Sights with Sami

Currents Editor Sami West finds home among the books in L.E. Phillips Memorial

More stories from Sami West

Sights with Sami

A place filled with books of all kinds, quirky local characters, killer views of downtown Eau Claire and a place to study, all for free?

A couple days ago, I would’ve told you this place doesn’t exist. I would’ve probably asked you, “What place could possibly have so many of my favorite things?”

But alas, it’s possible. This place does exist, and it was right under my nose for a long time.

While aimlessly driving around downtown late Monday afternoon in search of something (really, anything) to do, I found a place that offers all those things I mentioned previously: L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, 400 Eau Claire St.

Although I have been inside the library on one other occasion for a reading, I did not explore the building in its entirety.

To sum it up quite simply: it’s beautiful.

There are massive windows on the second floor offering astounding views of the Chippewa River off in the distance, cute old buildings nearby, the newly blooming trees surrounding the library and gorgeous blue skies dotted with perfect fluffy white clouds one would expect to see on a perfect spring day in Wisconsin.

White walls are adorned with paintings and other various artworks. There’s even a small gallery on the second floor.

Imagine all that, plus tables and comfy chairs conveniently located nearby, ideal for any study session, especially pertinent as finals week is fast approaching.

Plus, there are books virtually surrounding you. As a self-confessed book nerd and English major who prefers to spend her days with her nose in a perfectly smelly old book, nothing sounds more superb.

These books, might I add, are of all different genres, sizes, ages and subject matters.

Though this may sound daunting and almost overwhelming (I often feel this way in cluttered libraries), I promise you, it wasn’t.

Everything was separated by nonfiction and fiction and also according to their genres and author.

I felt confident I was capable of finding anything I was in search of. And even if I didn’t, there were extremely friendly staff members near the front of the building with signs stating they’d love to help.

All this, for free.

If you’re a fellow Blugold, you’re most likely thinking something along the lines of, “Why would I go to this library when I could go to McIntyre Library on campus?”

First of all, I’ll tell you that the L.E. Phillips Public Library certainly has prettier views.

Secondly and more importantly, there’s this: it is a change of scenery. It’s completely different.

You’re off campus and the people around you are not fellow college students who are probably going to the library in search of a quiet, convenient place to cram.

Before coming to college, I could probably count on my fingers the amount of times I really utilized a public library. After all, I bought most of my books and I preferred to read from the comfort of my own home. Why would I bother with the library?

But what I realized on Monday is you don’t go to the library for the books (though free books, CDs, magazines, newspapers and DVDs are definitely appealing). You go for the atmosphere. You go for the people.

It’s nice to get off campus and see different kinds of people.

I certainly ran into some quirky local characters, young and old, at the library. Most seemed friendly and, to be quite honest, other individuals I saw were actually slightly terrifying.

But this was the charm of the library. It’s a place all different community members coming from entirely different walks of life can come in the search of a good book. I love that.

Needless to say, I was inspired to sign up for a library card during my visit.

With finals and a summer in Eau Claire quickly approaching, I think I’ve officially found my new place in Eau Claire.