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North Hills Monthly

Northland Library Building All-inclusive Learning Garden

Nov 30, 2017 01:20PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

Despite the fact that it’s winter, Northland Public Library Foundation is focused on this upcoming summer as they conclude their capital campaign to build an outdoor educational space, the Learning Garden at Northland. The garden is a planned, open-air setting offering programs for all ages and abilities that will be located on the lawn outside the doors of the children’s department.

“Libraries have long been gathering spaces, and more and more these days, they’ve been centers of community activity,” said Valerie Golik, director of the Northland Public Library Foundation. “In particular in the last 10 years, there’s been a need for increased STEAM programming that is difficult to meet when you don’t have an outdoor space.”

The plan is to terrace the space with Versa-Lok walls and install fencing, raised beds, landscaping and a covered pavilion. An outdoor storage shed will be built to house materials. The extra area for outdoor programming for both children and adults will be welcome on the grounds of a facility that has over 200,000 physical items in its collection but limited indoor storage space.

Future outdoor activities may include composting classes for adults or planting activities for children. “The idea is to create a space that is flexible in use but with features that are permanent, such as fencing and a pavilion,” said Golik.

The 20x20 pavilion will allow programs to happen despite blazing sun or drizzly days. Northland also plans to install native plantings around the inside perimeter offering additional programming opportunities.

One important feature of the Learning Garden is that it will be fully inclusive as it will be accessible to individuals with disabilities and will accommodate those with sensory processing issues. For example, children who have autism may at times need more or less stimulation. The Learning Garden will contain elements that will provide different levels of sensory stimulation, such as wind chimes, water features and plants of varying textures and smells.

Golik explained that the plan is to install between four and eight landscaped sensory nooks among the greenery along the perimeter. Each will be its own microenvironment and will feature different plants and benches. One bench might be colorful, while another will be monochromatic. Similarly, the plantings around one nook might be bright while another might display shades of green.

“This part is so exciting,” said Golik. “We haven’t seen anything like these landscaped sensory nooks anywhere in the country that we know of, with elements that allow for inclusion of this underserved population with sensory processing issues.”

Though the projected build time is only two months once ground is broken, the project cannot move forward without the requisite funding. Estimated to cost $250,000, the goal is to raise half or more from private or corporate donations, with the foundation providing the balance.

As of this printing, the foundation has raised over $60,000 in cash and pledges. Previous efforts at fundraising have been successful, including netting $13,000 at last spring’s inaugural Garden Gala; the 2018 gala will be held Sat., April 21.

A walkway laden with engraved paver bricks will extend from the children’s library door to the pavilion. The $150 paver bricks are important to the fundraising efforts, offering a way for individuals and families to honor loved ones or display their support.

Despite the beautification of the area, Golik maintains that it will not be a park but an educational space. “Libraries are educational institutions, and we want to stay close to that mission,” she said.

For more information, visit or contact Valerie Golik at 412-366-8100 x104.