The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Select Guide to Libraries of the St. Croix Valley: Part 3—St. Croix Falls, (WI) Public Library

Select Guide to Libraries of the St. Croix Valley: Part 3—St. Croix Falls, (WI) Public Library By Tim Krenz “A good library is never done,” offered Sarah Adams, the director of the St. Croix Falls Public Library, in an interview for this series of reviews on select libraries in the St. Croix Valley. For decades, the public library did exist in the cramped basement of the old, one-screen movie theater on the northern end of the business district, on Washington Street, the main street of this city along the heights above the namesake river. In 2009, in autumn's color-changing October, the public library moved several blocks south, to a new location, in a renovated grocery store amidst a once blighted zone, yet still on the city's main commercial artery of life that runs parallel to a protected and scenic river flowing northerly to southerly. In many ways, the community at-large meets challenges of economic renewal and social adaptation that confront all inhabitants in the river valley. The library project in St. Croix Falls found some answers in that unused grocery store for a modern design, and in a new, refurbished concrete city plaza in a forgotten black-top parking lot. A number of concerned citizens joined together in a rather “public-private” endeavor with the library and the city government to find the vision of what they wanted to create; they funded it; they built it; and residents, and visitors, use it. The innovations of the library involved trade-offs, as does any physical exchange or transaction—equal and opposite reactions—but, the moral capital in the assets and liabilities of the “community” balance sheet might prove an investment that should, and hopefully will, increase over the stretch of a lifetime, and several generations. In short, the library succeeds, for its own reasons, and for the right causes. It anchors a cornerstone that joins older wisdom with new ideas, a meeting point for elders and young, and it all forms a wholesome foundation for a vibrant community progressing forward to avoid drifting times and unstable spaces to live. As this series contends, public libraries enhance the positive values of community, and nurture the virtues of a democracy for all people. Walking the plaza from the main street, to approach the north entrance of the newer public library, the “green design,” requested by the library committee, and incorporated by Norsmen Architects of Chicago, become apparent in any conceivable use practical on this scale. Even more, from a simple aesthetic complement to its environment, it matches the city space, with the higher hill sloping its backyard—east, away from the river. The building feels part of the flat area of the main street, yet its roof with dark solar collectors seems to flow upward, like the river, and the earth-tone brick defy the gravity and draw the mind up without distortion. Opened to free air on three sides, the panels collect the unlimited power of the star we call our daytime sunshine. Before entering, the patron passes under an awning formed from the grocery store roof, and falls under the shaded area where the old building's boundaries recessed in the deconstruction. Anterior angles draw one into the interior space. This architectural theme literally gets a person to understand how cutting away the edges on the northwest corner of the old really means that the new form, and the entire theme of the library, departs from old in “cutting edge.” In any technical, aesthetic, practical and average way, the space can serve people with a more limited impact on resources. The library fuzes the striking beauty of environment, and matches to it the human vision, the function, utility and resources available. St. Croix Falls has built their library as the valley's Parthenon to a Minerva's new wisdom. It gets so much more, and efficiently, by using less. Can society reach a renaissance of technology; and in the process allow the rebirth of natural awareness for limited impact on the quality of knowledge and the quantity of freedom we need to survive? That becomes the difficult question. Perhaps, and most likely yes. In doing so, however, the trade-off must meet the moral capital invested to equal the balance sheet we need. Over time, time reveals more. Entering, one finds the large open space, the community “Living Room,” replete with comfortable furniture, live plants, soft and natural ambient lighting, unimposing shelves of books and other media, and a fireplace built of indigenous rocks. The large and separated community rooms along the sides leave the northwest corner—the cut edge—with floor to ceiling windows facing the street, and the trees. In that section, the young see their space, one loaded with toys, movies, activity areas, special and new friends, all there for their exploration and experience. The younger patrons cannot fail to “WOW!” at what they see and imagine in this library. In the children section, and the young adult portion, Youth Services Librarian Cole Zrostlick attends to year-round regular and special activities, introducing her wards to learning new things, and how to live among the stars, in the star within themselves and without, by learning about themselves, and living virtues and values through self-discovery. As this article series also contends, the young own the libraries than the past people it holds in books and older patrons. For youth will lead in maturing generations to the future. No where else in a community, and not in school, can the personal experience and enjoyment of knowledge and ideas take inner form, and freeing study, than in the public library. The St. Croix Falls Public Library solidly asserts this fact and truth. For all, the library uses the technology well. From the off-often-white interior, to its wired up, wire-less system, and its computer stations for patrons, it has the access and the tools a modern library possesses, to “connect” St. Croix Falls to the wider world. That includes its MORE library consortium selection of one million items available to order from throughout West-Central Wisconsin. Although its 16,000 items itself stand small in comparison to other city libraries in the valley, the director, Sarah Adams, acknowledges that this library needs more of its own collection. In one area, on the other hand, it offers more to others in the valley, in its quality and carefully-built conservation collection of around 300-400 volumes (by Sarah's best guess). The items on the use of land, water, air, human interaction, biographies, and philosophies of the environment, aim for renewable and sustainable living by humans. In addition, the St. Croix Falls' conservation collection has volumes not available elsewhere. As a core pride, the collection will build over time, and as a reflection on the entire theme of the St. Croix Falls Public Library, it has a keynote feel for contributing to the future beyond its windowed walls. The library definitely succeeds in its way, for the people who use it, and for the city and community of St. Croix Falls that built it. It fills its needs as a common example of a modern library, and it provides the people's wants in the extraordinary way it set out to do so: to build something that says as much about itself as the river it honors with its name.