Friday, March 3, 2017


Architects hired to plan an estimated $15 million renovation of the Maplewood library have come up with three general approaches for the improvements, which are now expected to be a major project in 2018.

During a special meeting before the Township Committee Thursday night at the main library, designers from Sage and Coombe of New York City said the three general options seem to be:

1. Adding a second floor to the current main library along with other improvements.
2. Or replacing the newest addition, located on the south end, which was added in 1969.
3. Or demolishing the entire building and constructing a new library from scratch.

"There are a lot of restraints," said Jennifer Sage, one of the lead architects on the project. "It is not a big site ... the footprint of the library will not change that much."

The general plan is to add at least 15,000 square feet to the location, but no specific plans have been created.

Original library dedication in 1955
The current library, which opened in 1955, is seen as too small for the many uses that now go beyond just books and research materials, to meeting spaces, wireless and internet access, and even art displays and performances.

Sage offered some data that indicates most residents use the library more than in the past and for many more reasons.

She revealed that:

* 15% of Maplewood homes do not have internet access. Residents engage in 180 public computer sessions daily at the libraries, 56,932 in 2016 and 165 wireless connections each day, 51,840 in 2016.

* About 100 new library cards are registered each month.

* In 1969, when the last renovation expansion was done, there were 11,276 cardholders in town, about 45% of the population. Today there are 20,014, or 84%.

*The volume of material has grown from 36,300 items in 1955, when the main branch opened, to 60,550 in 1969, when the last addition was done, to 95,160 today.

See part of Sage's presentation to the TC below:

Prior to the discussion, Library Director Sarah Lester took the TC and members of the library board on a tour of the main branch, noting where it has some water damage and limited storage and access. She also pointed out that the original library building had a rear door that allowed better access in and out of Memorial Park, something they wish to bring back.

The Township will continue to gain input from residents with plans for a public meeting on March 14. Efforts are also underway to study how best to raise funds for the library renovation, which will also include Township money, but will hopefully be supplemented with as much private funding as possible.

Sarah Lester
One of the concerns raised at the meeting is how residents will use library services during the renovation, which could mean months of shutdown of the main branch. Lester pointed out that all Maplewood library cardholders have reciprocity with 77 other libraries in New Jersey throgh the BCCLS program.

She also said that the Hilton Library will be open and they are researching the use of other public buildings and schools for some programs. More specific design plans are expected to be put forth by the architects in July. But the demolition and construction will not occur until next year.

"This is going to capture most of the oxygen in 2018," Mayor Vic Deluca said.

Stay tuned!

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