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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Have You Read? #17

Librarians would certainly love a book about libraries, but this gem from photographer Doug Ohman (part of the Minnesota Byways series) holds appeal for library users of all occupations and ages. In his photographer's note, he tells of the observations made in photographing 70 of the state's libraries. Though the images he captured are both inspired and lovely, the spirit of the libraries and the enormous role they play in our communities shines through those pictures. Some libraries stand tall with traditional columns. Some are tiny cabins. Some are modern glass and stone edifices. All bring readers and seekers of information together.

Drawing the images together are essays by seven Minnesota authors. Will Weaver tells the history of libraries in the United States, from Benjamin Franklin's lending library (from which one could borrow only with a paid subscription) to Horace Mann's revolutionary idea that schools provide books for students' common good to my personal library hero Andrew Carnegie's funding of free libraries (65 of which were built in Minnesota alone). Pete Hautman tells of how he was not much of a reader yet one summer became enamored with Jim Kjelgaard's dog stories. John Coy takes readers along his own journey of libraries that shaped his reading life, from the bookmobile visits to his Falcon Heights neighborhood to the beautiful and dignified St. Anthony Park library he frequents most often today. Nancy Carlson writes about how well she came to know her Edina Public Library through the "Summer Reading Carnival" of 1963. Marsha Chall brings readers to 1963 also with her memories of the Webber Park Library. David LaRochelle embarked on the path to Pirate's Treasure Hunt during the summer between elementary school and junior high school, adding From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to his reading log first...and was later disappointed that he could only add two of the twelve titles he had read to his quest for the treasure. Kao Kalia Yang provides a glimpse of the immigrant's perspective of library visits.

As I read their words, I could not help but visit the Marathon County Public Library in my own mind. I can describe that place accurately still. I imagine the lighting in the yellow stairwell, the drinking fountain, the coat hooks, the bath tub where lucky kids could read. Magic stirs minds at the library. I feel it still.


  1. For some of us it is as easy to remember the configuration of our childhood libraries as it is to remember the floorplans of our childhood homes.

  2. I just realized now that my first log entry in 1973 as I began the Pirate's Treasure Hunt was also one of your favorites, FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES!

    Our mutual friend Vicki Palmquist talks about loving to visit libraries while traveling. I love to do that too. It's a fascinating (and free!) thing to do while on the road, for business or pleasure.

  3. Libraries are where I always feel at home. Like Vicki, I find them whenever I travel.

  4. I hope you visit one in New Orleans next week...and take a photograph, Joyce.