What should a 21st century library look like in Maplewood?
That question will be examined over the next several years, as the Maplewood Library embarks on a plan to create a new, modern facility that will better serve residents.
“[We] propose a public/private partnership to fund and to build a 21st century library for the people of Maplewood,” said The Honorable Benjamin Cohen, president of the Maplewood Memorial Library Foundation, which was formed several years ago to raise funds to support the library.
Cohen, President of the Board of Trustees Kate McCaffrey, and Director Sarah Lester presented their plans to the Maplewood Township Committee on Monday. They estimate it will cost roughly $15 million to expand and reconfigure the library facilities, $3-5 million of which they hope to raise through private, foundation and corporate donors and the rest of which will come from public funds.
“I know that’s a lot of money,” said Cohen, “but this is an investment for the future of every citizen of Maplewood.” The foundation has already hired a grant writer to begin fundraising and are interviewing candidates to conduct a feasibility study to determine options for what can be built.
The study will cost $30,000 and the foundation has authorized a contribution of $15,000 toward it; they are seeking a $15,000 matching commitment from the town.
See the presentation attached here as a PDF.
The library is the heart of our community,” said McCaffrey. “We reach every demographic: young and old, black and white, professional and unemployed, student and senior, preliterate and bookworm.” She said 1,000 people walk through the library’s doors each day, and a whopping 80% of Maplewood residents have a library card (well above the national average).
“Maplewood residents love their library.”
From providing books to homebound elderly to bridging the digital divide, helping job seekers and hosting events of all kinds, the library serves the entire community. However, the buildings designed in the 50s no longer provide the infrastructure to provide 21st century materials. “We need a modern facility,” said McCaffrey.
Cohen, who recalled as a boy seeing the new Maplewood Memorial Library rise across the street from what was then the junior high, later followed by the construction of the Hilton branch, said the the current facilities were too small and antiquated for the needs of a modern library.
“Do it right, do it now, do it once for generations,” Cohen implored the town.
Lester explained that while the library had upgraded and expanded its technology, that has impinged on public areas and spaces for group and quiet study. She showed slides of new or renovated libraries from around the region that library personnel have toured, including the Stapleton Library on Staten Island, which she said has transformed that community. New or renovated libraries stimulate a town’s economic development and serve as a selling point for realtors, she said.
Lester said the plan was to take advantage of the Maplewood Library’s “incredible site” on Memorial Park and Maplecrest Park, and to engage with the natural surroundings.
Mayor Vic DeLuca asked if the plan was to renovate and reconfigure the current buildings or to construct new ones. Lester said they would rely on an expert to tell them what makes the most sense for the current site. The next step is to issue an RFQ (request for qualifications) for architectural services to design a conceptual plan, she said.
DeLuca asked Township Administrator Joseph Manning if the $15,000 to fund the study would be eligible as a capital grant in the 2016 budget; Manning said it would.
See Lester’s Powerpoint presentation here.