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LE MARS, Iowa | Norah Rogge, 2, of Omaha, placed a baby doll she nicknamed "Popcorn" onto the engineer's seat of a colorful train located inside the children's room of the newly renovated Le Mars Public Library.

"Norah has always loved choo-choo train," Brad Johnson, of Le Mars, explained as his granddaughter assigned herself a passenger seat. "That's for sure."

Le Mars Public Library director Shirley Taylor smiled as kids spent part of their holiday break, Thursday, reading books, playing computer games and assembling cutouts on a magnetic wall that was meant to mimic the Plymouth County town's downtown Alley Art project.

"The new, hands-on children's section is probably my favorite part of the library," she said. "You can see it is always getting a lot of usage."

According to Taylor, creating a more user-friendly space was the major goal for renovating a building that's been home to the library for more than 40 years.

"We knew we weren't going to be adding much extra space onto the building," she explained. "We had to be smarter when it came to the layout of the library."

Initially, beginning in April, the renovation of the one-time Red Owl grocery store required the library to temporarily move to the Eagles Club, which is across its 46 First St. SW location.

"We were able to officially move back in on Dec. 20," Taylor said. "The response from out patrons has been incredibly positive."

Some of the innovations have included moving large-print books to the front of the library, creating banquette seating in the young adult section, and installing some shelving in which the front of books are visible for browsing patrons.

"You can tell more about a book from its cover than from its spine," Taylor explained. "This is especially true for children's books."

Indeed, Natalie Rapp, an 18-month-old from Le Mars, loves it whenever her dad reads from a book entitled "Fidgety Fish."

"Natalie loves being read stories," Nicholas Rapp explained while reading a book with a big fish on the cover. "She especially enjoys stories about animals."

Apparently, Natalie also enjoys eating the imaginary ice cream cones dished out by Norah Rogge from inside a mini Blue Bunny truck.

"The ice cream truck was a gift from (Wells Enterprises') Mike and Cheryl Wells," Taylor explained. "It has been a big hit with kids."

It might also be said that the Blue Bunny ice cream truck is just as popular with people who are kids at heart.

"Norah wanted me in the ice cream truck with her," Johnson said, assisting his granddaughter with a toy cappuccino maker. "I guess she's calling the shots right now."

As she walked through the library, Taylor said the building's high ceilings have always given it an expansive look. Constructing more windows into the property gives it a light, airy feel.

"When people first walk in, they say the library looks so much bigger than it was before," she said, shaking her head. "Outside of some expansion to the front of the building, the size hasn't changed that much."

Still, the renovations will be enjoyed by Le Mars Public Library patrons for many years to come.  

"We want this library to be accessible to everyone, from our oldest to our youngest patrons," Taylor said. "This renovation will go a long way to making that happen."


Food and Lifestyles reporter

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