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where I've been
01jan... Seattle
12feb... Portland
07mar... SFO
12mar... Stanford
31mar... Seattle
06may... Barre VT
13may... Burlington VT
06may... Burlington VT
this is my record of all the libraries I have visited with some general loose impressions. I am trying to be neither thorough nor fair.

2003 Slow-Mo Library Crawl

14may03 .... UVM LIBRARIES, Bailey-Howe Library
The first time I tried to do some research at this library, the librarian at the reference desk urged me to never become a librarian. Apparently he hated his job. I have met him since and it seems that I merely caught him on an off day, but it made quite an impression. The UVM library is the largest research library in Vermont and a grand place to spend entire days. I had a nitpicky bunch of things to go look up in Special Collections and the staff there were completely helpful and totally knowledgeable. Their online catalog and website are incredibly easy to use and feature rich and available to the general public as well as for students [many more terminals only for students]. I hear they have a wireless network but it too is only for the University community. Like many libraries, it gets more and more uninhabited as you go towards higher floors, but I found that more of a blessing than a curse.

high points: great collection, great OPAC/website
low points: hot, uninhabited

14may03 .... FLETCHER FREE LIBRARY, Burlington VT
Fetcher Free is home to the Brautigan Library as well as many fine and friendly Vermont librarians and some good art. It's a busy city-type library but you can always get on a computer pretty quickly. The OPACs are some crazy dinosaur style which at some level I have to applaud since they don't represent Fletcher's beholdenness to some bloated GUI OPAC, but it can be tough to use. The worst part of Fletcher is that there seems to be no place to hide in the library from the BEEP BEEP BEEP of the sound of the circ staff checking out books. The beeper seems to be set to max volume and it's in a entry area so it carries. Hard to completely relax and study. Add to that the pervasive signs telling you not to leave your belongings alone and the security cameras facing the bathroom doors and it can make you wonder.

high points: art, good public space, location
low points: icky opac, very noisy, unsafe?

06may03 .... ALDRICH LIBRARY, Barre VT
This is the library I use most frequently in Vermont. I know most of the staff, who are pleasant and helpful and I was around when they upgraded the library and added a big room on to the back of it. it is the only construction project I have seen at a public library where the end result was [in my opinion] an improvement. The collection is small but thorough with lots of good lefty books for folks like me. Lots of new books as well. The computers are a bit on the wonky side [tough to do things like print pdfs for example] and not everyone on staff knows how to use them. The patrons run the gamut, but most of the ones who spend a long time there [who aren't me] are a bit on the odd side, if not downright confrontational. I saw Grace Paley read poetry and speak to an audience of about 15 here, it was a delight.

high points: cohesive neat staff, good new books, small but impressive
low points: nutty patrons, odd computers, closed sundays

31mar03 .... SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY, Madrona Branch
I figured I should probably get to my local library before it wasn't my local library anymore. This library branch is in an old firehouse building and has not really been well-adapted to being a library. The aisles are hard to navigate, the signage is poor and the back shelves are really near to the bathrooms which, on my visit, smelled like diapers. The branch has a great collection for children and young adults -- and there were many children there when I visited -- but the adult collection is pretty spare with lots of guidebooks, handbooks, self-help books and a large mystery section but not a lot of new books and not really a lot of adult books in general. There was literally no place to sit down when I was there so I dropped off my overdue book, paid a fine to the very nice woman behind the counter, and left fairly quickly. There is a nice park for reading just around the corner.

high points: close to my house, great for kids
low points: smells bad, tight cramped aisles, small collection

12mar03 .... STANFORD UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, Green Library Information Center
I'm not sure if it says more about my friend or the Stanford System that when I asked to go to the main library on campus, she didn't know which one it was. Compared to the grandeur of a lot of campus, this library was surprisingly lackluster: rows of undistinguished stacks, poor signage and lighting, and a really terrible web page with very little helpful information. The collection was great, but you had to do a lot of digging to discover that. Plus, you need an ID to even get near the place. Visitors are allowed seven free visits per year where they log your name and address [my backup address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue came in handy here] but unless you're trapped on campus, I really wouldn't bother.

high points: clean w/ lots of free computers available to use
low points: dull and hard to find your way around, ID & sign-in required

07mar03 .... SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY, downtown branch
What kind of a library doesn't have any pencils by the OPAC? One with a serious funding crisis, I guess. I found SFPL really tough to use and enjoy, but I liked walking around and looking at all the art, some of which was built in with the library as well as the rotating exhibits. The library has a lot of hard edges and it's one of those libraries you walk into and say "where the heck are all the books?" It was my first experience with the Big Beautiful Libraries and I must say even after all these years I still have very mixed feelings about it.

high points: art art art & good programming
low points: tough to navigate, spotty OPAC

12feb03 .... MULTNOMAH COUNTY LIBRARY, downtown branch
This library is an art project in and of itself. It has a beautiful staircase with lovely illustrations carved into it, a reading tree sculpture in the children's area, and a big hanging sun light fixture in the main entryway. It's elegant and useable, except for the maps, which when I went were wrong. However, friendly and amusing staff set me straight and I found books that I hadn't even known I was missing. The rows and rows of monotonous shelves don't really encourage browsing but the place was packed with people nonetheless.

high points: attractive renovations, spacious
low points: way too hot, erratic finding aids

01jan03 ....SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY, downtown branch
I suppose I should note that this is the temporary downtown branch because I am sure I will make noise about the Big Beautiful Library that Seattle is finishing up whenever it finally opens. The downtown branch, for a temporary branch, is sort of excellent. It's a big colorful barebones library that is often full to bursting. The collection is not earthshattering but it is diverse. The place is crawling with subject specialist librarians ranging from the friendly and helpful to the chilly and academic. There are a lot of computers [and as many people using them] and a fun picture file and some old card catalogs knocking around. I always find something new to read there and the longevity of all the staff must say something good about the place.

high points: bright and airy, good location
low points: full of people at all times, hard to even use the OPAC

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