*Appologies! I’m having trouble uploading pictures. I’m so behind writing posts, I’ve decided to start posting without pictures, and will add the pics when I can*

The East Bay. The alleged ‘hood of the Bay Area. I’ll tell you, this is the fanciest ‘hood I’ve ever been in.

On the other hand, only one of the 18 branches of the Oakland Public Library System is open on Mondays, and they all have very limited hours. Since we had taken a break from library-ing for a few days when we entered the fog that hovers over the San Francisco Bay, we were relegated to a Monday visit, and since we were sick of being in the car and uninterested in paying for more gas in Cali than necessary, we couldn’t make it to downtown Oakland to the main branch.

However, the Temescal Branch, near where we stayed with old friends, had it’s own special allure. It has a tool library, which operates out of a separate basement entrance and is open whenever the library is.

It’s worth noting that another branch, which was also closed on Mondays, hosts The African American Library and Museum, which I’ve heard is phenomenal.



The Biggest Little City Library

When the downtown Reno library was built in 1966, the intention was to build it in a park. For some reason, that didn’t work out, so the architect put a park in the library.


At last count, there were over 1200 plants inside the Reno library.


Needless to say, the air quality is excellent, aided by a reflecting pool on the ground floor.


Unfortunately, the library gets a lot more use than support. Despite steady increase in patronage, their staff has decreased from 32 to 16 since 2003. A lack of social services in the area means librarians find themselves acting as counselors and case managers more than they really have time to. And the building was not built with computers in mind. They have had to do massive rewiring to even get computers plugged in. However, as is the trend, the librarians all seemed to love their jobs fiercely.

Mixed Use Utah

We didn’t spend the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills. We spent the night in Utah in a car up in the hills of Wasatch National Forest. Woke up to another amazing view and then wound through about a hundred miles of mountain roads before emerging in the small town of Kamas. We were pretty eager to get to Salt Lake City, where we were looking forward to spending the day researching. But the library was right on the (only) road through town, so we got out to check it out.

The Summit County Library was in a small building…


and occupied an even smaller space in that mixed-use building.


Also in the building were a health clinic and the Motor Vehicles Administration.


The library itself was heavily weighted towards light reading materials, but the librarian was wonderful, knowledgeable, and happy to help.

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A short drive across recently developed desert brought us to Salt Lake City. The library there was huge, with the building and the grounds covering an entire square block downtown.


The shopping mall feel didn’t end at the door. The first thing one encounters when one walks in the main entrance of the Salt Lake City Library, Main Branch, is a hair salon.


And that’s just one of a whole row of shops that hold prime retail space in the great hall of the library, under a flock of book-butterflys.


The library also had a mallrat-esque cast of characters hanging around inside and out front. When we walked in, a young woman came up to us, explained that she’d just been assaulted by the police, and asked to use our cell phone. Before we could explain that neither of our phones was charged, a man in a button-up shirt who looked more like mall security than any librarian I’ve ever seen before or since came up and told her, quite rudely, that she wasn’t allowed to talk to us and had to go outside. He then apologized to us until we expressed empathy for the woman in her struggle with the police, at which point a light switched off in his eyes. I’m fairly certain that at that moment he re-categorized us as shiftless drifters who were probably early for Burning Man. Oh well, people have surely thought worse of me.


One strange feature I’ve been noticing is automated check out kiosks. I’m concerned that it means we’re going to lose even more librarian positions. Of course, given the budget cuts libraries have seen recently and the outrageous staffing reductions they’ve had to put up with, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many librarians are happy to be relieved of that fairly mindless duty. But I bet there are a lot of others who miss seeing what people are checking out.


By far the coolest feature of the SLC library (besides the ample air conditioned space for people to come in out of the grueling heat) is the zine collection in the young adult section.


The Oh-So-Sexy Wyoming Libraries

You may remember the Wyoming Public Libraries from such controversial ad campaigns as the “Mud Flap Girl Flap.” (See more here and here.)

But Wyoming’s libraries are not all red light.The two we visited in Fremont County were both well-used, sturdy, sensible buildings, which harkened back a century when they posted recruitment material back east, looking for Wyoming Librarians.


In Riverton, after a delicious honey-sunflower-blackberry milkshake from Sunrise Donuts took the edge of the 96 degree day, we found the library in a tree-lined enclave towards the outskirts of town.


The architecture was interesting, mixing contemporary design with bare wooden beams and wide open spaces, which gave it a very particularly Wyoming feel.


They had a fairly limited selection of books on what the world out there had been like before the settlers showed up, but the books they had were fascinating.


We had no intention of visiting another library in Fremont Co. We only stopped in Lander to get gas. But when the first thing we saw off the highway was the friendly blue library arrow, it was impossible to resist.

It turned out to be well worth the detour. The Lander Library is an original Carnagie Library, cleverly expnded upon so as to maintain the original structure while bringing the building up to contemporary standards.

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Inside, they were making great use of the original building as a theatre and community space


while the new building was chock full of books, DSCN1674

folk art (including peices made from the trees that needed to be cut down in order to expand the building)


and a set of amazing murals on the ceiling.


The library’s manager, Barbara Oakleaf, had written a detailed, well-researched piece on the library’s history, which was locked in a cabinet in the local history room. On the one hand, that’s great, because there it was, 6 years after it’s original publication, in perfect shape. On the other hand, few people had gotten a chance to read it since then. I took digital pictures, and will upload it here soon (I’m trying to figure out the most legible, most accessible way to do it.)

The library was busy, bustling. Indeed, we saw more people in the library than on the streets. Oakleaf told me that she had advocated strongly for the big picture windows in the newest section so that “people driving by can see that the lights are on and somebody’s home.”

Hot City

I don’t really go in for soaking in chemical soup, so I generally avoid hot tubs. But I love me some mineral hot springs, and that love drew me to Thermopolis, home to “the world’s largest mineral hot springs.”

The land there used to have a less-stupid name, of course. The Shoshone called it Bah-gue-wana, or Smoking Water. 18 million gallons of water course through the area daily, leaving behind think deposits of minerals.


The treaty which marked the transfer of ownership from Shoshone to US Gov stipulates that some of the waters must be availible to people for free, and the Wyoming State Bath House stands in conspicuous testament to what may be the only treaty the Westward Expanders held up their end of.


Their library is small and quiet, nestled into the cozy downtown.


I love how libraries tailor their collections to meet the needs of their patrons: in Thermopolis almost a tenth of the shelf space was dedicated to books on handicrafts like needlepoint and crochet


and a beautiful, locally made quilt hung on one wall.


The childrens section took up most of the floor space, and included this darling little reading corner. I love the WWF F-n-F.


Ten Sleep, pop. 262

After a beautiful, early morning drive through Black Hills and Big Horn National Forests, we saw signs for Ten Sleep. Naturally, the first question to be answered was how in the world did it get that name?

Luckily, a sign on the wall outside the gas station explained that it was a halfway point for Sioux traveling between two of their largest towns. Traveling on foot, a person would sleep ten times between Ten Sleep and either destination.


The library was closed and empty because on Sunday morning most of the town’s residents were at the Seventh Day Adventist church, possibly the largest building in town.


But we did find the metal structure that serves as their library:


Unlike most places in America, they don’t leave their flag up when the library’s closed. It always strikes me as funny that a) people put so much importance on a cloth representation of an idea of what our country is supposed to mean and b) so few of the people who do hold it in high regard follow the detailed code of conduct for displaying and handling the flag. (I’m not sure you can see it well, because the door is highly mirrored glass. Where I’m standing, you can see bits of stars…)


They were also holding a fund-raising drive, which seemed to be going fairly well. DSCN1586

Driven up the Wall

Badlands. What an epic name for a National Park. I’d seen pictures, and I knew I had to put my own eyes on it.


It was beautiful, and obviously very, very bad. If I could do one thing for my metal friends, it would be to organize a metal show with a good mix of great local bands from all over the world, playing different styles of metal and grunge, and have them play at the bottom of the canyon while everyone found the exact place they liked the acoustics to listen from.

These big horn sheep told me they’d be down to come to the show.


Unfortunately, in order to get into Badlands Park, you have to go through the “town” of Wall, SD. The quotation marks are used advisedly. It’s basically a tourist trap, complete with a faux-ld west saloon, cafe, and more gift shops than I’ve ever seen in one place before.


The town of Wall does have a library. It’s about 40 feet by 15 feet, one story, but it’s a library. Of course, it was prime shopping time while we were there (Saturday afternoon) so the library was closed.