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Northville Public Library celebrates 20th anniversary in current location

Julie Herrin, Library Director
Julie Herrin, library director, says the future of the library will be the creation of knowledge rather than the curation of knowledge.
The Northville Public Library hosted an open house on Sunday, Oct. 16, to celebrate the 20th anniversary at its current location. The event featured a scavenger hunt, a magician, face-painting and tattoos, balloon artists, crafts, and entertainment by the Northville High School Backbeat and Treblemakers Singers.

The library is elegantly situated at 212 W. Cady St., behind the Community Center and City Hall, and across from the Art House. Twenty years ago, the site was green space. Some of that green space still remains, with towering trees. The library has become a downtown institution, with easy access for patrons and visitors.

That includes seniors who attend classes at the Community Center, then stop at the library to check out books and music or learn how to use the computer. Many people shop or dine downtown before or after visiting the library. It’s a favorite for families with young children who feast their senses on books and toys. For teens and college students, it’s their place for doing research and homework, often with study buddies. Business owners and professionals who need facts and statistics before making big decisions go to the library – in person or online – to glean information from magazines, databases and journals.

Children's section
The Children’s section of the library is a popular spot.
“We like to think we are a place for continuing education for all people,” said Julie Herrin, library director since the building opened in 1996. “We offer self-directed learning, provide computers for people looking for a job, and have the services and technology for digital learning.”

It’s a one-stop resource for books, music and digital resources that stir imaginations and provide information. The physical structure is both architecturally pleasing and artistically creative. Well positioned windows offer views of green space and neighboring buildings. Visitors who stand on the stairwell and look up into the 54-foot clerestory see a delightful fiber sculpture that straddles the skylight, with mesh panels that glimmer in the sunlight.

The artwork is embellished with ancient and modern letters to suggest information. It’s the work of artist Gerhardt Knodel, who says his piece, “Skydance at the Western Gate,” represents the ancient Silk Road that carried goods and ideas between China and Rome and points in between. His art reminds visitors that when people meet, ideas grow. Also, by exchanging information – similar to trading goods – people gain exposure to a world beyond their own sphere.

The library serves both the city of Northville and township, made official with a resolution passed by voters in 1994. The subsequent increase in funding went toward constructing a new building. In the previous years, the library was housed in six different locations, the first being the church that now resides at Mill Race Village and the last being the space at City Hall that the police department occupies. A display in the library lobby portrays the past, present and future of the library.

The library was a crown jewel for the city and township when it opened on Oct. 6, 1996 at its current location. “It came out beautiful and it’s still beautiful,” said Herrin. “We had cassettes then, now we have e-books and streaming video.”

While circulation of books and other items has dropped off – now at 500,000 annually, the downloading of materials, such as video games, books and magazines, has soared.

Julie Herrin, Library Director
Skydance at the Western Gate, designed by artist Gerhardt Knodel, also has mesh banners flowing vertically (not pictured).
The library hosts 300 programs annually, from story times for tots to lectures on architecture and history lessons from two World Wars. Librarians are trained not only in traditional programs but also in the use of technology, so they can teach others. The library offers one-on-one computer tutoring and shows people how to use electronic notebooks and smart phones too. There are classes on digital programs, including how to use facebook and Skype.

What does the future hold for the library? Based on a survey and consultant-led planning study, there will be more places to sit, study and collaborate in the 25,000 ft2 building. There will be more resources available for download. The WiFi at the library makes it a popular place to study or surf the web, and that will continue.

“The Iibrary will become a place for learning and collaboration. It is a welcoming place, where people can get information and have people guide them in the use of that information,” Herrin said.

“It’s the creation of knowledge rather than the curation of knowledge that is the future of libraries,” she added. “That means that patrons can take information from the library and apply it to a project or collaborative effort to build or create something that didn’t exist before.”

A Northville library card gives the owner access to libraries at 54 cities in southeast Michigan and in Livingston County - a network that offers reciprocal borrowing and returning of books and other items. The library also has partnerships with other organizations that benefit patrons, such as use of the 3-D printer at the Village Workshop and half-off the programs it offers.



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