Vacation Library Visit Series: Grand Marais Public Library

We all know that visiting libraries is one of the best parts of being on a vacation, right? (It definitely is!) Whenever I travel, I visit libraries along the way – and it’s always a great way to meet interesting people (library people are ALWAYS interesting!), and to see some great things (there are ALWAYS great things in libraries!).

I was recently in Grand Marais, MN, enjoying the incredible beauty of the area, the abundant state parks, lovely hiking trails, and spending quality time in my tent with all my library books. (Yes, this is pretty much my definition of a perfect vacation!)

I was planning to visit the library in Grand Marais anyway, but the eye-catching art installation outside alerted me to the library before I even had a chance to Google it. I love the bright colors! When I went inside to chat with Director Steve Harsin, he had a small model on his desk – fantastic!

You can immediately see this is a library designed for its users, and to bring in the community.  While we in the profession understand the value of Dewey and Library of  Congress (LC) and other cataloging systems, our patrons find them confusing. So I am always so very happy to see libraries taking that extra step to make their collections accessible!! See those signs? They are identifying the areas of the collection, so everyone can easily see where to look for their favorite topics. At this point, I had been in the library less than five minutes and I was in love.


In any library, you want to reach out to all of your community members, and in a public library that includes the very young members. I love to see these kinds of Children’s sections, with size-appropriate furniture and shelving! The bright colors, the toys, and the big selection of books all make this seem like a comfy place to visit – and would encourage a lot of kids to take more books home!


Again, this library shows how they are thinking of their community members. The Parenting shelf, filled with good material, is right there in the Children’s section. And they point out there are other resources for finding material in the main collection – these are just easily available and ready to circulate!


I did a big research project a few years ago, to find out what poeple want from their public libraries. “Comfortable seating” was one of the biggies! This is not a big surprise, of course: encouraging patrons to sit, relax, and enjoy some reading can help them to not only have a good experience in the library  – but also encourage them to take home the great stuff they find on your shelves!

Even in the lobby area, the seating looks great – and I did test it out, so can affirm that it was indeed comfy! (Library research work never ends!!)


There are assorted library workstations across the area – very important in any rural area where internet access at home may not exist. Libraries have such an important role to play in communities by providing this kind of access to information. Yes, I’m biased (still!) – but we are just wonderful!

Just another example of the library serving the needs of all their different customers here! The whole library does not need to be silent – all that great information is just too exciting to keep quiet! But we have community members who want to come in, sit down, and just have some quiet time with their books and materials. This library is providing that experience.


I love seeing Reference desks in libraries! Their names may change, but their functions never do: This is where you go to get help from an information expert. If you need assistance finding just the right book, or working on your resume, or uncovering a complicated question – the people at the Reference desk are here to help!

At CMLE, we are big fans of libraries – and of our supporters: library Friends and volunteers! (Check out our podcast on this topic!) It is always so fun to see the things Friends do to  support their libraries; and it looks like the Friends here are working to help their library!


Again, this library is showing how they work to connect with their community members. I love seeing this book, and took a quick photo show their entries – look at that beautiful handwriting!!!

I was so entranced by everything else in the library that I didn’t even see this until I went back outside to relax in a chair and enjoy the free WiFi (thanks!!): a ping pong table!! The sign encourages people to go inside and check out the equipment to play. I absolutely love to see this kind of fun stuff in a library. We are awesome places, filled with great things – and fun is always a part of that!!

Thank you to everyone on the staff here who patiently put up with my questions, and my general library joy! This library was impressive – and that has been recognized by the Library Journal. Grand Marais Public Library has received the only  Minnesota library five-star rating in this journal’s annual ratings! Pretty exciting for them, and well deserved!! If you are visiting the area, be sure to stop in and admire their work!

5 thoughts on “Vacation Library Visit Series: Grand Marais Public Library”

  1. Bring your Minnesota public library card, and we can make arrangements for your card to be registered in our library!

  2. The Grand Marais Public Library is an absolute gem! We visit whenever we are lucky enough to get up to Grand Marais. It is my dream to either work or volunteer at this beautiful library when we relocate to GM upon my husband’s retirement.

  3. What a great article about one of our favorite libraries. We also make good use of the Grand Marais library’s many amenities when we vacation in the area. The librarians are awesome and helpful!

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