Wednesday, March 15, 2017

438 Northfield Public Library, Northfield, MN

I approached the library on a street parallel to the red-brick building you see to the left. I saw someone going up what looked like a lot of steps, which I wanted to avoid, so I made a left turn, parked on the hill, and guessed that I could find a more accessible entrance. I not only found the brand-new entrance I wanted, but I also spotted many examples of "sidewalk poetry," short poems embossed into the concrete of the new sidewalks.

Here you can see the original Carnegie building to the left and the new glass atrium on the right.

The Northfield library has roots that go back to the 1850s. In the 1890s funds were approved for a tax-supported public library, and in 1910 a Carnegie endowment funded the first library building on the present site. Through a major remodeling project in 1985 and another finished just months before my visit, the original building has maintained its "Carnegie look." The 1985 project added the brick structure shown at the right here, and the most recent project added the glass atrium.

Alcoves like the one shown here look out on historic Northfield.

As I understand it, the children's area now fills the entire first level of the 1985 addition; it formerly shared space with some of the adult collection, which is now upstairs. This tall, red, triangular display for kids' periodicals is unusual and eye-catching. To the right in the picture below you can see part of the photocopier and the beginning of a row of four computers for kids to use.

The preschool crowd has a complete housekeeping corner and a generous collection of picture books, many more than are shown here.

Shift the point of view a bit to the right and you find "community services" to complement the housekeeping corner, with a versatile "shop," a mail box, and a child-height chalk board.

Back to the atrium. Before I head upstairs, I have to mention the drinking fountains. A sign says that the fountain will come on in five seconds, and sure enough--stand near it for that brief time, and there's the water! I've never seen fountains like this!

The upper level of the atrium holds this pleasant reading area and the periodical collection. I wish the picture were not so over-exposed, but I can't complain about the bright sunny day outside!

This is one corner of the original Carnegie building...

...and this is another view.

This meeting room holds historic books and what I expect is part of the original Carnegie signage. Nearby is the original exit, which now leads to a semi-circular reading patio (seasonally).

The rest of the upper level, not pictured, holds the adult collection of fiction, non-fiction, media, and so forth. Sixteen computers area available. In front of banks of windows there are broad shelves that serve as tables for study or laptop use. The picture below shows another view, from the lower part of the parking lot.

There is so much more I could say. Several staff members were generous with their time, telling me far more than I captured in my notes. After the 2016 State Fair, this library was named by WCCO as the "best in Minnesota," and I'm not going to argue with that assessment. I left after buying a sturdy library totebag and a copy of  "The Enduring Thing We Do Today...," a history of the Northfield Public Library 1898-2016 by Bruce William Colwell. I've barely dipped into this book yet, but my first forays suggest that it is well written and will be an enjoyable read; it's on the "to be read soon" pile!


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