More than 175 people filled the main room at Maplewood Town Hall on October 1, 2022 for something a little out of the ordinary — an indoor groundbreaking ceremony for the $20 million-plus expansion of the main branch of the Maplewood Library.
The ceremony was moved inside and across the park due to blustery weather caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ian.
The event started with the Deputy Mayor Vic DeLuca introducing the Maplewood Middle School Select Chorus which opened the ceremony with two songs.
“Libraries are more than physical spaces with stacks and books. They’ve been where we went to grow. It is where I learned to read and speak English alongside my immigrant mother. It is where I learned about other people like me. It is where communities have always been built, where community has moved forward,” said Mayor Dean Dafis, “I’m truly proud and thankful that all of us are gathered here today as a community to bring and move our library forward.”
Dr. Katherine McCaffrey, President of the Maplewood Memorial Library Board of Trustees spoke about the importance of libraries. “Citizenship requires a literate and informed public. We honor the professionalism and confidence of our library staff to curate a wide range of material that serves the public interest. In a time of polarization, we welcome everyone in an era of misinformation, we provide information. In an increasingly privatized world, our library is among the last free speech free spaces.”
Robert Marchman, vice-president of the Board of Trustees, spoke about the benefits to the community of diversity, equity inclusion and how the Fay P. and Robert A. Marchman Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund will help the library further these goals by ensuring all members of the community. are on a “journey of enlightenment. My wife and I have been in this community for 30 years and we have seen how we’ve benefited all. So it’s our way of just saying thank you and helping to ensure that our community continues to be a beacon of light…We hope others will join and understand that this is the way forward.”
Sarah Lester, Director of the Maplewood Library, spoke next. “This is an incredibly beautiful town. This is an incredibly creative community and it’s so inspiring in so many ways and I really had a vision that such an inspirational community, you deserved an inspirational library. And so I’m so pleased that we had the foresight and the will to move forward with this vision.”
State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey presented Lester and McCaffrey with a state resolution. “These libraries are just incredibly important to us. Those of you know me, know that my mom will be 98 next month. She loves the library. She was always there. It’s difficult for her to get out now, but they still provide books for her whenever she asks and that is that’s a service.” Jasey continued, “I will never forget and I really appreciate, our whole family appreciates it. Also with seven grandchildren in the area, they love the library too. I mean, the library is really in many ways, the soul of the community.”
After the speeches, it was time to open the time capsule placed in the current library in 1955 just prior to its grand opening. The small lead box contained newspapers, a library card, a town survey, a list of donors that contributed, and photographs of the 1955 ground breaking, among other artifacts — all of which will be on display to the public soon and will be catalogued.
The opening of the new library is planned for winter 2024.
Final plans for the $20 million renovation and expansion of the library branch were presented by Sage & Coombe Architects at a March 22 town hall. Architectural plans reveal a “light infused, technologically updated, LEED-certified building that encourages both quiet study and interaction, life-long learning and innovation while offering something for every member of our community.”
The Township is covering $12 million for the library renovations, with the state of New Jersey providing a $8 million grant. Those who wish to support the library and its renovation can donate here.
Adult services for the Maplewood Library have temporarily been relocated to 129 Boyden Ave, adjacent to the pool parking lot. Children and teen services can be found at the Hilton Branch at 1688 Springfield Avenue.
Read more about the library expansion here:
- UPDATE: Library Board Awards $16.8M Contract for Maplewood Memorial Library Construction, July 7, 2022
- VIDEO, PHOTOS–Final Designs for Maplewood Main Library Branch Unveiled, March 24, 2022
- Maplewood Library Gets Township Committee’s OK on $12 Million for Renovations, February 17, 2021
- Maplewood Library Proposed to Receive $8.3M From State Construction Bond Act, November 7, 2022