.  Though there’s a half hour per day time limit, use is free of charge.

A blue classification sign on one wall lists Jainism and other particularly Indian subjects and nearby, a posted note proclaims “My library is the place where I find inspiration, information and connection with the world – and peace.”


Mrs. Sunita Bharbwaj and Mr. Sanject at Circulation

Catalog cards are used since DPL isn’t fully automated, but they will manually reserve books for you.  The online catalog has existed since 2005, so items accessioned after that are barcoded.  There are all sorts of recordings and movies, both for elucidation and enjoyment, in the DVD Corner and the DPL music department provides facilities to listen to songs.   Materials are mostly in Hindi and English, with Urdu and Punjabi volumes filling out the selection.

Customers can borrow two movies or CDs, three books and two juvenile titles for two weeks and items can be renewed three times.   A card is twenty rupees (about 40 cents) for five years for Delhi residents and fines are one rupee per day with a maximum of 50 rupees for adults and 25 for children.  Membership is limited to a specific institution so everything must be returned to the same place.


Spine labels are on the front of the book – interesting choice to pull out

Interestingly, most of the Dewey labels are on the front cover rather than the spine so you often need to pull out the surrounding volumes to shelve something properly.  Items are purchased by the central library which has a materials budget of 150 lakh (about $218,000) and a committee decides how the books are dispersed.


Face out stacks

Intricate metal stands display recent acquisitions in the adult area.  Vases of bright verdant foliage add cheery touches to the décor as do the pictures of gods and goddesses.  High up on a pillar, a portrait of Indira Ghandi watches over all.


Help desk for the smaller set

The Children’s Room is empty as it’s being painted. Actually, the whole building is being whitewashed, so some spaces are in a slight state of disarray and the usually packed bulletin board is bare.

Bright with primary color furniture and a pretty blue and white assistance station topped by a Plexiglas shelf, the youth area normally has carpeting, to soften the frequent falls of rambunctious tots.


Shelves w/ solar cooker (upper left)

Stuffed toys and animals share racks with solar energy boxes and cars crafted during last year’s happenings.  The big TV is used to screen award-winning, classic and historic films for youngsters and popular sports and classic comics of Hindi myths form a semicircle with other new arrivals on a table.

Kid’s programming is very active during the school holidays when they show daily movies and offer summer camps of organized topics like creative writing, cartooning, arts and crafts, pottery, origami and science modeling.  During the year, storytime is on the second Saturday of the month.


Enjoying a program – Photo courtesy of DPL

Teens have plenty of choices here and in a low case of graphic novels.  And adolescents can attend events like the robotics workshop provided in cooperation with Vigyan Prasar, an independent government organization that works to instill a love of science and technology by supplying resources, holding festivals and encouraging rational thought.


Jai Prakash

Security guard, Jai is keeper of the keys and locked the room back up when we were done.  He watches the CCTV cameras too, and checks backpacks of anyone entering.  SNL has 20 employees and only three are part time support staff.  Like Mrs. Rautela and Mrs. Murkejee, Mr. Mahesh Arora, Assistant Library Information Officer, also has his MLS, and some other workers have bachelor’s degrees.

Mrs Mukherjee was part of International Network of Emerging Library Innovators (INELI Cohort 2) a global libraries initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with admirable objectives that help build and strengthen libraries and their leaders so they are equipped to address the specific needs of their populations.


Rainbow hued Hindi titles

The Delhi Public Library system was started on October 27, 1951 as a UNESCO project in conjunction with the Government of India and was inaugurated by first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.  SNL was established by 1985 and has an elevator and air conditioning to supplement the overhead fans scattered about.  Its four stories house 75,000 items and besides the usual balanced collection, they have a number of books on yoga, the history of New Delhi and computer science.

Reference and the Reading Room are on the bottom while the next level has Circulation and Children’s.  You’ll find the chairman’s office and an activity hall for community outreach and programs (using expert volunteers) above that.  Then comes the top floor – a depository for all the books published in India – some go to Reference where there’s also a section for examination books (many students use the library to improve themselves).

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Studying hard – Photo courtesy of DPL

For adults, SNL offers English language skills, computer learning classes, career planning sessions and health counseling.  Programs like Copyright and Book Day are held outside in the garden.  And DPL hosts Drama, Music, Social Studies, Literature, Music Coaching, Naturopathy and Homeopathic groups and has annual competitions to promote cultural interests for all ages and to visually impaired members.  It also supports distance education for Library Science candidates by providing them training.


SNL carries @ 50 different periodicals

Delhi PL’s website is dual language and has an Ask a Librarian service, a Twitter feed and a YouTube channel as well as lists of the latest books, records and DVDs and helpful web links.  The Facebook page features photos of essay and song competitions, lectures, Independence Day celebrations, and links to their online journal.

DPL also has Deposit Stations (at jails, societies, associations…), Mobile and Braille libraries and holds over 18 million items and is the biggest public library system in India.


Mrs. Sharad with the guest register I signed as I left

After leaving, and avoiding a security frisk at the mall, I headed over to the adjacent Sarojini Nagar market – an enormous warren of crowded alleys where shops and stands sell saris, electronics, jewelry, heaps of clothing and every edible treat imaginable.  Once I finally managed to find an exit to the street I caught an Uber cab over to Hauz Khas, also in southern Delhi, just five kilometers away.


Hauz Khas ruins and Deer Lake

Where I contemplated how lucky the citizens of the area are to have the benefits and resources of DPL and especially the talented Mrs. Murkejee, Mrs Rautela and all the other dedicated and hardworking employees of the Sarojini Nagar Library at their service!

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Can’t Beat Cannon Beach

Right downtown, just a short walk from the sands, we found the adorable Cannon Beach Library (CBL).  Out front a cheery green and yellow hand painted sign, evergreens and blooms dot the flagstones.  Under a large plaque fashioned as a bookshelf, a redwood bench carved with a marine scene encourages you to have a seat and watch the parade of daytrippers.

View from the street

Along the street

Strolling along a short path at the side of the building, we spotted the international symbol for libraries flying on a large banner above the sheltered doorway.  Trimmed with a scarecrow and pumpkins for the harvest, the entrance provides a water bowl for thirsty pups and a glassed in bulletin board.

Before I left for Oregon last October, I contacted the office manager Buddie Anderson, the only paid employee, who kindly agreed to let my mother and I tour CBL before they opened for the day.  As promised she was there, along with several industrious members of the board, including friendly treasurer Phyllis Bernt.  Unfortunately they were all camera shy, but did supply plenty of information.

Bill Steidell did this fun picture

Bill Steidell did this fun picture and the sketch used as a logo

CBL is a nonprofit corporation, privately owned by its membership (for $10 annually, anyone can join) so is not eligible for many types of funding, but ILL is available in conjunction with the Seaside Consortium and they cooperate with Oregon public institutions to provide ebooks.  Though applying for grants was necessary in the past, the city, recognizing the considerable value of the library, is now giving some backing totaling a bit less than 20% of the budget and leases the land to them at an unbeatable price.

Cards are five dollars per year for any family, be they visitor or native.  Oregon does have statewide reciprocal privileges, so if e.g. you live in Cannon Beach and go eight miles to join the Seaside Public Library for $50, you can borrow from any other OR public facility.

PCs by Haystack tomes

PCs by local history

Focusing on an amazing natural feature just steps away, the Haystack Rock Awareness section above memorializes Bob Carey.  Close by is the Oregon Coast collection with volumes on regional wildlife and sea creatures and a selection of titles on the Northwestern US, many of which go out.

Previously in PR and fundraising, Buddie is particularly qualified for this job and also has the expertise needed to handle their computer network.  CBL automated six years ago and has free wifi strong enough to reach outside if you want to bask in a beautiful coastal day or use it when they’re closed.  They have two public computers available for ten cents a minute so many tourists come in to print boarding passes.

Buddie’s been here almost two years and is the first full timer.  About 80 volunteers a year donate time reading shelves, helping with technical support, running the big three day Fourth of July booksale and keeping the library open six days a week.  Income varies according to the success of fundraising efforts at events like Fall Festival.

Book sale

Book shop

This room has an ongoing materials sale with a couple of attractive display ledges.  Hardcovers and paperbacks are helpfully divided into categories such as “mysteries & suspense.”

Other monies come from selling American Primitive style prints of Cannon Beach done by Jennifer Lake, or as someone joked, “We rob banks.”  The quilt drawing is another source.  The latest creation was organized by Janet Bates, a master quilter and her four talented cohorts.

Circulation desk

Circulation desk and coverlet

CBL began in the back of a store in 1927.  The main part of the pleasantly weathered timber one story structure was built in 1976 and harbors 15,000 items.  Attic storage is accessible via pull down stairs and in Kid’s, chairs for programs are hidden beneath a table skirt the co president’s husband constructed.  This freed up the bathroom, though it quickly filled up with other essentials.

Gleaming wainscoting and molding border a gas fireplace set in a big stone hearth festooned in colorful autumn leaves, hurricane lamps and a tall model of a pirate ship complete with skull and crossbones on its sails.

Cozy spot for a wet day

Cozy spot for a wet day

Holiday teas, lectures, a twitter feed and writer series are some of the amusements offered for adults.  As so many of their users are vacationers, it’s almost all popular books, DVDs, audiobooks and there’s a free magazine rack.  The sole reference item is an encyclopedia set.

The Facebook page promotes author talks and the reading group.  It’s loaded with snaps of happy patrons and of volunteers installing the new fuchsia bushes and graceful plantings along the exterior – a project done in conjunction with the city and a local landscape artist.  The christening ceremony of the charming verdigris scallop and clam shell topped marble bubbler honoring Harley Sroufe, a respected citizen whose wife was a key member of the organization, shows all his family attending.

One of Shirley Gittelsohn's works

One of Ms. Gittelsohn’s works

All the paintings have been donated including the dreamlike seascapes by Shirley Gittelsohn.  Neil Maine took the stunningly unusual photograph of a red winged blackbird perched on a deer’s snout in the marsh out back.  You’ll often see him there silently stalking the perfect shot.  But despite the multiple representations of this peculiar looking species on the premises, puffins don’t usually venture in.


Fifteen hundred people permanently live in this lovely ocean community.  With lava monoliths lashed by waves, wide windswept beaches firm enough for easy strolling and native foliage and pines edging the shore,  it’s such a pretty place that the population swells to 32,000 in summer (along with the traffic which can make it tough to get to work on time during the warmer months).


Thanks in large part to these dedicated women, the children’s area was added in 1997, giving the library a total of about 1800 square feet.

Frames enclose posters of jungle denizens, portraits of girls, wall hangings of young readers and pastels of sailors relishing a wild catamaran ride.

Kid's quarters

Kid’s quarters

Replicas of an old locomotive and Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel sit on a shelf and a multihued kite in the shape of a schooner is draped from the ceiling.  Light streams in through a butterfly banner tinting the space.  Near a lavender cart, a petite lemon and blueberry shaded table holds a basket of crayons, coloring book and a sturdy puzzle.  Sun cast silhouettes of dragons dapple two long cushioned seats and in a corner, I noticed teensy coral and lime chairs by several spindles of easy readers.

Fisherman's float by the panes echoes the azure sky

Fisherman’s float by the panes echoes the azure sky

CBL does their own summer reading program and has functions for the small set like magic shows and Zombie Fest.

Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock

Such a delightful library for this gorgeous community!

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Stellar Stockholm

Kulturhuset Stadsteatern (KS) is public and mostly a library and has enough of an affiliation with Stockholm Public Library (SPL) to share its catalog and be listed on the website.  Patrons can borrow or return items here or at any SPL locations via the SPL card. However, their budget evidently comes from the city theater part of the government, so the offerings differ from what we’d usually encounter.

LGBTQA books

LGBTQA books

Concentrating on art, music, performing and dance and their history and theory, there are no general adult fiction, reference, science or cooking volumes.  Materials are in Swedish and English only, but they do carry “world” books on Africa, the Middle East… and titles on how to write (and how to read).

Conveniently situated near Central Station, KS is accessible by bus, tram, train, metro and car parking isn’t far.  It’s in a seven story mall occupied by the National Museum of Design, cafes, shops, offices, stages and auditoriums (which can be rented for conferences or gatherings).  Visiting its six separate “libraries” makes for an amazing experience.

Rosalie has a four year library degree equivalent to a master’s

Rosalie’s four year library degree is equivalent to a master’s

In Bibliotek Plattan, the furniture is eclectic – a round ebony settee here, a lacquered black rack resembling a tilted ladder there.  Long wavy sheets of metal prop up books on the wide windowsill overlooking the skate park in the busy sunken square outside.  Suspended plants add more color above a cherry and chrome chair by a small plastic table and harlequin shaded lamp.  Pristine white stacks and glossy red signs and PAC stations contrast with the gray of the cement pillars and unfinished ceiling and multi-hued prayer flags run through it all.

Informative Fredrik, who worked in bookstores (and so has met John Irving) for 30 years before coming here, elaborated on the collection development policy.  They buy funny authors, popular paperbacks, current political thought and sociology texts (e.g. covering domestic abuse), classic science fiction, fantasy and horror as well as many new and cult titles.  Nonfiction and fiction intermingle and they personally select items to make sure they will be enticing and relevant.

One of the numerous performance spaces

One of the numerous performance spaces

Passing a stage and a wall covered by framed foreign film posters, I stepped down into an adjacent section where after choosing an architecture, design, photography or fashion publication, customers lounge on an upholstered bench encircling the lowest part of the room.

Back out in the lobby of the building, curvy seats and barstools let you relax while using the wifi or one of the eight public computers.  There is so much here, it’s a bit overwhelming though I found out later they give guided tours.  If I’d taken one, I may not have missed the Lava Bibliotek & Verkstad which opens later in the day to suit the schedules of its target audience – those aged 14 to 25.

Along with reading material it has silk screening equipment, sewing machines, a 3D printer and a recording studio.  Attending a workshop will let you make the most of these amenities, or you can take a DJ’ing class, meet iconoclasts at Abnormal Wednesdays, speak to the artist responsible for the Boob exhibition, create fanzines, study scripts, be coached by music industry experts who can help your band or song get noticed, listen to poets and photographers or discuss your favorite titles at social teas with refreshments.

Inventive chaises

Cheery chaises

The second story is a treat for the eyes with vivid decor and three disparate facilities.

Daniel is usually in music and film and also the master’s degree.

Daniel is usually in music and film and also has the master’s degree.

Serieteket is the only library in the country that specializes in comics.  They host exhibitions and the annual HP Lovecraft Festival in October.

Inventive displays

Inventive presentation

Displays outside draw people in.

Masses of Manga

Masses of Manga

A black and white anime page covers one wall and Lucite frames hold close-ups of classic characters.

The cushioned Plexiglas egg swinging from a chain is almost soundproof as you nestle in to watch the bustling downtown.

Put on a show!

Put on a show!

Further along, costumes hang from a bar and the green screen generates any set design you can visualize. The platform is surrounded by short flights of stairs leading to tiered cinema style rows accommodating tall backed scarlet couches above cunningly positioned book cases.

Tween dream

Tween dream

And then I came to what was, for me, the pièce de résistance – TioTretton.  Oh how I would have loved to come here when I was an adolescent.  Though you must be 10-13 year old to enter, it wasn’t open yet, so Maria sweetly allowed me in to take some pictures and I was flabbergasted and delighted by this incredible space.

Everything is a dramatic black, red and white.  Books dangle like mobiles over an enormous beanbag Y and towering nine level shelves are chock full of graphic novels.  A ruby roof dotted by fairy lights overhangs a gigantic cushy multilevel structure that’s perfect for perching on while you relax with friends.  Vast brushed silver surfaces jut out over curved cases and craft supplies and beads await you at tables under a sign spelling LOOM in embroidery thread.

Every preteen should learn how to cook

Every preteen should learn to cook

But perhaps the best spots are those in the four constructions by the plate glass windows.  Resembling cookie cutters that you sit inside of, they allow for two people to have a private conversation in their own little world, or you could take the ladder to the uppermost seat and eavesdrop from on high while overlooking the street below.  This area also affords opportunities to practice animation, compose and record songs and make movies.

Bake in the kitchen, borrow home appliances like waffle makers and blenders or participate in various programs on Manga and drawing villains, meet a dog or hear from an author.  When you want to leave, staff will walk you safely to the subway.

KS lets you check out your own items and pick up holds and they’ll bring stuff in for a nominal fee.


Bibliotek Film & Musik is near YA and has a multitude of CDs and DVDs.  In a listening corner by an assortment of LPs, turntables and headphone are interspersed amidst the couches.  In another area by a wide array of performing arts periodicals, suggested reads are projected on the industrial walls and short divans form a circle.  Play the electric piano, unwind at a lunchtime concert, go to a documentary screening or lecture, or subscribe to the Twitter feed which has announcements of events and new materials.

Jungle gym like contraption

Jungle gym like contraption

I took the escalator up, passing by the Marionetteatern and one of several galleries on my way to the fourth floor Rum för Barn, for tots nine and under.

First time I’ve ever seen a queue to get into a library – it’s so popular they have a stop light that you can see from the plaza that indicates how bad the traffic jam is and they’ll give you a ticket to save your spot in line if you want to eat a picnic lunch or play in the sliding area.

An enchanting place, fulfilling children’s fantasies, it was so packed with rambunctious kids that unfortunately, I couldn’t take many pictures.


So you won’t see the charming summer room – its sides festooned with wildflowers and warm weather scenes and in the center, a mini rowboat where the little ones can escape winter’s grasp and drift in a sun soaked reverie.

At friendly Minnie’s behest, I removed my shoes (the better for crawling in the caves, cubby holes and clubhouses) before venturing into this labyrinth of ramps, levels, hideaways and steps to nowhere.  Looking up, a child peers down at me from an unexpected opening while at my feet another wriggles into a tunnel.

Tools for budding Van Goghs

Tools for budding Van Goghs

There’s an art studio too and professionals help supervise painting sessions.  Youngsters can go to parties, movies, Dance and Music Fridays, make jewelry and listen to writers.  At the English and Swedish storytimes, real actors often provide narration.

Cool inserts with kid's paintings

Cool inserts with kid’s artwork

Kulturhuset Stadsteatern has free dance instruction for YA’s and new adults and brings in choreographers for interviews and lets the public watch dancers rehearse.  There are recitals and shows, public debates and good quality movies.  Author talks range from Jonathan Franzen and Margaret Drabble to Peter Hoeg and Ian McEwan.

What a wonderful way to expand the definition of the term “public library” – I wish every municipality had the funds to construct a culture house as wildly imaginative as this one.

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