The old library is gone now; halved, gutted, deep within the process of transmutation to a bigger, new library. So where are the books, the videotapes, the CD’s and magazines? Where are the people who filled the old library to bursting and necessitated the change?
All those words on paper and in the air, all those images, have moved to the temporary location of the Pelican Rapids Public Library, a warren that was once city hall. Just inside the door, Dorothy the librarian smiles as she checks in books, checks out books, and answers questions. “The bathrooms are through the door, then turn right, then right again. The newspapers are all the way to the back. The children’s books are upstairs. So are the computers.”
Upstairs, the winter sun streams through the arched windows of the old police department, gilding the bindings of the young adult books; books by Avi, Judy Blume, Edgar Allen Poe. Head Start children, blue eyed boys with cowlicks, ebony skinned girls, russet children with sparkling black eyes, listen, intent on the story that Tammy the children’s librarian, is reading aloud.
Beyond the children’s room, eight computers hum, screens alive; a Bosnian man answers his email in Bosnian, a woman in a beautiful green hajib reads a newspaper printed in Somali, a Mexican man works at the Spanish language computer, three boys watch the latest DVD movie, a high school student downloads a resume writing template and one of the librarians does a Google search on ice houses for a patron. The fax machine chatters.
At the newspaper table in the back, two elderly gentlemen discuss the latest blizzard. A mother and child look up fringed lizards in the encyclopedia. Outside the windows between the magazine racks lining one side of a hall, the wind swirls clouds of snow.
It isn’t the library we had, or the library we will have, but for now, the temporary home of the Pelican Rapids Public Library does just what a library should do. It offers a warm place to sit and read, a warm place to talk with friends, a place to warm your heart and feed your mind. The library is the place in our city where everyone feels welcome, where refugees find hope, where children dream, and in one of the oldest buildings in town, where anyone can explore new worlds.