Arts & Culture Government Maplewood

$22M Vision for Maplewood Library Is a Wow; Next Comes Fundraising With Ken Burns

Teen Reading Room

The Maplewood Library is serious about being the library for the future.

On Monday night, Sage and Coombe Architects, the firm hired by the Maplewood Library Board of Trustees after a rigorous selection process to offer a re-design for the main library branch on Baker Street, presented their conceptual design to the public. (Scroll down for embedded presentation slides.)

The public was wowed.

The main library — which was constructed in 1955 and last expanded in 1969 — is proposed to go from 24,973 sf to 33,177 sf — mostly by growing upward.

The expansion is long overdue as the card membership at the library has nearly doubled and the library has become the center of wifi access (15% of Maplewood families do not have internet access at home), job training workshops, lectures, ESL classes, early literacy programs and more for the community. In addition, as Sage and Coombe, pointed out, books and the need for storage are not going away anytime soon even as the library has kept pace with and embraced technological change and advances.

The newly imagined library will take advantage of its beautiful park setting with a new daytime entrance and windows that face onto historic Memorial Park — as well as an outdoor reading terrace on the new second floor.

The redesign features a lot of “more”: More meeting rooms, more assembly space, more lounge seating, more group work tables, more study carrels, more computer stations. It also boasts brand new features like that park entrance, the reading terrace, a children’s program room, and maker space. There were will a dedicated teen reading room and a dedicated adult reading room. These features were identified in extensive meetings with community groups, including a public design charrette in April.

The costs are real. While construction is projected at $18 million and change, soft costs such as bond interest bring the total projected cost to $22,449,472.

Who’s going to pay?

The plan is for 45% to come from the State of New Jersey, 45% from the Township of Maplewood and 10% from fundraising/private sector.

Regarding the state aid, this November, New Jersey voters will have the opportunity to approve a bond issue to raise $125 million for library capital projects. The Maplewood Library is looking to have  “shovel-ready” project in order to compete for that grant money (South Orange Public Library also is eying that potential pot.)

In addition, the library board will be looking at good old-fashioned fundraising. Details will be available next week about an event in December featuring Ken Burns. Stay tuned!

What’s the timeline?

Construction documents are being prepared this fall with an eye to applying for the state grant as soon as the referendum is (hopefully) approved. The Township Committee will need to approve the project this winter. The main  library would then close for construction sometime in 2018 through 2019 and reopening in 2020. In the meantime, the Hilton Branch would expand services and other town buildings would absorb programming.

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