Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Libraries Have Wish Lists for $125M in State Funds

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Libraries Have Wish Lists for $125M in State Funds

Article excerpt

When the public library was placed above the Wallington Department of Public Works building decades ago, it was intended to be a temporary solution.

Now, 53 years later, library staff members are still working within this limited space, trying to help patrons and conduct activities while dealing with the fumes from downstairs.

"Picture an old-school auditorium without a slanted floor," said John F. Kennedy Memorial Library Director Marianne Willms. "That's this library, these little four walls."

Wallington is one of the many towns across New Jersey hoping that a new pool of money for library infrastructure projects, approved overwhelmingly by voters on Nov. 7 in a statewide referendum, will help to improve their libraries. The state can borrow $125 million, which will be awarded to municipalities in matching grants.

Over 15 years ago, bond funding for library improvements was available from the state but required libraries to build new structures or add on to their property, and required a three-to-one match, with towns putting up the bulk of the funds, said Cindy Czesak, interim executive director for the Bergen County Cooperative Library System. These requirements made many libraries unable to apply for funds at the time, said Czesak.

This new grant plan, however, would provide a one-to-one match for municipalities.

"This is spurring a lot of activity, not just for the betterment of the library community, but also bringing construction jobs to these communities," said Czesak. "It's a win-win as far as we are concerned."

In Wallington, the grant money could help further plans to acquire a new library space in a VFW building at 125 Main Ave. The relocation will give the library the space it needs to function. The tiny space it has now makes it difficult to hold programming, and is in an inconvenient location that is hard for residents to find, said Willms.

Although the Ridgewood Public Library hasn't been renovated in 20 years, that hasn't stopped 60 million people from walking through its doors since 1998, said library Director Nancy Green. Since eligibility guidelines for the grants haven't yet been released by the state, Green is unsure whether Ridgewood would be able to apply. However, she said she would love to enlarge the library's teen room and meeting rooms.

"We find that now people don't come here to borrow a book and leave, they come here and they borrow a book and stay," said Green. "Libraries are much more a social destination than they ever used to be. We need more space for people."

Six years ago, the fate of the Northvale Public Library was grim. Voters in a referendum had rejected borrowing $500,000, $250,000 of which would have gone toward keeping the library doors open. The library was forced to shut, and found a second life as a media center, with most of its books cleared out. …

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