Last week, Angie and I visited the St. Cloud Public Library. As you could guess, this library is filled with all kinds of great things for their patrons, and for patrons across the Great River Library System! We have a few things below, but as is true with any library, we encourage you to go visit for yourself to really appreciate everything our CMLE libraries have to offer. We will be setting up some group visits for members to visit other CMLE libraries, so we can have time to connect and to see some of these great things in person!
This was a very exciting part of our behind-the-scenes tour! I love the automated systems in libraries that can free up some staff time from the repetitive tasks, and let them spend more time helping patrons more directly. In the back of the picture, to the right, you can see where books come in from the return slot at the Circ desk. Books can also be returned outside from a car, and travel underground to pop up here where they are sorted by area into these bins.
This is just one corner of one “backstage” areas in this library, which should give you some perspective on just how huge the whole operation is here! Books are sorted for processing to various departments and destinations, including sending to other branches, to libraries around the state, to the Friends of the Library sale, or weeding. Great River is a net library lender in the state of Minnesota, second only to the Hennepin County Library while not having nearly the budget or population size. The busy staff here who are doing all this work behind the scenes to serve patrons are an great example of the work that needs to happen to make libraries successful, but that patrons rarely even know is part of our service!
You can see that commitment to good service continuing in the staff area of the Children’s department, with decals from prior summer reading programs. They are re-purposed back here after they are done out front for the patrons – just another way to keep the idea of service at the forefront of everything that happens here! And it makes the staff areas feel more fun, which is always good in a workplace.
This is a picture of the original Carnegie library in St Cloud! It’s always so great to see these, as it is something else that connects communities across the country (and the world) with the libraries all from the same person’s funding, and looking very similar no matter where you go. You can look through a list of all the Carnegie libraries built in Minnesota: 66 were built here, and 25 are still working as libraries. This kind of communal history is part of the glue that binds us together as a profession; we are more than just nice people who hand out books and computers (though we also are that!), we are part of a heritage of providing information and serving our community. Yes, this means we are awesome!
Even the shelves of books in this library speak to the time spent thinking about usability for patrons. The thousands of books on the second floor of the library, where adult fiction and nonfiction are found, are neatly arranged on these nice shelves. They are not too tall to reach the top shelf, and there are not any books down on the floor where it is also hard to reach. And it is tough to see in this photo, but the endcaps of the shelves are just lovely! They have words all over them, making them perfect for a library!They are also translucent, so let in even more light to the aisles. And the bright open feeling is enhanced by the long lines of sight here, so you never feel crowded. Thinking about this kind of space planning really makes a big different to your patrons, and encourages them to use and enjoy their library!
Yet another accessibility feature of this library is the computer available to people with impaired vision. Patrons can sign up for this computer at the Reference desk, just behind this computer, and can easily access everything they need! As we are all planning for serving our communities, it is important to remember that making materials accessible to everyone matters. You can also see a fun feature here, with the giant crossword hanging on the wall outside the computer lab! Community members have been stopping by to fill in answers, so everyone can have fun together.
This is one of the special areas set up on the first floor for kids to have fun on their library visits! (Okay, not just kids – I had fun here too!) This is Pat’s Place, named for Pat Christianson, a former deputy director of the library. Setting up these memorial areas can have many benefits, including giving the kids an excellent place to enjoy their library, and in providing a way to physically represent the service someone gave to the library.The rest of the children’s area is filled with interesting books, some great art and other specific play areas, and has more of that great open feel that makes it welcoming to patrons -and easy for parents and guardians to keep an eye on kids as they rocket around the area having fun!
This is a really large meeting room, able to fit 300 or so people! There are two other meeting rooms for community members, smaller so there is something sized to fit the needs of any type of gathering. The US flag up front was donated to the library by the Sunrise Kiwanis club of St. Cloud – some great community connection building! In more rural areas around the country, there many not be other places for community members to meet if they did not have access to a public library’s meeting room. St Cloud is demonstrating what a library could be providing to meet the needs of community members in all sorts of ways!
As always, we encourage you to reach out to your colleagues in other libraries, to talk about ideas and experiences, and to support each other as we work together to provide some great service to our communities!