Sunday, August 23, 2009

1. Petaluma Library

Petaluma Library, 100 Farigrounds Dr, Petaluma, California, 94952

Visiting Time: Saturday, 2 - 3:30 p.m.
Books checked out:
"the kind I'm likely to get," by Ken Foster
"the life all around me, by Ellen Foster," by Kaye Gibbons
"A Brain Wider Than the Sky; a Migraine Diary," by Andrew Levy

My first stop on the Grand Sonoma County Library Tour is the Petaluma Branch, my "local." This is where my car goes when I plug in take me to the library. Walking up the wide brick entryway brought back all the memories: afternoons with the younger kids, rummaging through kid's books and "mommie" books (mysteries for the most part, back then), dashing in to pick up books on hold, paying off my fines, hauling the pre-teens & teens over for last-minute research for their papers, doing my own last-minute research as I returned to college and then worked on a grad degree.

It's been an embarassingly long time since I've been here, but it doesn't seem to have changed much; it even smells the same, a combination of the cool, dampish brick outside plus the wood paneling and book dust inside. In fact, it's been so long, I need a new library card, so first thing I fill out the fast, easy form and collect my card, a nice bright turquoise, easy to see in the dark recesses of my wallet, plus an accompanying key-chain card. Very cool!

Books 3.5 bookmarks (need more fiction!)
Seating 3 book marks more than adequate, but not quite luxurious
Staff 4 bookmarks (attentive even though they were pretty busy!)
Ambiance & architecture 4 bookmarks

total 14.5

Yes, hometown sets the bar high.

This library was opened in 1976 as a replacement for the original Carnegie Library established in 1867, which still stands downtown as The Petaluma Historical Museum. The New Library, as it is still called sometimes, is situated right in front of the Fairgrounds, on an old Little League field. It's a handsome building, built low and wide, with brick walls and a copper-clad roof. Inside, the walls are wood paneled, with high, open ceilings, exposed beams, many large, double-paned windows and a welcome, working air conditioner. It has a spacious feeling, with room between stacks, and plenty of tables to work on, lots of fairly comfortable chairs. Currently, home-crafted quilts are on display, many on walls, others hanging from the rafters, thus creating some nice sound barriers, though without impeding traffic.

Saturday afternoon and the place is pretty packed, though not as packed as it will get once all the schools are in session and the papers become due. Still, there are quite a few adults reading, there's some reading groups of middle school aged kids, there's people waiting to use the double row of computers. As I search for a table, I see that most of them are either occupied or show evidence of occupation (books, bundles, duffle bags). Everyone is quiet and soft-spoken, using the best of library-manners.

The librarians and staff (two reference librarians, one children's, two or three on the circ desk and several volunteers shelving books) were quite busy but invariably polite and friendly. No one recognized me, though; all my buddies have retired!

The Petaluma Library has a collection count of 99,000 + items, close to the planned maximum of 100,000. They're particularly deep in non-fiction with stacks along the longest wall, as well as many more perpendicular rows. The ficition section, by contrast, seems less deep, but the County's excellent Inter-Library Loan system provides access to thousands of more titles. WIthin the fiction section, there's a fairly wide variety, from blockbusters to mysteries to the literary lions and lionesses to the less-well known authors.

Holding myself back, I checked out only three books: a short story collection, "the kind I'm likely to get," by Ken Foster; a novel "the life all around me, by Ellen Foster," by Kaye Gibbons (a sequel to her fabulous first book "Ellen Foster") and medical non-fiction "A Brain Wider Than the Sky; a Migraine Diary," by Andrew Levy. I didn't really challenge myself here, except maybe for the short story collection: I'd never heard of this author before. But I'm a big Kaye Gibbons fan and realized I hadn't read this latest novel of hers and I'm a sucker for any book about the brain, hoping no doubt to understand mine, which is admittedly a lost cause. But I keep trying. And I just realized how sneaky my brain is: the short stories are by Ken Foster and the Gibbons book is written from the POV of Ellen Foster. How about that. ( cue the Twilight Zone theme...doo do doo dooo .... aaannnddd cut!)

One of the quilts and a glimpse of the many stacks.

An inviting study or reading area.

These libraries are dark! I tried no-flash for a warmer look.


  1. Great start, Lakin. I love this idea inspired by your friend in San Diego. My first thought was "not possible in my rural ares" followed by, "WAIT! What about all those tiny branch libraries up the mountain?" OK then let the Tuolumne County Tour begin . . . well in a few days when I get back from my writing retreat. Well done, my friend.

  2. thanks for your encouragement! I think the tiny branch libraries would be so interesting and fun; I look forward to the Tuolumne County Tour. Who knows, we might create a movement.

    totally envying you for a writing retreat!

  3. Well done, Lakin!

    I love that something from the seventies is "new." Awesome.

    I'll be anxiously awaiting your next review.

  4. thanks, Michelle! and good point about new & the 70's! The library still feels rather modern, even without a bunch of steel. Kind of a timeless Danish design, I guess....Planning my next library visit for the end of this week, but probably won't be able to post until Sunday. We're off to the Nature Preserve for the rest of the week, possibly our last opportunity for that. It's fabulous, but absolutely no inter-schnitzel.

  5. A wonderful beginning to a worthy--and inspired--project, Lakin. It reminds me how lucky I am to have a city library. Our rural county has voted down in every election a rural library system. Good work.

  6. Fun, Lakin! The Petaluma library has always been one of my favorites (after the old one in the Sonoma Square - my "first" library which was just a lovely old building ...)When you go visit the current library in Sonoma, take a drive around the plaza and the old one is on the West side. Worth a look-at.

    And, hey since you were on a Foster roll too bad this wasn't next summer and you could have added mine ... and had a Sett Foster on your list too. Keep Writing!

  7. thanks, Jane...I just finished my second review and am still loving it. Sorry that your county won't support a system. It only makes sense considering the the distances folks have to travel; it mores than quadruples the amount of accessable material.

    Doris...I'll definitely look for the old library; they're quite fascinating. I'm thinking Sonoma for next weekend.
    Yes! LOL another Foster! So looking forward to your pub date; want to know what that rascal Sett Foster has been up to.


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