Libraries. These pages are dedicated to libraries that I visited on my travels. These excerpts are taken from my journals. Libraries have always been an important part of my life. They nurture my love of learning. Today I use the 'book sale' sections to stock my personal library, their wireless services for research, updating my web site and keeping in touch when I am on the road. Thanks to all the librarians who con tributed ideas and background for the entries.
Waterdown, New York State 2009. The Flower Memorial Library. Located in the downtown section of Waterdown his is a positively remarkable library. The outside entrance is eye catching and resembles an ancient Greek temple with two imposing marble statues of lions monitoring the entrance. The Lions have not been named. According to the excellent brochure provided by the FML the lions at the New York Library are named Patience and Fortitude. Opening the front door presents an anteroom in which the ceiling is decorated with terra-cotta inlay. Then through the inner door I entered a foyer that would make some museums envious. A rotunda reminiscent of the Library of Congress in Washington complete with statues of various sages. A marble bust of Mr. flowers is centerpiece competing with a very appealing marble sculpture by Launt Thompson, which apparently took him thirty years to complete. More to write up
Kingston, North Carolina, 2009
West Palm Beach, August 2009
The 'old' library which is written up below and had undoubtedly one of the best views of any library I have visited, has been demolished and replaced with a more modern, architecturally pleasing, spacious airy building a few blocks west of its original location on Clematis Street. The views from the fourth floor give a panoramic view of the down town area and Palm Beach island. The children centre has some unique features. Plenty of comfy and 'nifty' furniture which would a child to stay a little longer, find a place of appeal and curl up or stretch out with a book.
In the adult sections their are numerous computers for general access of the internbet. The notice boards placed on every floor attest to numerous efforts to engage the communtiy in various activities, which include the typical job search computer classes and and other tailored programmes re: needs.
Isabel Turner, Kingston, Ontario, Canada Sept. 2007
I would have to consider this to be my home library although there are two closer to me in the villages of Parham and Mountain Grove. More on those later. The library is two floors and probably 15,000 square feet in size. The computer tables are always full and one has to sign in. There is a limit of one hour per day per person. A computer program, I am told prevents one from signing in twice. Ridiculous I say. Cost me hundreds of dollars one day when I used their terminal to day trade. Sold a stock, tried buy it back and my one hour on the terminal was up and I couldn't log back on. I wasn't using my laptop in this situation because they were experiencing technical difficulties. The service provider company had not updated their software for Microsoft Explorer version 7 even though it had been on the market for months. However, another time that I could not log onto my laptop the staff were very helpful and knowledgeable and helped me with a technical issue. The score is even though I am still a little out of pocket. The library has a coffee and snack shop near the service desk with a seating area to eat. One can take a drink to the newspaper reading section which is right beside the snack area. There are two pay phones in the entrance area. A container full of donated plastic bags is at the door for carrying books.
Upstairs there is a large area of books for sale. This is an ongoing permanent feature. Many books are donated to libraries and instead of them going into the dumpster, as does often happen, they are put on sale. The hardcovers are $2. Paper back non fiction $1. Because Kingston a university town (Queens) many of the books are fairly current, originally very expensive and cover a great variety of subjects. Rarely have I left without making a purchase. There is a small seating area so one can browse. The library has a very large section of videos, both movies and instructional. This reminds me of the Toronto Reference Library in which I used to study.
Southwest Harbor Public Library. Desert Isle, Maine, USA Aug. 2007. (My first impressions of this library are on my journal) Aug. 16, 2007 entry.
As arranged, I spoke to Candyce Emlen, Director of the library. Candy, as she prefers to be called, was very generous in giving her time to me. Knowing my tendency to wander I had prepared a few questions. Purpose of the library? To serve the needs of the community. The library is the oldest building in Southwest Harbor that has not changed the nature of its business since inception in 1895. The first part of the building facing the mainstreet is original, the larger rear sections have been added. About 7,000 square feet in area on two floors. Sections have been designated specifically for children. Laptop users are directed away from the reading table. There are modern computer terminals for general use. I note the people waiting for a terminal at times. Candy advises me that the community recognizes the value of the library in the social order. It has historically had legions of local people fund raise on its behalf. It currently receives funding from three sources: an annual appeal which raises, to my mind the phenomenal amount of $100,000. A $45,000 a year allocation from the Township (voted on annually), and small amounts of funds as the result of the book and bake sales and donations at the door. The State used to provide additional funding but with new criteria the library doesn't qualify. I ask Candy about whether there have been any initiatives to lobby for Federal funding? None. I repeat my mantra that the Library of Congress in Washington venerates learning. The seeds are sown in the community with children at the local library. Too important to leave to the State or take a chance on local politics?
From a management perspective I asked what metrics would be used to measure the performance of the library. The State of Maine provides an annual set of statistics that the library can be evaluated against. The town of Southwest Harbor only has 19,000 citizens but the the library serves outlying populations as well. In terms of circulation, book loans and other criteria it ranks 2nd on per capita basis. Candyce tells me there is a traffic counter for the number of people in each day. Since the library web site has been upgraded patrons are advising Candy that they can prepare part of their vacation agenda in advance including library programs. E.g. readings, children's' events etc. This point brought into the discussion the value of the library to families that have been visiting the island for many generations. A lot of well-to-do people visit or temporarily reside here. They value the library as part of their life experience, as do those less blessed with material things. The community includes the legions of laptopper that invade her precinct every day.
I asked how the librarians and readers feel about the what I call 'fringe users' who come with their laptops and use the library just to get hi-speed Internet. I have never seen so may laptops at one time in one library. Sometimes there are as many as 20 people clicking away on their laptops while other patrons are trying to read in peace and quiet. Candy tells me that there is a suggestion box that invites comments from any faction. There seems to be an equal amount of concern from both groups. I was surprised that laptop users would make any fuss. E.g. they would be happy to find a perch fade into the background. Demanding better service seemed pushy. However, Candy pointed out that the laptops although ostensibly a personal device, may be used for the same purposes that a traditional library user may come to the library for. Work Email, reading on line, research, communicating with students etc. I asked if consideration was being given to segregate the two factions. The situation is being monitored.
I recall the situation in a mid west USA library which has security guards posted and their main function is to evict homeless people from the library. Now I would consider the homeless people to be 'fringe users' of the library. They sit, often just pretend to read. Not much different physically from the laptop 'fringe' users.' Neither group is using the library in the traditional manner. I recall watching a person evicted. The security guard knew the person would try and reenter at another entrance. The guard was waiting for the man to arrive. Security guards are now quite common on library properties. There are none apparent at Southwest Harbor. I can imagine if there were what a riot it would cause if laptop users were asked to leave, let alone if they tried to reenter and sneak in the back door.
We exchanged some personal information. I tried to describe what I do. Candy and her husband moved to this area from an eastern city and have settled in Pretty Marsh which is a most picturesque hamlet on the western shore of Desert Island. Candy told me that her daughter is in the Master's program for Library Sciences at Platt University and her son is completing a Master's in English Language. Many thanks Candy for the background on what has been my temporary office for the past week.
Ellsworth, Maine, USA Ellsworth Library. Aug. 15, 2007. Lovely town. A gun which was donated to the library has a letter from the former owner attesting it was used in 1745 in a confrontation with troops sent by the Governor. It was also used in the 1812 war. The library is a handsome colonial style building, very inviting. The library is quite spacious inside with plenty of nooks and comfortable seats for browsing. It is busy all day. The woodwork is lightly coloured and of very good quality and craftsmanship suggesting that the building may have at one time been a home. The back of library overlooks the river and the front has spacious gardens. A delightful place to visit. Wireless is very good. No security guards on duty.
Machias, Maine, Tues. Aug. 14, 2007
I missed the opening of the stock market because the Machias library didn't open until noon. The library feels like old stately home and the reading room has a stone fire place, handsome old wooden chairs and desks. The library is small in area compared to most, and the librarians are debating how to revise the magazine rack display which is wedged into a corner. The librarian tells me that the building was always a library and it was incorporated in 1891. I am told that the library only receives $30,000 a year in funding which covers salaries. All other funds needed come from initiatives taken by the staff. The place is busy with a steady flow of patrons. There are three computer terminals which are fully occupied. There seems to be some tight regulation on who can use the terminals. One must be registered. Family members cannot share the time? The basement has a children's section that looks very inviting. The wireless Internet is very good. I feel balanced in this library. Cozy, big leafy trees right outside the windows, fans set up to keep the patrons cool. The smell of history and old books will be with me on my journey. I pass by Machias University.
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. Aug. 13, 2007
I tour downtown Moncton until the main library opens. The librarian explains to me that the river outside is low but I won't catch the tide (bourse) rushing in this area of town. The library is enormous inside. Two floors. Two reception areas. Not many people during the morning hours. The library has a Northrop Frye exhibit on display. He was a Professor at University of Toronto. See main journal for link. A prolific writer and sage thinker. I am sure that his stature in the literary world deserved a monument or his house designated as a historic landmark. I ask the bilingual librarian. After fifteen minutes alternating from French to English she completes her inquiries and says that no one in the cities tourist industry knows of him, where he lived, or whether there are tours of his house available. I tell her he lived on 24 Pine Street - as per the exhibit. I shall make a lonely pilgrimage. His former home, as most of the houses in this old sea port are wooden frame. His was slightly larger than average home and now, as many others on the street is now converted into a duplex. The colour is right yellow. The street is tired looking; garages and back yards of the next street face Northrop's former home. His back yard looks onto a street full of repair shops and light industrial shops. Not much wonder he buried his head into books and thought.
West Palm Beach, Florida USA, July 2006, and every year.
Library is at the foot of Clematis Street. In front is the city square which is a hub of periodic live entertainment, has a children's fountain and numerous cafes and eateries. One enters the library by going up steps from the left or right and then is immediately impressed with the spaciousness created by the very high ceilings and the floor to ceiling windows at the back of the entire area. The view through the windows is one of luxury. Palm trees, manicured gardens, the intercoastal waterway with very large expensive powerboats and in the distance the five star hotels on Palm Beach, the homes of Trump and the Who's Who of America. The window glass is tinted ensuring the hot Florida sun does not penetrate. The entire building is well air conditioned and comfortable. There are numerous computer terminals most of which are always occupied. This is a busy library. There is a security guard on duty. There are work tables for students, many comfortable cushioned chairs for readers, and three or four staff on duty in the main area. There is a complete floor below with the children's section in which there are also numerous computer terminals, some of which include programmed games of various sorts. There are craft areas as in addition to reading areas. On some days a dozen or so mothers and nannies gather to chat while their children play. Children and nannies are dressed very well in fashionable clothes.
Upstairs on the main floor at a work table, I get caught up in a heated a discussion. A black man and woman seated at the next table are talking incessantly and a little too loudly and are disturbing an elder black man at my table who is trying to study a very large book. I side with the student. I whisper to him, 'Would he like to know what the sign in a Hell's Angel Library says?' He says 'yes.' I take out my large notepad and write on it in black marker what the Hell's Angel sign says. I hold it up to show him. He laughs. The two other black people strain to see what I have written, possibly thinking it might involve them. I turn and show them the sign. It says, "Shut the F... Up." I very quietly but quickly tell them the origin of the sign, to ensure they they understand this is just a joke. It was formerly in a cartoon. The student decides to leave rather than witness a possible bloodbath. The security guard wanders over and suggests the two remaining people be quieter. They act indignantly, huffing and puffing. "An affront, that's what this is" says Mr. Bellicose. I show the security guard the sign and explain its origin. He says they should hang that sign up in here, it would save him a lot of walking and talking. Another anticlimactic day on Clematis. I resume my studies. One of my favorite books in this library is of very private companies in which can can only buy stocks if one is invited. (The book is edited every year.). It is beautifully bound. The stories of these companies is like reading a history book on the foundations of the financial development of America. I shall provide the title and publisher on my next trip to Florida.
Fort McMurray, (Oil Tar Sands) Alberta, Canada Oct. 19, 2005
A note on the library. It is in the City Hall building, modern spacious and comfortable with many seating areas, plus an area with a fireplace. However, there are very few patrons in it all the times I have visited. Thursday night about 10 people. Plenty of large wooden tables to set up laptop, books and paperwork. I notice that the washrooms are locked and one needs a key. There are a lot of transient people in town and this is to deter them from using the library as a rest stop. Most of the people are in this town to make money. They come from all over north America to work. If they have time off they use it to spend their money or sleep. The local beer parlor, The Oil Can always had, at any time more patrons than the library. But, it also had a lot more fights.
Calgary, (Oil company head office Mecca), Alberta, Canada. Oct. 14, 2005
Downtown Library has a large readership of made up homeless people. One can quickly identify which clients fit into the ‘transient’ category. E.g. some kick off their shoes and make themselves very comfortable in the surroundings appreciating the warmth and the contrast to the starkness of their street world. All of them carry a knapsack containing, one presumes, their essential items. The librarians face a continuous challenge of how to deal with this nomadic clientele. Some have legitimate requests but many use the library to get a sense of normalcy. It was difficult to feel comfortable in this library. You felt unsure about leaving one's place with any belongings unattended. It was a busy place from a community perspective. Free public seminars were being held on a variety of topics throughout the week in designated meeting rooms. I attended one and received very good advice on how to find a job in Fort McMurray. There was a coffee shop that was integral with the library building but you could not bring drinks into library itself. Security check point at the entrance and exits.
Browning, (Plains Indian, Blackfoot Reservation), Montana, USA Oct, 2005
The Browning Library where I am writing from does not have wireless. It is a concrete block building on a side street. One librarian handles all the tasks. It has an area dedicated to children. No comfy reading area for browsing, just some plastic chairs and arborite tables. There was a tray of free books. “The Reef” by Edith Wharton caught my eye but I need to finish the books in the car first. I spoke to the librarian. I commented on the ‘old’ building. The ceiling tiles circa 50-60’s were brown with nicotine stains from when smoking was permitted. The book selection and section was very small and this is partly because this is the poorest county on Montana. Every now and again a child would come in a pick a book from a selection that would be half of what I have at the cottage. I recalled my child hood days when I visited the local library in my home town of Eastbourne, Sussex in England. It was on the corner of Firle Road and Seaside. It was a handsome building, with numerous sections where one could tuck one’s self away, with masses of choices from favorite topics. And, you were not allowed to make a noise, let alone talk, or you were asked to leave.
The librarians personal reasons for choosing this remote outpost were admirable. To some it might seem like a sentence to be away fro the comforts and conveniences of a large city. Giving something back to the community had more value to this free spirited person.
I picked up the wireless signal form the City Hall which was next door. However, due to the concrete construction of the library I had to go outside the library to get the signal - which was not on a security code. This is an important point. Don't the city politicians recognize the value of the Internet for research etc.?
Rock Spring, (coal country) Wyoming, USA Sept. 22, 05
Headed for Rock Spring, a coal mining community since the late 1880’s; many immigrants from Ellis Island came to this part of the country after immigrating. I visited the local museum and discovered over 56 nationalities settled in the area. The population is about 18,000. The entire town is undermined with tunnels for miles. This journal is being written in the local library – has wireless. A 50’s style brick and glass building with lots of natural light. Two story. Very busy. No security guard. Open in the evenings every day.
Sturgis, (Motor cycle Mecca of America). South Dakota Aug. 21, 2005
My next stop was the local library to send this missive. The laptop picked up a signal and I began to write. Then I began to cough and cough. There was something malodorous in the air. I asked Cheryl the resident librarian was there something I should be aware of in the interest of my comfort or longevity. She replied that I was probably catching the mold (sic) (not a cold, the mold) and that I wouldn't ’t have to put up with it for much longer because in a few weeks they were moving to their new library. I asked why ‘they’ put up with this condition. No alternative. Small town 6,000 residents. Library serves a district of 20,000. Funding for a new building came from fund raising efforts of the library staff over the years and a few grants. Recently they made $9,000 on an initiative of which I don’t recall the detail. Finally they raised the $1.5 million dollars needed for a new building. I was shocked. Did the funding provide for early retirement for the staff that must have obviously been affected by their working conditions? Regrettably no! The ceilings showed signed of a leaky roof and the floors were bowed and would have accommodated skateboarders looking for something to accelerate down and up. I took pictures of the outside of the buildings. Not to criticize but libraries need to be marketed. This building had absolutely no presence. I thought back to how beautiful the Portage library was. I wish I had more time to learn about the community. Perhaps going back to the areas historical roots might help. I drove on to Deadwood a few miles up a canyon.
Dixon, (President Reagan homestead) Michigan. USA Aug. 2005
My commitment to understanding , enjoying and waxing forth about America included memorizing the list of presidents names and visiting Presidential digs. A guided tour through the Reagan family home and watching a video about the same revealed that Reagan had been a keen student, an avid reader at the local library and a good all-round athlete. One of his part time jobs was lifeguard at the local swimming home where he is is credited with saving over 70 lives. His good looks and muscular physique may have contributed to many damsels in distress needing his immediate assistance. I visited the Dixon library. The building was contributed to the city by a Mr. Dodge and boasts some fine woodwork and high ceilings. The later additions look more dated than the original parts of the library. I will post pictures of the libraries I visit on a separate page in a few days - once I find a library with wireless connectivity. I asked if I could take pictures. The library manager said she would prefer if I didn't because the new section of the library (the not Mr.Dodge part) was in very poor condition. There wasn't enough funding to cover the costs.
Portage, Michigan, USA (Pfizer Drug Company headquarters), Michigan, Aug. 25, 2005.
Off to the Portage library. See the journal , this is a monied area. One of the best I’ve seen although the librarian in the children’s section told me that Kalamazoo was even better and it had won the library of the year award in a recent year. Portage Library did not have a wireless hookup which means that I cannot update my web site from my computer. I find it unusual how many libraries are not ‘wired; and yet in the Portage and other communities the gas stations, coffee shops and other venues (as above) are actively promoting wireless availability. However, the Portage Library has the very best gardens I have ever seen around a municipal complex. Magnificent. There were displays in the library of sculptures, glass works and other artifacts in cases. It made the library very interesting to walk through, and felt upscale. The children's area was in the basement and had a spectacular motif, like a giant fish tank Bright colours, lots of glass. Something children would be attracted to for the ambiance.
Milwaukee. Wisconsin. USA, Library. 2005. I can't remember anything about it except that it had wireless.
Toronto Central Reference Library. Yonge Street north of Bloor. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Ongoing
This library had a copious collection of videos on every topic imaginable. I believe that the Internet may have since impacted on the size of the collection. One could learn enough to get a degree just in the video section. The library also was an architectural masterpiece with its central open glass elevator that would take you to the sixth floor of the library. Yes, six floors and a full basement with newspapers and microfiche. The stacks contained some of the most obscure publications and periodicals but provided superb reference data. For those interested in developing business leads I designed a process which was based on using this libraries resources (or any library) to get you face to face with a potential client instead of being rejected on a cold call.
The circular atrium design of the library made it a visually appealing place to visit. Rock gardens and trees inside separated the very large coffee shop from the main part of the library. Every one your personal bags were checked both in and out by one of the many security guards on duty. Yes, you had to open your bag/bags and display contents. The copying machines in this library were on every floor. One could buy a copier credit card and load up any amount for use on most machines and top when required. Or you coiuld pay 10c a copy cash.
Albert Campbell Library, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. Ongoing.
Ah, Anthea how I miss you and those quick chats we had after my swims at the local pool. How are the children?
Beach District Library, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Ongoing.
The recent multi million dollar addition took away the reading nook that had be one of the most sought after areas in the city of Toronto. If you were lucky enough to get a seat on the semi circular bench in the recessed alcove with the French windows you might get the rays of the setting sun lull you to sleep. I have seen other patrons pluck a copy of a magazine from the lap of someone who had succumbed to the coziness of this corner. It is now where the washrooms are. Sacrilege. The building was formerly a church and sits on the grounds of Qew Gardens very close to the spacious boardwalk along Lake Ontario. The Beaches are one of the most desirable places to live in Canada and the library has contributed to this accolade.
North York Civic Centre Library. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Ongoing.
Joanne has been promoted to a managerial position at this huge library. Ensconced in the same building as a 4 star hotel, with municipal and corporate offices, it is one of the busiest libraries I have ever been to. Workshops and other presentations are held regularly. Toronto has a very diverse ethnic population (60% visible) and value of a library to an immigrant population is very evident in this locale. Life long learning in today's information centric world is also evident in age ranges of the clients in which there is no apparent predominance. I find it a bit confusing to find my way in and out on the various staircase. Perhaps a map with where facilites and sections are might be helpful.