Many years ago when the concept of a library began, it was a place for quiet reading or an avenue to check out books that you were interested in reading. Noise was strictly limited and the inventory was just books, lots of books.
Libraries today are much different. They not only have books, but also videos, educational tools, technology, programs and fun events. The library is so much more than just a place to read, even though that is still the primary goal. It is also a place to learn in unique ways and inspire people to want to read. You can now check out books and not even have to worry about fines.
The Morris Public Library has been in existence almost since the town was organized. It was first located in what is now the Stevens County Historical Society. The current building was built in 1969 , a remodel was done in 1999 and talk is starting for some future remodeling. Anne Hennen Barber has been at the Morris Public Library since 2014 when she began working part-time, in 2017 she was hired as Library Director.
As you walk through the front doors you will see a small room to the left which is a public meeting room. This is available for use free to non-profit groups and at a small charge for profit groups. It has room for 40 people seated auditorium style or 20 around a table. The room contains a media cart, screen, laptop computer, DVD player, speakers and microphone. To use the room, you simply need to stop in or call and make a reservation.
Just inside the doors of the library is a display case donated by the Friends of the Library. This case contains collections that people would like to share and is changed each month. Children and adults alike find the collections fascinating.
To the right is a large children’s area. The library holds several events for children in order to get them interested in books at a young age. One of the most popular is Story Time held every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. Bins of books are placed at eye level for the children who can see the covers easily and select something of interest to them.
One of the first things Hennen Barber changed when she started at the library was to incorporate some toys for children in this area. She recalled visiting the library as a child and after reading for a bit, also wanted to just play. The toys include a small kitchen set, building blocks and other educational toys. It’s the perfect area for a small child to play while their parent works or reads.
Another unique thing for the children is that they can bring their favorite stuffed animal for an “overnight stay” at the library. When they pick the toy up in the morning, they will receive pictures of the toy visiting several different parts of the library. This is a Special Story Time usually scheduled during the library’s Summer Reading Program.
Moving on through the library, the next section is one of the fastestgrowing areas according to Hennen Barber. This is the area of non-fiction picture books. She stated that these books are designed to help young readers learn more about real things with illustrations. There are both graphic novels and comic books. The graphic novel is similar to a comic but has one story from beginning to end. Graphic Novels are popular with all ages but can be especially helpful for a “reluctant” reader.
There is also an audio book section, large print area and bags with books and CDs. In each of these areas there are books in Spanish or for bilingual reading. There are also adult fiction and magazines in Spanish. Hennen Barber stated that the library has partnered with the University of Minnesota Morris Spanish discipline when one professor reached out because he noticed a growing body of children’s and adolescent literature from Spain. With the growing population of Spanish language readers in our community it’s been a great gift to add to this collection.
The library then has a large selection of adult age books in both nonfiction and fiction. The shelving is carefully labeled with genre, authors, and numbers according to the dewey decimal system. It is relatively easy to find a book by title, author, or subject. The library receives new books daily and partners with all libraries in Minnesota to share books and other items from their collections.
The library employs three full-time, two part-time workers. Hennen Barber has been working with the school system to give students work experience in the library. They also have several volunteers who work to place books on the shelves and help readers locate what they are looking for. They are also watching the books on the shelves for any outdated materials or books that are getting to be in bad condition. These books are pulled from the shelf and placed in a back room to make ready for the annual Friends of the Library Book Sale. Books that are in really bad condition are sent to the DAC for recycling.
Just before the pandemic hit and the library had to be closed, a new area was added. This was a Memory Care section. This area has books to read in order to learn more about the condition and also kits that can be checked out to help with communicating with loved ones suffering from memory loss. The kits have activity cards and visiting prompts and are something new at all public libraries.
The library also has laptops that can be used there, a printer/scanner, a small section of local history books and walls dressed with artwork from local talent. There is a genealogy room with newspapers dating back to the early 1800s.
The Library has two digital services patrons can use for free. One is the Libby App – where you read ebooks and audiobooks on your phone or tablet, free from your library. It gives you Online access to your library’s digital book and audiobook collection instantly. The other is hoopla digital media service that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, and ebooks. All you need to access these services is a library card. And the best part – it’s FREE.
The library sponsors three book clubs, one for Cozy mysteries, one for Afro-futurism, Science Fiction, Fantasy and one Adult book Club. The library can get a set of books for each member in many titles.
Periodically through the year, the library puts together craft kids that can be picked up and assembled at home. This was started during the pandemic but was so popular that Hennen- Barber decided to continue it. The most recent one is “Make your own Zine” which is a miniature homemade magazine. She loves it when people come back in and show her the finished product.
At the library website you will find a monthly schedule of events. These events will include the always popular summer reading program for all ages, music performances both inside and outdoors, and author visits. Author David LaRochelle is the next author visit set for April 23 at 3 p.m. Another upcoming demonstration will be on bookmaking by Hancock artist Phyllis Joos. These events allow the authors and artists an opportunity to share what they do in unique ways. Hennen Barber also likes to share the special events through the newspaper, radio and on facebook. She writes a monthly column in the newspaper featuring some of the upcoming events.
Once you visit each of the different sections of the library you may end up back near the librarian’s office in the center. Here you will find a quirky room filled with a large variety of items. Hennen Barber’s goal is to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. She wants to be ‘approachable’ so children and adults who she hopes will return often and enjoy the things that she truly loves -books, reading and learning.