South Orange Public Library Receives $6.5 Million State Grant for Major Renovation and Addition

by The Village Green
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From the South Orange Public Library:

The South Orange Public Library has been selected to receive $6.5 million in funding from the State’s $125 million Library Construction Bond Act (LCBA). Governor Murphy is expected to sign A-6148 — the second and final round of funding from the Bond Act — into law.  South Orange’s grant is the largest in this round and the fourth largest awarded overall through the Bond Act. The State grant requires a 1:1 match by the Village of South Orange. Additional funds will be raised from the community. 

New Jersey State Senator Richard J. Codey weighed in on the importance of the project, “I was lucky to grow up being encouraged to use the library, and I’m happy to be able to help make sure that South Orange has a modern facility to meet the needs of the community. Public Libraries go far beyond just books and are amazing resources for residents no matter their age or interests.”

The capital project will transform the library’s overall functionality by rehabilitating and returning to use the original 19th-century library known as the Connett building; renovating the current library (built in 1968); and connecting the two with a glass addition that will serve as a circulation core and accessible main entrance. 

“I am thrilled that the South Orange Public Library has been selected for funding, and so proud of the library’s board for putting together such a strong capital project and proposal. Once the bill is approved by the legislature, it will go to the Governor’s desk for him to sign,” said NJ State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. 

“We are grateful for the legislature’s and Governor Murphy’s visionary support for libraries across the state. On behalf of the entire South Orange community, I thank them for supporting our transformative project. The South Orange Public Library is central to our community’s vitality. Investing in it now will generate significant benefits for decades to come,” said South Orange Village President Sheena Collum.

The project will increase the library’s square footage by 44% and dramatically improve accessibility and overall user experience. Meeting and study space, which is currently limited to one multipurpose room, will grow by 400% and include small study rooms, reading rooms and conference rooms. The ground floor of the 1968 building will be reconfigured to significantly expand children’s services, which are in high demand but limited by lack of space.

“The South Orange Public Library is a vital part of our community, and we in the Legislature are proud to have secured the necessary funding to ensure the library meets the needs of the residents for the 21st century. This funding will ensure that for generations to come they are able to enjoy the public library,” added NJ State Assemblyman John McKeon.

“So many of us have been hoping, working and planning for this day for a long time. Securing the State’s support is a game-changer that will enable us to create a truly 21st century library while returning the historic Connett Building to community use,” said Village Trustee Karen Hilton who is also a Foundation for the South Orange Public Library trustee. 

Planning and design will begin shortly after the contract is issued by the State. Groundbreaking is anticipated for late fall 2022. Exterior preservation work has already begun on the Connett building with separate funding from Essex County and the NJ Historic Trust that was matched by the Village. 

“We could not have secured this grant without the support of the South Orange Village trustees and administration, who have been behind the project from the start. Library staff, the library boards, and volunteers have all worked so hard to make this happen. It’s incredibly rewarding,” said South Orange Public Library board president Hildy Karp.

“I’m looking forward to creating a dynamic and welcoming community center that will serve and inspire generations of life-long learners. I am so thankful to the citizens and Village of South Orange, and the State, for providing this opportunity to transform our library to better meet our mission. The new and reconfigured space will provide an accessible and appealing informational, educational, and cultural hub to all residents,” said South Orange Public Library Director Jill Faherty.

More information about the South Orange Public Library is available at www.SOPL.org.

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