Northfield’s Carnegie Library has preserved its turn-of-the-20th century look, with oak paneling and heavy tables in the reading room. While the art is modern, visitors certainly have something of the earlier experience. Andrew Carnegie‘s foundation supported the construction of thousands of libraries, but he did not leave their design to chance. He wanted people to climb a flight of stairs to the door, and the interior to have wood paneling and furnishings to elevate the mind to the dignity and power of the ideas contained between the covers of the books. I was delighted to have to the chance to visit the library this week and see this reading room for myself.
The library is built on a hill just a block from the main street in Northfield. The original front door is not in use – Andrew Carnegie’s desire for people to climb into this temple of knowledge excludes people with disabilities and old age. It presents its historic facade to the street; the main door is now around the corner, accessed by a ramp.
Northfield’s library directors have also succeeded in making it a hub of activity. The day I stopped by, parents were hauling baskets filled with books chosen by their young children, job seekers were working with computers, people of all ages were reading news papers and browsing books. Carnegie certainly fulfilled his goal of “doing real and permanent good in the world” with this one!