By Muriel Smith
MANALAPAN -A $1.6 million phase one renovation that will bring the 117,000 square foot Monmouth County Library Headquarters to a 21st century technological state-of-the-art transformation will begin by June.
The announcement was made by Monmouth County Library Commission Chair Renee B. Swartz who reported at a commission meeting earlier this month the final details on the extensive program which is being coordinated by Library Interiors of Brick.
“The Commission has been working and planning a proposal for two years,” Swartz said, “and we are confident we have not only contracted a top of the line coordinator to see it through, but also to accomplish the transition with the least amount of disruption for our patrons.”
The project will be the first step in a two-and-a-half-year plan that continues the library’s advances in the technological and electronic enhancements that have made it more popular and user friendly every year.
Library Interiors, established in 1985, collaborates with leading architects and designers throughout the world to package innovative ideas and provide unique design and furnishings for both new libraries and well-established facilities seeking to encompass the latest technology and programs into what they currently offer their users.
Phase one of the overall project includes completion of the electrical engineering plan for upgrading the infrastructure to accommodate electronic ability to nearly every point of service…. patrons will be able to access electronic equipment from desks, tables, and chairs within the library while still able to maintain privacy and space for individual use.
The innovations are being financed by an initial $977,000 Monmouth County capital improvement fund request approved by the Board of Chosen Freeholders which will be reimbursed through the Monmouth County Library’s budget.
“Library Interiors has given us a schedule and plan that will complete the improvements without the need of closing the facility,” Director Judith Tolchin explained. “This was a vital part of the Library Commission’s consideration for the contract, and we are satisfied the coordinator can meet our goal.”
Under the proposed renovation plan, there will only be small interruptions of service to the community, with some of the work being done after hours. When closures are essential, it will mean only specific sections rather than the entire complex and will only be for limited times on specific days. “We want to ensure a steady flow of customer accessibility,” Tolchin said.
The work entails considerable moving of both furniture and resources to install underfloor wiring and new floor coverings. By fall, new furniture is also expected to be delivered, and old furniture can then be moved again; it is necessary to retain the old furniture until the new arrives in order to keep the facility open to the public at all times.
The second phase will begin as soon as the first phase is completed, and will include the children’s reading room. The third and final phase will make improvements to staff areas. These improvements will be completed in the same time frame, anticipated to be May, 2020, since much of the work in the second and third phases can overlap, Swartz said.
“It has been nearly 20 years since the last renovation of the Headquarters library,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry, the board’s liaison to the Library. “The commission has spent considerable time and study to ensure this renovation can be completed in an excellent manner but without the need to close the library throughout the renovations.” Burry added that “the adult library reading room and the children’s library were expanded in 1999, but no extensive interior renovations have been undertaken since the library was built in 1987. Much of the furniture in use today dates to the opening days of the facility,” the Freeholder Deputy Director said.
“With more than 300,000 visits recorded at the Headquarters library in the past year and over 1.2 million system-wide visitors annually, it is important that the library keeps up with and provides the technology that today’s library users demand,” Burry said.
Swartz added “The Monmouth County Library system is the premiere facility in the state, offering a world class library in its collection of more than one and a half million items. The resources include, career counseling, as well as, educational, recreational, and entertainment programming. The Headquarters renovation completion will result in well lit, comfortable surroundings, with dynamic furnishings and space that is both pleasing and welcoming. All our library branches strive to be inviting for 21st century patrons. It continues to be the aim of the Library Commission to maintain a standard of excellence by providing an aesthetically pleasing environment, which acts as the community center and heartbeat of Monmouth County, an unparalleled destination for all ages.”