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Hubby and I were in St. Cloud last night. He had a meeting related to his garden project at the St. Cloud Public Library. This is the brand new library that opened within the past year. He wondered if I wanted to come with and I agreed, not for the meeting, but in order to see the library. It is the headquarters of our regional library system, plus it has an interesting public sculpture that has stirred some controversy. (There are people who don’t believe public funding should go for art. There are some people who think the sculpture, which is made of automobile exhaust pipes and the lenses of traffic signals, is ugly. I think it is beautiful and organic and love the choice of materials.) There’s also that part about books and books and more books that can be borrowed for free if you have a library card that drew me to wanting to visit.

I was not disappointed. The entry is airy and lit with natural light; it has a coffee shop and a hall that leads to several meeting rooms; along the hall were a number of photos on display, plus hanging in front of large windows were several artistic panels. There are restrooms conveniently located in the entry, as well. When I entered the ladies’ room, I was immediately taken by the tile work. While the entry and most of the rest of the library has been done in neutral colors (whites, grays), the tile in the downstairs ladies’ room is a mix of reds, oranges, and yellows, plus white. The tile work was done in such a way that most of the colored tile is concentrated toward the top of the wall, petering out to white at the bottom. The effect is a fun cascade of color and completely unexpected for a library bathroom. The upstairs ladies’ room (yes, I visited that, too) had the same sort of tile work, but the colors used were blues, greens, turquoises, and yellows. Hubby confirmed that the men’s room tile mimicked the ladies’ room tile.

I studied the chart of what was located where before entering the library proper. On the main level is the area for children (where there is a see-through enclosure for the elevator shaft), various media (music CDs, movies, etc.), and the checkout. Upstairs is a copy shop, magazines, newspapers, and adult fiction and nonfiction. Throughout the library there are computers for public use and quiet areas for people to sit and read.

I was content to wander through the stacks, figuring out the arrangement of the books and picking out items of interest. (No need to re-shelve, according to signs all over the place. I, however, am a mad re-shelver, likely due to the fact that I worked in the library during high school and had to learn the Dewey Decimal System and re-shelve things. I noticed there was plenty of empty shelf space built in for expansion of the collection. ) The beauty of browsing a library or bookstore for books, as opposed to looking for them online, is that I can find books that I would never have had occasion to encounter any other way.

An hour of browsing later and I had had five books picked out. I had to restrain myself from taking more because I knew I could never read more than that within three weeks. I headed downstairs for checkout and to wait for Hubby. When I got to the checkout counter, I saw that there were some self-checkout stations. If I lived closer and could visit often, I’d be using these.

As I waited in the entry for Hubby’s meeting to end, I observed that the St. Cloud Public Library is a great community gathering place and people were using it in just this way, fitting comfortably into this amazing space.

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