Open with Caution

CAREFUL — you might learn something!

Did either of your parents issue that warning? It was usually my dad who voiced it at our house. Often it was half a joke when you were doing some practical task for the first time.

Learning can be very hands on.

When I was eight or nine, we had just a few milk cows (just getting started) and mother asked me to whip some cream to put on our dessert. So I used the electric mixer and whipped away. Is it done? No. Now? No. How about now? Keep going and you’ll have butter.  Lesson: if you go past soft peaks too far, you’ll get to butter. (This may not work with homogenized and pasteurized products.)

Or it can me all mental. Think of what you’ve learned about ancient Egypt — I’ll guess much of it has been from books. Perhaps some in conversation, lectures, or movies.


You might learn something beyond the library door.



A Personal Relationship

Decades ago (has it really been decades?), my sons and I lived within the St. Louis city limits. Not far from our apartment — it was sort of at the limits of walking distance — was a library branch. We became frequent visitors.

The youngest got his first library card here. Books for school papers were on the shelves. New authors were discovered. The oldest got his first job here.

For the good of the library — and the community — the branch moved into a larger building another mile up the road. Our household looked forward to the move. The job was gone — in favor of college across the state. But we were all eager to see shelves with ROOM. This was our branch until we moved into an adjoining library district.

Suddenly — the branch had SPACE.

On the outside: parking increase at least times five.

One the inside: A classroom in the basement. Children’s, reference, and adult reading areas were separated. More computers. A spiral staircase behind glass blocks was a neat feature.



Body and Mind

Exercise. Diet. Preventative care. Take care of your body.

Exercise. Variety. Frequency. Take care of your mind.

Recently, while taking a drive in an adjoining county, I noticed a sign for a library at the next exit. So…I turned at the light.

Two public services share this large building. Out of view, is a branch of the County Health Department. Taking center stage is a branch of the county library.

How convenient. You can take your children – or yourself  – to get an immunization against an infectious disease. Then walk next door for a reward. Perhaps you’ll find a book or magazine or movie that will strengthen your mind against ignorance, bigotry, or other narrow-minded conditions.


Mind and Body

Use your mind to keep it sharp! You’ve heard the advice for members of the “Boomer” generation.

Keep moving! Use it or lose it! Advertisements shout for our attention to buy clothing and equipment and exercise programs. It can get exhausting.

One day, while looking for one thing, I found both. Or at least the opportunity to do both.

First the mind–

Our local library system has a new branch. Well, actually a new building for an existing branch. No longer will the patrons of this area need to share space (and be crowded) in a portion of a municipal building. Less than a year ago, this fine new facility opened to serve their book, magazine, and video needs. Computer access and classes. Meeting space. All in clean, bright space — when the pandemic will allow us back into the building.

Now the body —

You can’t see it in the photo. So I invite you to image behind the photographer, at the edge of the parking lot. A paved walking path. Open during daylight hours. (I’ve never been much for walking in the dark.) Adults — do you want to exercise the body first? Or do you prefer after you check out your library items and stash them in your vehicle? Are the children rowdy? Perhaps a little physical exercise first before they enter and use their “inside” voices.


Small Town, Big Heart

Height and weight proportional.  This was a phrase used when women gained access to occupations previously denied to them. The height and weight requirements for a physically fit male did not suit women.

The same standard can be applied to all sorts of things. For example: a new church with the maximum capacity of 100 would be completely out of place in a growing suburb. A grand hotel with 500 guest rooms and banquet facilities would overshadow a rural community of 300 residents.

After use as a store and physician offices, this building is the current library. Just the right size for the community. With inter-library access to the collections of dozens of others in the region.


Powerful and Picturesque

Small and mighty. This phrase is often appropriate on children’s shirts. Their influence on the people around them is not reflected only in physical size.

The same is true for some cultural institutions. Libraries, for example, can occupy buildings blending into the community. Today’s featured institution is typical of the New England town. This is convenient — since the location is Stowe, VT.

The Stowe Free Library was formed in 1866 with a core donation of 51 books and community funds of $100. The concept of a free library replaced the membership and subscription model. The collection has grown in the previous century and a half, and the location has changed from the original space.

Today the library shares a historic building with the Helen Day Art Center. Constructed in 1863, the Old High School pre-dates the library by a mere three years.

Stowe Free Library

Welcome! Step inside and find a modern collection of books and media.


Claiming a Proud Tradition

Today I want you to use your imagination a little. I want you to close your eyes and picture Boston, MA in 1848.

What comes to mind?

Irish immigrants fleeing their homeland?  A crowded harbor? Cobbled streets filled with horses pulling carts, wagons, and carriages? Abolitionists writing newspaper articles?

In the middle of all this activity — perhaps in response to recent progress — the Boston Public Library was established. In 1895 they moved into their present day building.

Boston Public Library

With a heritage to be proud of– First free municipal library to do each of the following: lend books, establish a branch, and create a children’s room — they are also a modern facility.

Pre-COVID19 they gave daily public tours to showcase the art and architecture of the building. I’ve included it on my list if I ever happen to visit Boston again.


Magic Passport

Do you enjoy traveling? Are you looking forward to seeing new things? Is it the experience you anticipate?

In this unusual year of 2020 I encourage you to stride into your local library and use (or obtain) a magic passport.

I don’t read much you respond. — No problem.  Most libraries also carry movies, TV shows, and audio books. Some allow you to check out games (video and board) and puzzles.

Thanks to library materials I’ve gone to the Pacific during WWII with the US Marines, popped in to England in 1928, and solved a mystery in Quebec. And that’s only since they re-opened after our initial quarantine! Where will your magic passport take you?  The future?  Outer space? Ancient Egypt? Or the current halls of government?



Open to Serve You

Please check our hours. We have a tiny staff and they need time off to have a life.

You’ll find the above line applies to all sorts of businesses in a small town. Sometimes that Mom & Pop store — the staff is Mr. & Mrs. If they can find the cash to hire a part-time employee, or have a child old enough to work several hours a week — that’s all good.

When open — regular business hours — for their unique business — expect good service. Smiles and laughs are included at no charge.

Closed Sunday and Monday. Check the listing for scheduled hours, including evenings.  Book return is 24/7.

And yes, that is a farm tractor (or maybe it belongs to the village) moving out of the camera frame.


Bonus Art Show

Libraries hold more than books. They even contain more than the extended list of magazines, music CD’s, and movies which many people would tack on behind books. (Or maybe in front.)

People — employees and patrons — also populate the library building. Numbers depend on the size of the library.

And some libraries hold surprises. The day I visited the library in a mid-size Wisconsin city — I was donating books — I went to the upstairs level and browsed in an art show.

Talented hands to craft any item in this display.