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Library Director, Natalie Draper, invites readers to the new library oasis location in the NCRC

Library to Create ‘Oasis’ on City’s South Side

November 18, 2022

Angelica Linder loves to make people feel welcome at the Northfield Public Library. But she’s
learned during the past five years as the library’s outreach coordinator, and her twenty years of
living in Northfield, that the downtown location does not meet the needs of everyone in the

Getting to the library when it’s open can be challenging for people who work multiple jobs or
lack transportation. And although the library has added staff who are bilingual in English and
Spanish – including Linder – language can be a barrier to understanding all that the library has to offer. So when Library Director Natalie Draper proposed creating a “Library Oasis” within the city-owned Northfield Community Resource Center (NCRC), Linder was on board.

“The library is not just about books; we have technology services, printing and computers, space to hang out, and programming,” Linder said. “The Oasis spot was picked intentionally, and I see it as an access point for the library to become truly accessible.”

The Library Oasis will be located on the first floor of the NCRC in a frequently used pass-
through space that connects the Community Action Center lobby with the Head Start wing. It’s
down the hall or down the stairs from other community services and organizations in the
building, including FiftyNorth, Healthy Community Initiative, and the Northfield Community
College Collaborative (NCCC). It’s also within walking distance of Bridgewater Elementary
School, Northfield High School, and Northfield Middle School, and the surrounding

“It will be easy for these families to walk, bike, and scooter to the Oasis to get the services they
need,” Linder said.

The Library Oasis will have shelves filled with books for all ages; comfy chairs and tables; a
laptop bar with two to three computers and a printer/scanner and fax machine; free Wifi; and a
self-checkout kiosk. It will be staffed by library employees when the building is open for other
services, such as evenings when students are attending in-person classes at the NCCC.

Draper, who became library director in February 2021, said she spent time observing how people already used the space and its current furnishings, and she discovered that it already functioned much like the downtown library. People would often sit at the tables and work on their laptops, and kids would play with toys and look at children’s books.

One wall of the space is mostly windows, with a door that opens into a courtyard. Draper
envisions creating a patio on the other side of the windows, where library staff could hold story
time events and people could sit and read in Adirondack chairs. She’d like to commission an
artist or artists to create a whimsical mural on another wall that would visually unite the indoor
and outdoor spaces.

“There’s an opportunity to have this be almost a four-season space, like the downtown library’s
atrium, where people can soak up vitamin D and not be in a hurry. Spaces like that are vital for
community,” she said.

In October, the library installed a book drop-off bin outside the main entrance to the NCRC, and people have already been using it, instead of making the trek to the downtown location. Draper eventually would like to install a secure locker outside the entrance that would allow people to pick up books and materials they’d requested, any time of day or night, by swiping their library cards.

To make the plans become reality, the Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library
(FFNPL) kicked off a three-year, $100,000 capital fundraising campaign last week on Give to
the Max Day. The group hopes to raise the first $30,000 by the end of 2022, and any donations
made before Dec. 31 will help secure a $10,000 matching grant.

Bill North, vice chair of FFNPL, praised the library staff for continuing to serve the community
in creative and innovative ways throughout the pandemic. He said the library has been
committed to neighborhood outreach for many years, with efforts like the Bookmobile and the
BookBike, and the addition of bilingual staff members, and the Oasis project takes it a step

“It feels like we’re at the right moment, where a variety of things have come together, including
the city’s acquisition of the NCRC building,” North said. “The idea of having a library presence
in the southern part of the city is really exciting.”

The Oasis will be completed in phases as funding goals are met, with final completion planned
for spring 2024. To read more details and see photos of the space, click here.
To donate to the project, click here.

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