We all know that visiting libraries is one of the best parts of being on a vacation, right? (It definitely is!) When employees of CMLE HQ travel, of course we visit libraries along the way!
I recently visited the Evanston Public Library, in Evanston, IL. (It’s north of Chicago, and also the home of Northwestern University.) This is a really nice library, with a ton of great programming (we featured them in an early Linking Our Libraries podcast episode).
The Book Sale room is nice and prominent! I love to visit libraries – but it’s hard to find books I love, and cannot check out. So I do always enjoy library book sales. As it’s obviously out of the question for me to leave any library without books in my hands, this gives me a way to support the library, and also have fun vacation books!
When you take a left, after coming in the front door, you enter a fantastic Children’s area! You can see the thought and effort that has been put into making this a welcoming and fun place for kids and their adults to visit. I always love to see libraries making this effort to bring people to the library! One of our important functions is to serve as places for all members of the community to gather, to enjoy themselves, and to have fun connecting with others – and it’s clear this space makes that happen!! (Yes, there are also tons of fun books; and yes – it was hard to tear myself away from them too!!)
As you enter the Children’s section, there was a special display set up. Librarian Betsy Bird (you may know her from School Library Journal, or her book podcast, or the books she writes!) made her annual section of 101 Great Books for Kids – and the books were right there to be grabbed by kids!
You can see this tree in the above photos, but it’s worth a closer look. Doesn’t it make you want to curl up and read books?? (I maintained a little dignity, and did NOT crawl into the tree to check it out…but it was a close thing!)
After that excursion, you just know there are other exciting treasures to find in this library! One of those is The Loft. YAs need a space of their own – away from kids and adults. The Loft is a private teen area, filled with great things for them (and a supervising library person to help make everything work out!).
What else does this library have for their community? Well, some pretty impressive art!
This amazing sculpture is hanging in the four story stairwell. It is called Ghostwriter, created by Ralph Helmick and Stuart Schechter. Can you see the face? Definitely check out the artists’ website to get a great photo! From the library’s website: “This suspended sculpture consists of 2500 separately cast aluminum elements suspended on 900 wires. There are three segments to the composition. A head composed of over 1500 cast aluminum letters. The head is both androgynous and a composite of world racial and ethnic types. The second segment is a spiral passing through the center of the piece. It is a metaphor for imagination and creativity. The third segment is the ambient symbols floating throughout the piece. Within the piece there are twenty-five references to world sculpture and twenty-four intentional words. There are several Evanston images, including leaves of trees that grow in this area, the Grosse Pointe Lighthouse, and a map of the community.”
There is a lot of art around this library, from famous artists and from community artists alike. One of the interesting pieces is a print of a painting they used to hold. Why do they have just a print now? It’s a library success story! Apparently, it’s pretty exciting to discover you hold a famous artist’s work – and to get nearly $1 million for it at auction! You really want to read the entire story on this. This painting has helped to fund a lot of materials for the Evanston community – a fantastic outcome for any library!
And of course, there are a lot of other great things in this library – including this fantastic card catalog! I know many of my fellow library people enjoy seeing card catalogs, and this one is still in use for obituaries from their local newspaper, the Evanston Review.
You could say the building itself is a work of art. Check out that amazing ceiling on the third floor, and the prairie style architectural details. Frank Lloyd Wright, though from the Chicago area, had nothing to do with the building – but you can see the lovely influences of his design school in this layout. It makes for a very nice space, and a good place to relax and read!
It’s not all art, books, and amazing design – there are also computers! As you can see though, they are not just any computers, these are designed to be patron-friendly. The monitors are recessed, to preserve patron privacy. Everyone who works in a library or archive knows about the importance of patrons keeping their work private. (And everyone knows there are things patrons look at that no one else wants to see!) This solution is elegant looking, and fulfills the important mission of privacy in online work.
Because this library is committed to connecting with their community members, they have hired a social worker to spend time working with patrons in distress. Like any urban library, there is a homeless population that frequents the library; and a social worker can be so helpful there. And any public space, open to all people, means some of those people are in distress, or need help beyond what a library staffer is typically trained to handle. More public libraries are working to add social workers to their staffs, and the result can be great for both the patron and the library staff!
And, of course, there are always all the behind-the-scenes stuff that libraries do! For me, it’s exciting to see how libraries organize their back rooms, and the different services they can provide.
Here is one of the boxes they use for classrooms , and the tubs used to ILL books around their group of libraries using the same cataloging system.
It’s fun to visit new libraries, and to see new things! And at the core you can get reinforced with the basic idea that all libraries pretty much do the same things! We all work to provide books and information, we all work to connect with community members, and we all do it in the way that works best for our resources.
Libraries are great. Go visit a new library yourself – and feel free to tell us all about it!!