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.”
Photographer, Doug Ohman
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2011
ages 12 and up