GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Glen Ridge Public Library has applied for a grant through the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, which was passed by New Jersey voters in November 2017 to support public libraries providing modern and technologically efficient library facilities. The act, which authorized $125 million in state bonds, will provide funding for projects such as ADA accessibility, major building renovations and rehabilitation, and new construction projects. The grant will provide up to a 50 percent match for these projects.
During the past year and a half, the Glen Ridge Library board of trustees has worked with the architectural firm Daniel Kopec Architectural Design to develop plans and a project for submission for the grant. The project, which focuses on adding programming and meeting areas, a four- to six-person private study room, an ADA-compliant unisex public bathroom and water-bottle filling station, and an external pickup locker system for library materials was heavily based on feedback from the community throughout the 2019 strategic planning process. Survey results from the community showed the high desire for more programs, which require more meeting spaces and the lockers, which would allow 24/7 access to requested material — ideal for Glen Ridge’s large commuter population.
“In 2019, the library hosted 600 programs with over 12,000 attendees,” library Director Jennifer Breuer said. “With only one meeting room that cannot fit more than 20 people, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the demand and the average number of attendees at our programs. We often have to use areas not intended for programming, such as the children’s fiction area, Town Council chambers or the main reading room. Having more space and a larger meeting area is critical in order to provide the programs that our community wants. We also recognize the need to offer meeting areas for the groups in town who often request the use of our meeting room.”
The lockers would be located in front of the library in an aesthetically pleasing housing, which has already been reviewed by the Glen Ridge Historic Preservation Commission.
“We would be one of the first libraries in New Jersey to offer this service. We really believe it is essential to meet the needs of an underserved population like our commuters. They’re the ones who don’t always get to the library but still want to take advantage of our resources,” Breuer said, adding that the additional bathroom will also come in handy. “Last year, 140,000 people passed through the library and having only one restroom is problematic. We are pleased our architect was able to identify an area to put another restroom near the current one.”
The larger meeting space would be located on the third floor in the young-adult area. The Technical Services Office will be relocated and that space will be renovated into more public space and a private study room for four to six people. In addition, the current shelving in that area would be retrofitted with casters so it can be moved to make room for a programming area to accommodate 60 people.
“The overall goal of the plan is to use current spaces more effectively and efficiently,” Breuer said.
According to Breuer, the project put forth is nearly half the cost of the original plan.
“At first, we were looking at adding an addition but realized that we could do it much more cost-effectively and not have to change the footprint of the historic library building,” Breuer said, adding that the estimated cost of the project is $626,740, but the grant will match up to 50 percent of the project cost. “We have requested a grant sum of $313,370.”
The borough will be funding the rest of the project’s cost through a municipal bond that was approved in September 2019; the library will also receive financial support from Friends of the Glen Ridge Library.
“We will only go forth with the entire project if we receive the grant funds. That was our agreement with the borough,” Breuer said. “We are really satisfied with the plan developed by DKAD. It provides flexibility, meets all of our needs, and does not affect the integrity of our beautiful library. Dan Kopec has been tremendous throughout this process and the board and I have enjoyed working with him immensely.”
Grant awards are expected to be announced in the fall and, if awarded, the library plans to start work right away.