Election Opinion South Orange

South Orange Library Board Asks Candidates ‘What’s Your Vision for Library?’

A request to each South Orange candidate from the South Orange Public Library Board:

One of the cornerstones of our community is the South Orange Public Library. It is the one institution used by people of all ages, all socio-economic groups, all backgrounds – used, in fact, for a vast array of purposes that help keep our community vibrant.  As our village has grown, the library has worked hard to meet its growing and evolving needs but the facilities have not kept up with the demand.  The Library Board obtained a grant ten years ago and, in partnership with Village government, developed a master plan which includes the current library building and the historic Connett building next door (1896/1930). We need to continue to move forward without further delay to the fruition of this plan.

It is essential to all of the volunteer members of the Library Board, and to the many Villagers who also recognize that the library adds value to not just their lives but to the rich fabric of South Orange, that this subject is publicly discussed by every Villager who is running for office. On behalf of the Library Board of Trustees and with recognition of the many who use and support this library, I would like to ask every candidate for Village President and Village Trustee what they believe the library’s role in our community is, and how they will work to support it.

Signed by Hildy Karp on behalf of the entire Board of Trustees of South Orange Public Library  [email protected]

The slate of Brown, Davis & Moore have responded with this video:

The following response is from the Your Voice, Our Village slate of Bob Zuckerman, Summer Jones and Donna Coallier:

Here is our response: Public libraries are treasured amenities for any municipality, and that’s certainly true here in South Orange as the public library plays an essential role in most of our lives. The need to renovate our library will be a major focus for us, as we know that the facility is outdated and not fully serving the needs of our population. Obviously, renovations will require significant funding, and to that end, we are all committed to working with the Library board and staff, the Library Foundation and the Friends of the SOPL on a plan and timeline to ensure that those renovations are made. 

As we see it, the library needs to be next on our capital expenditure list, once we finish the police station and the Baird recreation center. In particular, the Baird renovation will include beautiful new meeting space will in the short term relieve the library of some of the pressure it faces when groups are looking to host meetings. Our library is a vital hub for our community for people of all ages and backgrounds, but in particular for our seniors and our children. We would like to see the library take over the Connett building in addition to the space it already has. The roof of the Connett building has been beautifully restored but now the exterior and interior need a complete overhaul. South Orange received a $500,000 grant from the State for restoring the exterior, and these funds have been matched by the Village, so that’s the next step. After that is complete, we’ll move on to renovating both the current library and Connett’s interiors and then join the buildings together. Once complete, we will have the full-service modern library that South Orange so richly deserves!

As we think about renovating our Library and updating it to meet 21st century needs, we will emphasize an open dialogue with current and prospective library patrons – communicating the plans and other information about the library to the public as they unfold. The library survey recently asking users to identify their priorities and needs is a great start, but those survey results haven’t been shared with the public yet and may not consider broader needs beyond those of current patrons. The publicly and statutorily appointed experts on our Library Board, and the fabulous Friends and Foundation, will guide us as we absorb patron input and build out the plans.

As we stated earlier, books and the library hold a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to working with all of the library’s stakeholders on a plan to take our public library into the 21st century.

Village Green has reached out to the SOForward slate of Stacey Trimble-Borden, Edward Grossi and Matthew Wonski for a response and will update this story when it is received. 

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