Hillside Library finally reopens

HILLSIDE, NJ  — After a devastating flood wreaked havoc nearly two years ago, the residents of Hillside finally have a library to call their own. The Hillside Public Library, after shutting its doors to the public in August of 2013, has finally reopened.

“Right now we are just basking in the glory of knowing that folks have donated time and recourses to open our library so that our residents can utilize it,” said Mayor Angela Garretson in a recent interview.

Twenty-two months ago, a freak rainstorm flooded the streets surrounding the Hillside Public Library, which sits in a bit of a ditch below a high point of Liberty Avenue. The side of the library on Hillside Avenue faced the massive flooding that overwhelmed the sewer system, and ultimately rainwater poured into the library.

In the immediate aftermath, then director Dave Cubie, who now works in West Orange, announced it would be a few days or weeks before the library reopened. But after the township says they found asbestos under the shelving, leaks in the ceiling and a crumbling infrastructure, the township decided an upgrade was past due.

What started as days turned into weeks, as residents began using neighboring libraries. Fast forward 18 months, and at the start of the new year, the library still remained closed. In March, Hillside was removed from the reciprocating agreement with local libraries, and since Hillside residents have had no where to turn.

“We are just so proud and happy that we can say we came together, and despite some of the challenges, we put that library together brick by brick. And it’s more about growing together,” said Garretson. “There server was rebuilt and number of computers were donated from different companies.”

In addition to having their own library, which has undergone a considerable makeover, Hillside residents are now also allowed to borrow books from reciprocating libraries, like Union or Elizabeth.

The website, which is now working at www.hillsidepubliclibrary.org, was also not functioning for the duration of the library’s closure. The summer hours for the library are Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition, any Hillside Library books that could not be returned while the library was closed can now be returned without a late fee.