Marsha Wilson Chall

Libraries of Minnesota

From cozy struc­tures near small-town parks to impres­sive build­ings in met­ro­pol­i­tan down­towns, pub­lic libraries stand at the cen­ter of com­mu­ni­ty and learn­ing in Minnesota’s land­scape. Libraries of Min­neso­ta cel­e­brates these archi­tec­tur­al icons and the joy of read­ing they have inspired in Min­nesotans, present and past.

Doug Ohman, well known as the pho­tog­ra­ph­er for the Min­neso­ta Byways series, now turns his cam­era to this most beloved insti­tu­tion. Over 120 exquis­ite inte­ri­or and exte­ri­or shots exhib­it a col­or­ful sur­vey of archi­tec­ture, from a ren­o­vat­ed liquor store to Carnegie libraries to the newest and most wired of infor­ma­tion centers.

In pow­er­ful, fun­ny, and heart­felt essays, sev­en of Minnesota’s best-known writ­ers for chil­dren and young adults tes­ti­fy to the spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance of libraries in their lives. Will Weaver sneaked five miles into town on his bicy­cle to vis­it the library when he should have been trap­ping gophers. Pete Hautman’s mom hauled her sev­en kids to mul­ti­ple libraries, “like a shep­herd rotat­ing sheep from one pas­ture to the next.” David LaRochelle, fac­ing the fright­en­ing prospect of junior high, found escape in the Pirate’s Trea­sure Hunt sum­mer read­ing club. John Coy, Nan­cy Carl­son, Mar­sha Wil­son Chall, and Kao Kalia Yang con­tribute time­less sto­ries of young peo­ple as they dis­cov­er, on the shelves of local libraries, the world and all its wonders.


From the begin­ning of Mar­sha’s essay, “Bor­rowed Time”:

“Sat­ur­day morn­ings then, you rode in the back­seat of the car unbuck­led and unbri­dled, Dad behind the wheel and Mom in the front pas­sen­ger posi­tion. Our Ford was orange and white, a Dream­si­cle on wheels, cool in these still-ear­ly hours. Cool­er still when I rolled down my win­dow. I had the back­seat to myself but always seemed to sit behind Mom, study­ing the way the smoke from her cig­a­rette curled around the sprayed and spun galaxy of hair that would soon implode at Jack­ie Ann’s Beau­ty Shop. Breck girl though I hoped to be, I would nev­er sleep every night from Sat­ur­day to Sat­ur­day with my head wrapped in toi­let paper. How could she? And I would nev­er smoke, for cripes sakes, and I would nev­er sing every song on the radio out loud, even when I did know the words. What I would and did do on Sat­ur­day morn­ing was drop off Mom and ride with Dad down Vic­to­ry Memo­r­i­al Dri­ve to the old Cam­den Library, offi­cial­ly known as the Web­ber Park branch, in Minneapolis.

“I need­ed to. Our late-fifties Brook­lyn Cen­ter ram­bler did not boast a pan­eled library, the kind I’d seen on TV in Ward Cleaver’s home office or in Vic­to­ri­an man­sion movie sets, but, then again, my father was nei­ther an actor nor a wealthy Eng­lish­man. And I was not Theodore (“Beaver” to most) Cleaver or Mary Lennox. Our home library was, shall we say, con­densed, like the red and white cans of soup and Read­er’s Digest Books I con­sumed at Grand­ma’s. Some­times you got what they said you’d get: a con­densed truth. But not always. For exam­ple, our ram­bler did­n’t even ramble.”

Libraries of Minnesota

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er, Doug Ohman
Min­neso­ta His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety Press, 2011
ISBN 978–0‑87351–8246
ages 12 and up
128 pages

Buy the Book