Monday, March 20, 2017

The Great Library Adventure: A Journey Down NE 23rd Street!

When I first moved to Oklahoma City, I heard that Northeast 23rd street is not necessarily the best part of town. I have had a fairly grim image of that area of town and I've never made it over there.

Until now.

One of the aspects of The Great Library Adventure which I love is that I've been experiencing the different parts of Oklahoma City (and the surrounding towns). I love discovering the unique cultures, people, and environments that make this city. When I discovered that, on a 20+ mile stretch of NE 23rd street there are four libraries that can easily be accessed, I knew that I needed to make this journey.

I decided to begin my journey at Ralph Ellison Library, a stately building early on in the NE 23rd street adventure. 

As I walked up to the library, I was initially struck by how beautiful it was on the outside. Because the area is known for poverty and crime, I guess I was expecting something different-maybe bars over the windows? I guess that shows how narrow-minded my assumptions can be, and that I really need to stop being so judgmental. It took me a little while to find the actual entrance-I originally went to the back of the building, because it looked like a front entrance. After circling around, and asking a very nice woman at the bus stop on the sidewalk, I managed to find the door :)

I loved this library. I loved the huge windows, I loved the varied selection of books and movies. I loved the big chairs by the floor-length windows for reading, and the scattered chairs and tables for study.

I loved how many different areas there were, and the small, cute section for children (with some great board books!).

I also thought it was cool that there was a large Black History section. I'm sure it's because the library's namesake, Ralph Ellison, was a black author from Oklahoma City, and because this part of town has quite a few black people (at least that I could see-I was one of only two white people in the whole vicinity of the library). As I prepared to leave the library, I remarked to the librarian that I think this location is now one of my favorites in the MLS. I love the size, I love the books, and I love the people-every person I met was so kind! 

After jumping into my car, I began driving down NE 23rd street and watched the miles pass by until I reached Harrah. 

I actually drove straight past the library because the small building was overshadowed by larger structures nearby, so I quickly turned around and parked in the nearest available spot, which was right across from a feed store. Harrah, Oklahoma, y'all. 

After breathing in the fresh, small-town air, I walked into this small and charming library. 

The library was just slightly bigger than Wright library-the addition of a big workroom off to the side makes this one "larger" than Wright. What struck me the most about this small space was its charming character. There were several book displays, many advertisements for community-building events at the library (like a Pokemon club and family game nights), and there was a sweet little children's area. 

Overall, what I loved most about this library was that it just had character. The whole room was so homey and lovely! 

Then, I began driving back west on 23rd street, and stopped at the Choctaw Library. 

This library looked incredibly unassuming from the outside. Walking up, I thought it would be a fairly standard layout of a few bookshelves and a couple of meeting rooms. I was so wrong. Every time I turned, there was another little nook or exciting room or awesome display! 

I turned, and this little reading nook was cut out of the wall. So cute!

Immediately upon entering the library, there was a short, partial hallway to my left with glass artwork. There was a room specifically for using computers and printers. There were shelves upon shelves of books in the adult section, and as I walked along, bam! A small hallway leading into a room that had a teen section. Walking along the other side of the adult section, I discovered some chairs and desks along the perimeter. As I circled back towards the main desk in the library, I noticed a wall and a doorway, that led to a decent-sized children's area. I didn't go in, since children were swarming all over the place (I think there was some kind of program going on, since it was spring break), but it looked pretty neat! 

Sorry, Ralph Ellison Library-I think Choctaw has taken your place in my "favorite libraries" list. The architecture and layout were so awesome! 

Finally, I drove on down NE 23rd street to Nicoma Park Library, the final destination in my adventure that day. 

This library was small, as you can see. Upon entering, I was in a small entryway, where a random man was reading at a desk. To my right was a large community room, which looked like a fabulous place for events. To my left was the small room loaded with bookshelves and displays. Two librarians were chatting together, and one made a joking comment of, "When's he going to get a card?" in reference to my nine-month-old. Well, I was not aware that babies could get library cards, but these librarians set me straight and within a few minutes, I was filling out paperwork while Peter played in the children's area (a small nook on the edge of the room). The main librarian pulled out a couple toys as I wrote on the form, and we began talking. He seemed really familiar, and when he said "I'm usually not at this branch," I knew it: "You were at Wright Library recently!" I exclaimed. Suddenly, his eyes widened as as he said: "I remember you-are you still planning to visit all of the libraries?" No joke, that was an awesome moment. A random librarian not only remembered me, but he remembered my quirky mission. How cool is that?!?!?!

I thought it was neat that Nicoma Park's library had a couple of fun toys in the children's area, and that even though it was small, it seemed to have a nice selection of books. I thought it was really cool that there was a large community room, too. The library didn't seem to have as much unique character or flair for decorations as Harrah, but it was still cute. And, my son got his first library card there, so that gives it special importance in my life :) 

My Thoughts on These Experiences: 

I find it so mind-blowingly awesome that in a 20+ mile stretch down one street, four very different and unique libraries can all be found. I think that this adventurous morning taught me about why it's ridiculous to cling to preconceived ideas. Ever since I moved to OKC and heard about NE 23rd street, I've purposefully stayed away, fearful that even going over there would end horribly, as awful as that sounds. But, while I'm sure parts of NE 23rd street can be intimidating and scary, it is still populated by beautiful human beings, who were all made in the image and likeness of God (and, they were all extremely friendly!). I discovered that some of my favorite libraries are on NE 23rd street, and I am so very glad that I went to visit them!

According to my accounts, I only have 8 more libraries to visit in the MLS, so I'm sure I'll be able to complete this mission sooner than I initially expected to! I'm so excited to see those final locations! 


  1. This is the coolest adventure ever! So many libraries in your city!!!

  2. Glad you are making it to other places around the city! Have you been to the downtown library yet???

  3. I can't tell you how fun this is. I need to explore our local libraries.