South Orange library board selects architect for library modernization

Photo Courtesy of Jill Faherty
There are plans for the Connett Building, which is part of the South Orange Public Library complex, to be connected via a link to the currently operating library.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Public Library’s quest for a transformative makeover of the current facility is gaining speed. Library trustees voted unanimously on Sept. 20 to engage the award-winning New York City–based firm Andrew Berman Architect. 

According to the library, the design process will begin immediately and is expected to move swiftly as extensive planning, including considerable public input, has already taken place. The firm will be charged with improving accessibility, functionality, sustainability and adaptability, while inspiring patrons with a dynamic, future-oriented design. Design development should be complete by spring 2023.

“Andrew Berman stood out for his ability to create inspiring design solutions for complex institutional programs and sites,” library board President Hildy Karp said. “The firm easily met all our criteria, including having vast library experience and a record of exceeding client expectations.” 

Berman is already familiar with the village and the library, having spent his middle and high school years in South Orange. 

“I still remember looking through every art book on the shelves and borrowing LP records,” Berman said about the library. “Through design, the significance of the library should be able to be felt more emphatically in the local context of the village. … The reimagined library should be accessible, welcoming, and foster a desire to discover and self-navigate.” 

The library trustees selected Berman following a competitive review process conducted by a nine-member building advisory committee composed of library board members, library Director Jill Faherty, village trustees, village staff and three architect volunteers from the community. The committee was unanimous in its recommendation to the library board. 

“The reimagining of the library will be a gamechanger for the programming, services and spaces we are able to offer our patrons,” Faherty said. “Everyone in South Orange will want to see and be seen at the library. We cannot wait to get started!” 

With a projected price tag of $14 million to $17.5 million, the project became feasible only once SOPL secured a $6.5 million grant from the state in January. Village leadership committed to match the state grant for a total of up to $16.5 million. Additional funds will be raised by the Foundation for the South Orange Public Library, with ongoing support for collections and programs from the Friends of the South Orange Public Library. 

“The library is destined to become the civic and cultural centerpiece of a newly thriving downtown. We’ve been working on this for quite a while. I am confident that in Andrew Berman Architect we have selected the perfect team for the job,” said South Orange Trustee Karen Hartshorn Hilton, who is also a director on the Foundation for the South Orange Public Library’s board.

This project is supported by funds from the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, administered by the New Jersey State Library.