Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Merrium Park Library

If I were stranded on a desert island, I would certainly love to have chocolate and or coffee, but I would need to have books!  Today's "third place" is St. Paul's Merrium Park Library.  It is an oasis in the city.  

I feel soothed immediately when I walk through the door, ah, the smell of books, the hush of study.  No cell phones allowed except in the lobby.  I also feel a sense of adventure and possibility, what will I discover today?  Imagine being dropped off at the airport with a ticket to anywhere?  That's what I'm talking about.  In addition, there is no guilt associated with this pleasure, one, because there are no price tags  or calories involved, and two, it is open to the public.  This particular library is one of my "third places" because of its wonderful neighborhood scale and feel.  Similar to Dunn Bro and Cafe Latte, Merrium Park Library is located at a major St. Paul crossroad, Fairview and Marshall Avenues.  

The building is beautiful and comfortable.  It was rebuilt in 1993 by Meyer Scherer and Rockcastle.  There are reading nooks and tables throughout, fabulous windows and a central rotunda with skylight windows.  Four study rooms are located around the perimeter and can be reserved for meetings.  Computers with internet access and copy machines are also available.  Several displays of books with seasonal or current themes may spark or renew an interest. One corner of the library is dedicated to tax help, another to job searches.   A large sunny children's area with built-in window seats and tables dedicated to crayon  coloring is at the front of the building.  A cozy teen area is decorated with groovy chairs.  I have always found the library staff here to go above and beyond the call of duty.  Aside from being friendly, the reference librarians are patient with questions I should know the answer to by now.  They often have great suggestions for books and offer search insights.  

I introduced myself to one of my favorite librarians and told her about my blog.  I asked if she would be willing to share her perspective about the library and, as always, she was happy to answer my questions.  As a 15 year veteran of the St. Paul Library she said her favorite part of her job was learning something new every day.  She loves the vitality of the place as a regular neighborhood stopping point.  She recognizes and sees many families, and enjoys watching the children grow up in front of her eyes.  There is a fairly consistent group of regulars joined bya consistent stream of new faces.  She used to work at the Hamline branch and notices some of the same people who also come to Merrium.  When the Minneapolis libraries across the river are closed there is a noticeable influx of people, and the shift in the economy has brought more people into the library.  My own read on that, as someone who seeks out the anonymous companionship of public places, is that it would be a comfort to come to the library if recently unemployed to benefit socially from the presence of others in community.  More people are recognizing and valuing the library as a tremendous resource and a place to enjoy one of life's greatest and simplest pleasures.

P.S.:  The library rents movies and music too!

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